Malayalam actress assault case to Tollywood drug scandal: Controversies that hit South cinema in 2017 | regional movies | Hindustan Times
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Malayalam actress assault case to Tollywood drug scandal: Controversies that hit South cinema in 2017

For the four film industries in South India, 2017 was full of controversies -- from the shocking abduction and assault on a leading Malayalam actress, Tollywood drug scandal, veterans like Kamal Haasan talking of political debut to Mersal’s problems with BJP, the year remained eventful till the end.

regional movies Updated: Dec 31, 2017 16:40 IST
Nivedita Mishra
Nivedita Mishra
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Kamal Haasan,Rajinikanth,Suchi leaks
Southern cinema faced many issues in 2017 including Mersal’s GST reference, Suchi leaks, Dileep’s arrest among others.

2017 was also a tumultuous year in the four southern film industries - from accusations of sexual misconduct and assault to political aspirations of star-actors like Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth, the year saw many ups and downs.

Here’s all that was controversial in the four film industries down south.

Suchi leaks

In March, Tamil film industry was rocked by what is now dubbed as Suchi leaks. Popular RJ Suchi aka Suchitra Karthik Kumar kicked up a storm when she tweeted some never-seen-before cozy and intimate pictures of popular Kollywood actors such as Rana Daggubati, Dhanush, Trisha Krishnan, Anirudh Ravichander, Andrea Jeremiah and Hansika, etc. She followed it up with allegations of rape, molestation and abuse. Soon the pictures went viral and Suchitra was attacked by the fans of the stars mentioned.

In the face of the attack, Suchitra tweeted that her account had been hacked. Later, her husband Karthik Kumar, who is an actor and stand-up comic, issued a video where he explained the entire situation, stating that she was going through certain emotional condition. It was later reported that Karthik was planning to take his wife to London for a rehabilitation programme. In all this, the actors who featured in the racy photos and videos maintained silence.

Sources revealed it to HT that Suchitra was unhappy with her professional life, and hence, she was insinuating against her competitors and once-upon-a-time good friends, who are not helping her anymore.

Assault on Malayalam actress and Dileep’s arrest

In February, Kerala film industry was hit hard when a leading Malayalam actress was abducted and assaulted by four men on the national highway 544, near Nedumbassery in Kerala. The case sent shockwaves across the country and raised concern about women’s security.

Given the media glare and the sensitivity around the issue, the authorities went on an override, and in no time the prime accused Pulsar Suni was held on February 25. But nothing was more shocking than the arrest of popular actor Dileep, after it came to light that he was the main conspirator behind the incident. The rumours about Dileep’s involvement in the assault started doing the rounds from the evening the news broke, but the arrest came only in July 10.

It was alleged that Dileep wanted to get even with the actress as she had revealed to his ex-wife, popular actor Manju Warrier, of his affair with Kavya Madhavan.

After 85 days in jail Dileep finally got a bail after multiple attempts in October.

Varalakshmi Sarathkumar’s sexual harassment allegations

Days after the shocking abduction and molestation of a leading Malayalam actress, Tamil actor Varalakshmi Sarathkumar, daughter of prominent Tamil actor Sarath Kumar, blow the lid off casting couch that she experienced. Writing a long Facebook post, she detailed how the programming head of a leading TV channel had made suggestive comments towards her, insinuating that she would have to bestow sexual favours on him if he were to continue the working relationship.

Dhanush wins paternity case

The beginning of 2017 was problematic for actor Dhanush -- in March came the rather damning pictures of Kollywood celebs released by RJ Suchi, which included some of Dhanush’s photos too. But, it was another case that gave him a lot of headache. In November last year, a Madurai couple in Tamil Nadu -- Kathiresan (60), a retired government bus conductor, and his wife Meenakshi (55) -- had claimed that Dhanush was one of their three children. They said that he had run away from home to Chennai while studying in Class X at a government school in Melur. The couple had filed a case in the court. However, after cross examination, the Madras high court dismissed the case, much to the relief of the actor and his family.

The tricky case involved, among other things, examination of birth marks on Dhanush’s body, as the couple had claimed in their defence.

Oviya episode Bigg Boss Tamil

Neenga Shutup Pannunga (with due respect, please shut up)… these words spoken by small-time actress Oviya Helen, in the first season of Bigg Boss Tamil, would soon became a rage. One week into the programme, Oviya came to be known as a brash but outspoken girl, who stayed away from schemers in the Bigg Boss house. At one instance, she took on another contestant Ganju Karuppu, saying, “Neenga shutup pannunga”.

Oviya started to become the favourite of viewers after she is was relentlessly attacked by other contestants like Gayathri and ‘Jallikattu’ Julie. Threatened, bullied and pushed to the limit, Oviya had all the sympathy of the audience.

