Over 50 suicides hushed up by mafia and nepotism in South Indian film industry .
By G S Radhakrishna
Bangalore: While the entire country is in chorus at the Bollywood mafia after the suicide of budding actor Sushant Singh Rajput, such desperate actions of South Indian actors and actresses in the past and present have gone unnoticed.
Many South Indian personalities contend that north-south divide was clear in that nobody made a big cry of foul when South Indian actors, actresses or even directors committed suicide or made attempts .” They were written off as natural happenings of a celluloid world “, said a popular actor of Telugu leftist movies Narayanmurthy.
If it is Haji Mastan – D Gang that had a vice grip on Bollywood, it is Aqua farmers of Kama community of coastal Andhra in Hyderabad, sandalwood smugglers in Karnataka, the rich farmers and industrialists of Tamil Nadu and the Gulf money of Kerala that has final say in film making in south India.
Believe it or not, it is the frontmen for these forces with access to huge illegal and unaccounted funds that dictate terms on actors, singers, directors, film producers, technicians, theatre owners, even film critics, and film publications, TV channels etc. Memories are fresh in minds of many in Bangalore of kidnap of actor Raj Kumar by sandalwood smuggler Veerappan. Every year they also decide on number of films to be produced, actors and heroines to be hired, their remunerations, distributed ( even dates of muhurt) and release in cinema halls or on digital platforms.
Youngsters, particularly the unconnected to film trade though had initial success, they had to slog and survive through the obstacles thrown in their path by industry big wigs. “ Why is the industry blamed for the failures of young breed from nowhere. They come with stars in eyes, disregard the hierarchy,
and egg shaped egos in their head with one success, and treat us like dirt “ said MS Raju, a supplier of junior artists, who even boasted of introducing actors like Suman, Ambarish, Vijay Thalapathi Srinath and Tarun VijayShanti at Chennai.
When prominent director and producer late Dasari Narayan Rao was heading the South Indian film chamber he was asked about nepotism, the director of over 150 films had replied “ film making is running a family.Unless everyone properly worked it will not click.So I keep persons of my choice, and not talent in my team. Loyalty matters more than talent in the industry where for few rupees more everyone – stars, singers cameraman etc ditch you in a minute”.
According to unofficial film industry sources, nearly 50 actors, character artistes, singers, budding directors and stuntmen, (majority in Telugu industry ), have ended their lives in frustration, desperation in the past two decades. Although official version is either spurned love or domestic violence, the insiders speak volumes of nepotism, ‘couch testing policy on females’ and opting for Punjabi or Bollywood girls in place of local talent.
“ South Indian film industry which was initially based at Chennai and had now spread to all metros has prospered on nepotism and dynasty rule. If any outsider has succeeded ( like a glade of grass) it is sheer God’s grace “ says a veteran Telugu film director Tammareddy Bharadwaj.
The Scenario in Bangalore is the domination of Gowda community in financial support to the industry.The Gowdas of Sugar cane belt of Mandya ran the roost till take over by sandalwood smugglers in nineties.Families of Rajkumar, Vishnuvardhan and Ambarish developed their own fan clubs, network of directors, music directors, singers, cameramen, stunts men and technicians. Tales were going round how a popular comedian Narasimha Raju was dumped without work for three years till he went begging to Rajkumar for mercy. His mistake was accepting offer for a role in a film by rival Ambarish who also ditched him later.
The Tamil Nadu scenario is slightly different as till late eighties, Chennai was base for making films of all South Indian languages. Although the dynasty rule of MGR, Shivaji Ganesan existed, they were limited to Tamil films only. Thereafter, the studio owners, mostly Telugu like LV Prasad and Bommireddy Nagireddy and Narasimha Reddy had dictated terms on even budding stars at that time NTR, ANR and G.Krishna. Even now those families own studios and chain of cinema halls in south. PVR is now a group of film distribution and multiplex screening in the south.
