Tamil Nadu is a land where the demarcation between cinema and politics often blurred. Having said that, it becomes more complex when it comes to elections conducted in Tinseltown. Though there are different associations in the film industry, the elections for Nadigar Sangam (actors association) and Tamil Film Producers Council (TFPC), gets more intense and tension arises during the election phase. Especially, the Nadigar Sangam elections witness more arm twisting and loyal shifting, since actors, most of the time, is also being either a politician or leaning to a particular political party.
The Nadigar Sangam, officially known as South Indian Artistes Association was formed in 1952. The popular actors of that time like MG Ramachandran and Sivaji Ganesan served in various capacities of the association and they brought many welfare schemes. However, over the period, MGR and Sivaji, went on to join politics and the former later became a Chief Minister of the state. However, Sivaji did not shine in politics.
After this, actors like SS Rajendran and Radha Ravi decorated the leadership of the association. Though they were leaning over particular parties, the political interruption did not reflect much in the film industry until Vijayakanth and Sarath Kumar came to power. It is to be noted that, Vijayakanth resigned his post since he started a new political party. But Sarath Kumar, having earlier affiliated to the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) for some time and shifted his loyalty to All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK). Following that in 2007, he floated his own political party ‘All India Samathuva Makkal Katchi’ and his continuation in the leadership of the association and extend his support to the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), disappeared the line drawn between the film and politics. However, the then Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, does not interfere in the Nadigar Sangam election process in any way.
Despite her non-interference, his continuation of the president of the association for the three consecutive terms between 2006 and 2015, but the association’s reputation, of being independent sans any political affiliation, in a bad light. Alleging that there were many irregularities in the running of the association during his period, Vishal et al., formed a five member group to take the association in their hands. The group consisting of Nasser, Vishal, Karthi, Ponvannan and Karunas is often referred by the media as ‘Pandavar Ani’, won the 2015 elections. Many of the stars considered ‘Pandavar Ani’ not as an opposition party but an ‘alternative party’.
Initially seen as a group that has no political shade, the Pandavar Ani gradually succumbed to the perception of being DMK supported team. It is interesting to note that, Vishal and Udhayanidhi Stalin are friends and both are producers. This by itself fuelled the criticism of Nadigar Sangam being supported by the DMK. Industry analysts say that the work done by Pandavar Ani within three years of their existence is more compared to the work done by past leadership in the last decade. However, they see the present animosity between the two groups more of political enmity than that of ego clash.
Now, giving a twist in the tale, some of the members like Isari Ganesh, SVe Shekher, Udaya and RK Suresh exited from Pandavar Ani citing various reasons. They formed a separate group to contest this election. They needed a more recognisable face and that’s how actor-director K Bhagyaraj came into the scene. It is a well-known fact that Bhagyaraj is a great follower of MGR and has floated a political party named ‘MGR Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam’ in 1989 but dismantled after a few years. From then on, he had a proximity to the AIADMK.
Both the groups have met the other political leaders who were once actors – Vijayakanth of the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam and Kamal Haasan of the Makkal Needhi Maiam – and sought their support. Though Vijayakanth did not make his opinion public till now, it is an open secret that Kamal will support Pandavar Ani, since he extended his support to Vishal and team, in the last elections.
Superficially, it may appear that the Nadigar Sangam is capable of being independent. Though, it needs support from the state government, since the government has a say in some of the crucial business activities of the film industry like regulating ticket prices, etc. Besides, both the groups are now keeping their fingers crossed to know the stand of Rajinikanth, whose support will have a considerable impact.