Soon enough, she was a craze outside - with fans forming Oviya army on social media, merchandise such as T-shirts with the slogan flooding the market, etc. When she quit the show, she said she was doing so as she was too much in love with fellow contestant, Aarav.

In August, she quit the show. She was then quoted as saying: “I think I love Arav too much… I am not able to control it. That’s why I want to go.”

Kamal Haasan’s controversial tweets

Veteran actor Kamal Haasan in February made a series of controversial tweets on the state of affairs in Tamil Nadu in the aftermath of the demise of then chief minister J Jayalalithaa.

With his tweets he provoked the ruling AIADMK when the party was witnessing a bitter tussle for power between chief minister Edappadi Palaniswami and his predecessor O Panneerselvam. He mocked, teased and joked about the bizarre ‘game of thrones’ that broke out after Jayalalithaa’s death.

In July, he was again in news when he asked his fans to shoot off complaints about corruption under the present state government to the ministers concerned.

In August again, Kamal stirred the hornet’s nest when he tweeted about rotten eggs being served to school children for mid-day meals. His fans in Perambulur district circulated pictures of the eggs, marked with blue ink, floating in a huge pan.

He would later talk on a number of subjects including the rise of Hindu terror. All of these led to a lot of speculation about him preparing his next move-entry into politics.

Sathyaraj comments on Cauvery

About the week before the release of SS Rajamouli’s Baahubali 2: the Conclusion, a controversy erupted which threatened to put the release of the film in Karnataka in jeopardy. A nine-year-old video of Tamil actor Sathyaraj, who played the pivotal role of Kattappa in the popular series, surfaced where he was seen expressing his solidarity with Tamil Nadu farmers over the vexed Cauvery waters issue. The video went viral, with protests breaking out across Karnataka, against Sathyaraj with calls made to ban the film in the state.

A distraught Rajamouli was quick to distant his film from the statements, but that would do nothing to soothe tempers. The movie saw a smooth release in the state only after the actor tendered a formal apology.

Dandapalyam 2 actor video leak

In July, a popular Kannada actor Sanjjanaa Galrani was dragged into controversy after a leaked nude video clip from her film, Dandupalya 2, went viral. The clip showed the actor being stripped by a man in a police station. According to reports, the clip was to feature in the film but had to be dropped after the regional censor board objected to it.

The film had released the week before and was doing well at the box office. Many claimed it was a publicity stunt, which was squashed by the actor. Speaking to a local channel, Public TV, Galrani had said, “Dandupalya is already doing well. So, there is no need for such publicity. We shot something and I am seeing something else here.”

TR Rajendhar humiliates actor Dhansika

In September, filmmaker and director TR Rajendhar humiliated actor Dhansika, even hurled sexist abuse at her, when she forgot to mention his name while talking about their film Vizhithiru at a public function in Chennai.

Rajendhar lost his cool and repeatedly insulted her, alleging that she lacked basic manners. He even made a sexist remark when she tried to apologise to him. When Dhansika tried to explain to him that she did not leave out his name deliberately, he shot back at her saying, “You have come here without wearing sari and now asking sorry.”

Dhansika was reduced to tears but social media wouldn’t spare him and came down heavily on him for his behaviour towards a lady.

Actor Anna Rajan trolled by Mammootty fans

Malayalam actor Anna Rajan had to face the brunt of fans of veteran actor Mammootty, after a statement she made on a TV interview on Mammootty. During an interview with local TV channel Surya TV, she was asked if she’d like to act with Dulquer Salmaan or Mammootty. The actor, who made her film debut with Angamaly Diaries, said she would like to act with Dulquer Salmaan while Mammootty could play her father.

That was it - the fans of the senior actor trolled her relentlessly, as it was taken as an insult at Mammootty. More so, since she has played the female lead opposite another older actor Mohanlal in the Onam release, Velipadinte Pusthakam.

An obviously distraught actor, later posted a Facebook Live, where she clarified that her words had been twisted.

Tollywood drug scandal

In July this year, the Telugu film industry got a jolt when officials of Telangana Excise (Enforcement) Department busted a major drug racket in Hyderabad. They also arrested four people in connection with the supply of LSD or lysergic acid diethylamide, which is generally sold in rave parties in tablets or liquid form. Their clients included corporate honchos, students and celebrities.

The Hyderabad drug bust became sensational after the list of celebrity names was leaked to the media. About 15 celebrities were served notices to appear before the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Excise department for questioning, reported Indian Express.

These names included some of the biggest celebrities of Telugu films -- director Puri Jagannadh, cinematographer Shyam K Naidu, actors Ravi Teja, Charmee Kaur, P Subbaraju, Tarun, Pallapollu Navdeep and dancer-actor Mumaith Khan.