The Tamil film industry had vertical division on political lines of DMK and ADMK till late nineties where after the super stars, Rajanikanth, Kamal Hasan, Vijay etc are steering the industry .The skeletons of huge studios of AVM, Vijaya, Vahini, of past have now given room to latest technology based Focus, Aura studios. Despite political turmoil, and industrial explosions, Chennai is still regarded as cultural Venice of India.But we are all aware of how the Bharata Ratna winner MS Subbulakshmi family suffered financially in later days .
Hyderabad police say that they often do not touch the film personalities in any kind of incidents like attempt to murder, suicides, drunken brawls, speeding, or domestic violence etc .” We tread on soft approach as most of them are politically linked “, says a senior police officer of Hyderabad.
Everyone is aware of how N Balakrishna, NTR’s last son and co-brother of Ex-CM Chandrababu Naidu (also a former TDP MLA ), fired gun shots at a film producer Bellamkonda Suresh but the case was hushed up when Chandrababu was CM. Similarly the suicides of actors Pratyusha, Uday Kiran etc were all closed after initial flurry of FIRs and media exposure. Suicides of Silk Smitha, Shobana at Chennai Susheel Gowda and Chandana at Bangalore also met the same end.
More recently Tamil actor Vijayalakshmi, famous for films such as ‘Friends’ and ‘Boss Engira Baskaran’, allegedly attempted suicide on July 26 last, alleging harassment by the supporters Seeman an actor-turned-politician.Similar has been some cases of suicdes in Kannada film industry popularly known sandalwood.
Film critics and insiders contend that nepotism was deep rooted in ₹ 24,000 crore worth South Indian film industry. Studio owners, film financiers,cinema hall owners, film distributors, suppliers of junior artists and stuntmen and journalist turned PROs are all sidekick functionaries to the huge empires through remote.
In Hyderabad the family members of NTR( N T Rama Rao), ANR ( Akkineni Nageswar Rao ), D Rama Naidu, Mohan Babu, Chiranjeevi, G.Krisna and Mahesh Babu, Pawan Kalyan, Allu Arjun and Naresh etc are prominent actors, producers and distributors with studios, cinema halls and distribution networks.All Telugu and national media houses are in their pockets and not a single negative report appears against them .
It is mostly their family members who are in distribution, music, wardrobe, sets, camera, special effects etc.like SS Rajamouli of Bahubali fame, whose wife, cousins, nieces, cO-brothers etc handle everything from costumes, music, sets, supply of artists etc.
Only directors like Ram Gopal Varma, Sekhar Kanumula are of different breed who look for new themes, actors and do low budget films, don’t do much of studio shootings and depend on locations only. So they are not hurt by nepotism .
The ‘ waaris’ concept is thus prevalent in South Indian film industry as well. The concept of putting down local talent.
Promoting only the family talent is the trend in every aspect of film making. But when they find that their own homely talent failed, they do allow others but put all out efforts to ensure failure for the outsiders. Actors like Suman, Jagapati Raju , Vinayashanti etc had to accept lesser money, minor roles etc for survival while the legacy stars with wigs and mascara still do hero’s roles with 16 year olds .
In the Malayalam industry, Mammooty’s son Dulqer Sheikh is also around. But Kerala film industry thrived with art films and buxom exposing heroines. Many of Telugu and Tamil heroines have acted in Malayalam films as well. But Kerala audience has always clapped for local talent and demigods like Prem Nazir etc.
Though landscape of film industry has vastly changed in recent days, the South Indian film industry has something bigger than nepotism. Here lead actors are worshiped like Demigod. Though they are only on finger count, they invest heavily in fan clubs and outdoor propaganda They put up huge cutouts, grand celebrations with milk abhisekam and sacrifice of chicken and goats on film launch day at specific locations of fan following.
Nepotism like in politics, IAS and IPS and even journalism is there to stay in film industry too.
”Probably because of zoom focus on big and small screens, the nepotism in films is exaggerated,” says a prominent Kannada star, who is also an film industry insider and preferred anonymity.
–India News Stream