In the wake of Income Tax raids at 20 locations in Tamil Nadu, including at the house of actor Vijay and several financers and distributors, industry sources have one person to blame – actor Rajinikanth.
Sources in the Tamil film industry directly connect the raids with the actor’s recent support to the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
They say the I-T raids were selective in nature as sleuths among others had also raided the house of Anbu Chezhiyan who was among the distributors who recently staged a protest outside Rajinikanth’s house demanding him to compensate them for the losses they incurred after his film Darbar flopped at the box office.
Moral responsibility then, burden now
The whole hullaballoo has its origin in an old tradition in the Tamil film industry as part of which lead actors, whose film failed to make money at the box office, used to act in another film of the same production house for a smaller remuneration. Producers then used the surplus of the new film to compensate the distributors for the flopped film.
Rajinikanth was no exception to this tradition. In fact, he introduced the practice of repaying the distributors if one of his films crashed at the box office. He started the practice in 2002 when he volunteered to repay distributors after his film Baba flopped.
Industry insiders say one reason why he did so was because he was the script writer of the film and thought it was his moral responsibility to repay the distributors.
Getting it by force
So, when his film Lingaa turned a dud in 2014, distributors pinned their hopes on Rajinikanth to compensate them for the loss.
After getting no reciprocation from the actor, the distributors went on a hunger strike demanding that lead actors should compensate distributors if their films flopped.
To this the actors’ association said instead of asking the actor, the distributor should approach the producer of the film instead.
Unappeased by this, the distributors staged a protest outside Rajinikanth’s residence and ended it after two months after he shelled out ₹10 crore as compensation.
Once bitten, twice shy
Distributors now have chosen to follow the same formula and make the actor pay the compensation for the failure of Darbar.
The film made on a budget of ₹200 crore, was sold to distributors for ₹60 crore. Though trade analysts estimate that the film earned ₹250 crore worldwide, it reportedly earned only ₹40 crore in Tamil Nadu.
“A film gets distributed based on the ‘minimum guarantee’, which in turn based on the star value of an actor,” said a North Arcot distributor requesting anonymity.
“We usually buy Rajini’s film for a higher price, because of his star value. We buy his film in a hope, if at all the film doesn’t earn us a bigger profit, it will at least not bring us loss. That is what we call it as a ‘minimum guarantee’. When we buy a film based on actor’s star value, it is the actor should take the responsibility for the loss,” he added.
The distributors, who made a similar demand to Rajinikanth, staged a protest in front his residence on February 3, after they didn’t hear from him. The crowd dispersed after police was called to intervene.
It was after the protest that the actor gave a statement supporting CAA, which again was followed by the I-T raids.
Political observers say Rajinikanth’s support of the CAA at this juncture is an attempt to bail himself out of the uncomfortable situation of paying compensation to distributors.
Kadambur Raju, state minister for information and publicity has told the media that if the distributors approach the government in this issue, it will extend its support.
Raju’s statement comes at a time when the AIADMK is vociferously opposing Rajinikanth’s political entry and the BJP is supporting it.
Many, however, say there may be no link between the raids and the actor’s statement on CAA as the raids were also conducted at the residence of Bigil-actor Vijay.
“The raids on Anbu Chezhiyan and actor Vijay were related to the film Bigil. Though Anbu is also involved in Darbar issue, we don’t know whether the raid ensued because of Rajini’s political statement,” said the distributor.