NT Rama Rao biopic fight

In July, maverick filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma announced that he would be making a biopic on the legendary actor-turned politician from Andhra Pradesh, NT Rama Rao. He added that NTR’s son, Nandamuri Balakrishna would play his father in the proposed biopic.

He said NTR is a name to reckon with for every Telugu-speaking individual. He was not just a great actor but a leader with unprecedented following. “I’m very proud to direct a film on his life,” he said in an emotional voice note shared with IANS.

However, when contacted, Balakrishna refuted the claim, insisting that he would be making a separate biopic on his father. He was in the process of putting together a group of writers to write a script. “It is our responsibility to tell audiences his story. The biopic I’m planning on him will reveal unknown facts about his life. I will play my father on screen,” Balakrishna had told reporters in July.

Meanwhile, NTR’s widow Lakshmi Parvathi felt justice wouldn’t be done if Balakrishna plays his father. Speaking to Times of India, she said, “I am not against the biopic. In fact, I welcome the idea. But, the movie should reflect the entire truth about his life - especially the isolation and pain he suffered during his last days after he was ‘dethroned’ from power by his own family. This cannot be possible if Balakrishna plays the lead role. He supported Chandrababu Naidu, who back-stabbed NTR and usurped power in the ‘Viceroy Hotel’ episode.”

As a result, Varma decided to tell the story of the politician from his wife’s perspective and named his film as Lakshmi’s NTR.

Mersal versus BJP in Tamil Nadu

Actor Vijay’s film Mersal released on Diwali this year went on to weave magic at the box office. However, the film that was based on corrupt practices in the medical profession, came in for a barrage of attacks from the state unit of BJP. The row erupted over, what the BJP thought, were disparaging comments on the Goods and Services Tax (GST) levied by the Modi government and Digital India initiative. While the party demanded that the said reference ought to be removed, the film fraternity fought back saying that it was not correct to attack freedom of expression.

“Many of the central government policies such as demonetisation, the Digital India programme and the recent introduction of Goods and Services Tax have been negatively portrayed in the film,” BJP state unit president Tamilisai Soundararajan had claimed.

However, things went wrong when some leaders of the BJP in the state questioned the actor’s faith. It was implied that since Vijay was a practicing Christian, there could be ulterior motives to his dialogues. On October 22, H Raja, BJP’s national secretary, tweeted a photo of Vijay’s voter ID and his official letterhead bearing the actor’s almost never-used full name ‘Joseph Vijay’. According to a report by NDTV, Raja also said that “Vijay is a practising Christian. He should have said build hospitals before churches, instead he says build hospitals before temples,” referring to a dialogue in the film where Vijay exhorts people to build hospitals instead of temples.

Vishal’s political debut

While the world kept waiting for the two heavyweights of Tamil film industry -- Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan -- to take the plunge into politics, it was a relatively younger actor Vishal who waded into politics when he filed his nomination papers, contesting as an independent candidate from the high profile RK Nagar constituency in a by-poll. The seat fell vacant after the death of former Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa, who was elected to the assembly from the constituency.

However, Vishal’s hopes of a political debut from RK Nagar were dashed on December 5, when the election officials rejected his nomination papers after accepting them initially.

Officials said the actor’s nomination papers only had “valid” signatures of eight proposers, not the mandatory 10. They claimed that two signatures, those of one K Sumathy and Deepan, whose names figured among the list of proposers, were forged.

Vishal, however, alleged that the two proposers made the allegations under duress. In his defence, he submitted an audio clip “containing a purported telephonic conversation between him and a man related to Ms Sumathy”, reported The Hindu.

The man could be heard claiming that some supporters of AIADMK candidate E Madhusudanan had forced the family of the proposer to submit a complaint that her signature was forged, the report added.

However, the veracity of the said audio clip could not be verified and, hence, Vishal’s candidature stood rejected.

The actor, sent out a series of tweets, in which he called the rejection of his papers as a “mockery of democracy”.

Parvathy’s Mammootty comments and trolling

Actor Parvathy was heavily trolled and was the target of much online abuse after she commented on certain dialogues from a Mammootty film titled Kasaba. At an open forum organised on the sidelines of the recently held International Film Festival of Kerala, she voiced her opinion against glorifying misogyny on screen and expressed concern about the absence of women perspective in cinema.

To prove her point, Parvathy said she had recently watched Kasaba. She has called the dialogues in the Mammootty starrer ‘misogynist’.

Though she never named the actor in question, Parvathy was viciously trolled and abused on various online platforms by the veteran actor’s fans.

On December 26, she finally filed a police complaint. Shortly thereafter, a man named Printo was arrested for allegedly abusing and threatening her. The complaint led to the 23-year-old man being charged for intimidation and sexual abuse under the IT Act.

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First Published: Dec 31, 2017 16:31 IST