By T S Sudhir
Mani Rathnam hasn’t taken his Raavan to the land of the mythological Raavan. The official reason is the film isn’t ready yet but everyone knows that this talented maker of Kannathil Muthamittal, a film that had the ethnic Tamil strife in Sri Lanka as its backdrop, cannot be insensitive to the conditions of fellow Tamil brethren across the Palk Strait.
Superstars Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan too are not part of the IIFA baraat that has flown into Colombo. Absent are A R Rahman, Vikram, Ajith, Suriya and Vijaykanth as well. The South Indian film chamber of commerce has threatened a boycott of Bollywood actors who are participating in the IIFA weekend.
But it is not as if the threat resulted in the glamour quotient going down several notches in Sri Lanka. Yes, after a protest was organised outside Amitabh Bachchan’s home in Mumbai, to request IIFA’s brand ambassador not to fly Mumbai-Colombo, Big B tweeted, “I am not going to IIFA” adding “The sentiments of all must be respected and I hope that we can plan and execute that with understanding, peace and grace.”
As a result, the Bachchan parivaar has also stayed away, another reason being that both Abhi and Ash are part of Raavan, which is also releasing in Tamil and Telugu. So is Shahrukh Khan.
But the likes of Hritik Roshan, Sanjay Dutt, Salman Khan, Lara Dutta and Viveik Oberoi are there, arguing about the need to reach out to the community in Sri Lanka, including the Tamils.
Salman who is now IIFA’s social initiative ambassador, said, “I don’t really understand this. If there are some people here who are not doing well and are in trouble then we have come to entertain them. We are here to give them something. This way we won’t be able to visit Kashmir, Gujarat or Afghanistan. If our people are in difficulty, we should not abandon them.”
Tamil producers however ask if many of the Mumbai stars will have a similar attitude to an IIFA organised in Karachi. Wouldn’t they then raise questions about organising a show at a place where the perpetrators of 26/11 came from.
The wedge between Bollywood and the south won’t do any good to the already fragile relations between the industries. It has now become an Us vs Them issue. Kollywood thinks Mumbai is insensitive to its feelings and their presence in Colombo says louder than words that we can do without you.
And this is not the first time IIFA is witnessing a south vs Hindi war of words. At the 2006 IIFA awards function in Dubai, Malayalam superstar Mammootty had given the IIFA organisers a piece of his mind. “How can this be called International Indian Film Academy Awards when the competition is only limited to Hindi films? Indian cinema is not just Bollywood, and Hindi is not the only language. Why should our films be called South Indian cinema instead of being under the banner of Indian films?”
Mammootty’s diatribe was edited out of the version that went on air on a satellite channel later.
In Chennai, the boycott call has resulted in small pro-Tamil groups targetting the already-not-soaring Kites, because Hritik Roshan has flown to Colombo.
But while the big brother of the south film industry, Chennai, would have liked total unity while taking on Mumbai’s bigger brother attitude, there have been some chinks in the armour. Like Telugu producer Allu Arvind’s son Allu Sirish, who tweeted : “While I respect the sentiment of Tamils, Tamil cinema should speak for itself regarding IIFA in Sri Lanka instead of portraying it as if the whole South Indian film industry is against it. It’s not our issue. Or probably our ignorant media is portraying that way. At a humanitarian level I do empathize. But tell me honestly what do Telugu films have to do with the Sri Lankan issue?”
Ironically Sirish is the CEO of `South Scope’, a very well-produced film mag that in fact, was launched to focus on film news from the south because the existing film glossies focussed only on Bollywood.
Once the weekend is over, IIFA will be forgotten as yet another glitzy evening. But what it reinforces is the divide between Mumbai and the south. We haven’t come a long way from being labelled the Madrasi filmwaale. And the slogan on the IIFA website `One people, one world’ is just that. A slogan.