Controversies and conversations of Tamil cinema that made headlines

2022 has been a year of bouncing back as far as the entertainment industry is concerned. After reeling under the pandemic for two years, battling the crisis of understanding what brings the audiences to theatres, realising OTT platforms are just more than a secondary option for storytelling, 2022 also had its own fair share of interesting conversations and controversies. At a time when pan-India became everyone’s favourite word and the borders between languages started to blur, some issues also made it to prime-time debates and were much talked about. Sometimes, more than they deserve. On that note, here’s what became the talk of the town and set social media on fire.

Double trouble: Nayanthara-Vignesh Shivan surrogacy row

The happy news of Vignesh Shivan and Nayanthara proudly announcing the birth of their twins in October, shortly after they got married in June, took a nasty turn. While it became clear that the couple opted for surrogacy, conversations surrounding Nayanthara’s choice to not beget children herself started becoming dinner table discussions. This blatant invasion of rights to her body and reproduction notwithstanding, the issue was also blown up legally. With a new surrogacy law in place in the country, many questioned the legality of the procedure that provided the couple with their twins. The Tamil Nadu government was forced to intervene, and they sought clarification from Nayanthara and Vignesh Shivan. Necessary documents were submitted, including the marriage certificate, which made it known that the couple registered their marriage six years ago, in 2016. Subsequently, they were given a clean chit after the authorities stated they had abided by the guidelines and submitted the necessary documents as per the ICMR rules.

Word-robe malfunction: Sathish on Dharsha Gupta’s wardrobe

In what may come as another commentary on women’s rights, actor Sathish came under fire after he ‘jokingly’ pulled his co-star Dharsha Gupta’s leg for not wearing a traditional dress during the promotional event of their upcoming film, Oh My Ghost. This was in context to the film’s lead, Sunny Leone, coming to the event clad in a saree. Sathish’s judgmental comments and imposing remarks were rightfully criticised on social media by netizens, and celebrities, including singer Chinmayi. The actor too was quick to clarify that the comments were made on a lighter note, and it was uttered with the full knowledge of Dharsha, who was playing a guessing game with him with regard to Sunny’s wardrobe for the day. He shared that Dharsha was dejected when Sunny turned up in traditional attire, whereas she was dressed modern, and even suggested sharing this anecdote on stage. However, Dharsha refused this outright, called out Sathish for trying to blame her for the fiasco, and said that his words did hurt her, but she managed to put up a straight face. Sathish deleted his post soon after her statement.

Cholas are not Hindus: Identity crisis over Ponniyin Selvan’s characters

Mani Ratnam’s Ponniyin Selvan, based on Kalki’s eponymous classic novel, became one of the biggest hits in Tamil cinema. The representation of the Chola era, and the nostalgia of seeing the characters made famous in the 1950s novel come to life brought in scores of audiences. However, the film was also in the news for the debates surrounding the central characters of the film, the Cholas. After the film’s release, director Vetri Maaran said that the film showed Raja Raja Cholan as a Hindu King, and debated that it was far from the truth, and Tamil people must be aware of such attempts at whitewashing the Tamil identity. Incidentally, actor-filmmaker-politician Kamal Haasan backed Vetri Maaran, and said that in the Chola period, there were only three sects— Vainavam, Saivam, and Samanam— and the term ‘Hindu’ was coined by the British. Meanwhile, leaders like Telengana governor Tamilisai Soundararajan, and BJP’s H Raja, denied these opinions and questioned the attempts to dilute the icons of Hinduism.

Slur or comedy? Sivakarthikeyan’s mockery on the Korean language and people

Actor Sivakarthikeyan saw himself in the eye of controversy after he made derogatory comments about Korean people and their language people during a college event. The actor mentioned that every time he saw a Korean film, he could not differentiate between them since they all appear the same to him. If this was not enough to racially insult the community, which is already being discriminated against, Sivakarthikeyan added that he sometimes couldn’t differentiate between a male and female actor. While his speech was met with roaring applause, he also mentioned his understanding (well, misunderstanding), which prompted him and his Don co-star Soori to pull off the hugely popular scene where they made a mockery out of the Korean accent. Several called out the actor for passing racist comments, mocking their gender identities, and passing it all off under the garb of humour.

A divine debate: Leena Manimekalai-Kaali poster row

A few hours after filmmaker Leena Manimekalai shared the poster of her upcoming film, Kaali, she became the centre of conversations and controversies with #ArrestLeenaManimekalai trending widely. The poster featured Leena dressed as the Hindu goddess Kaali, and smoking. In one of her hands, she held a rainbow-colored flag that is a representation of the LGBTQIA+ community. While it became a primetime debate on several news channels, a section of social media users demanded Leena’s arrest on the grounds of insulting the Hindu goddess and hurting religious sentiments. Some alleged that Leena is “insulting” the deity to “provoke” Hindus, while others said that Leena smoking while being dressed as the goddess is for “cheap publicity” and asked for a ban on her. Responding to this, Leena said that Kaali is all about choosing love and championing humanity. “Trolls who are witch hunting me are fueled by hate. They have nothing to do with faith. If they are patient enough to watch the film they might choose love. But that’s exactly why they want the film to be banned,” she added.

A mysterious win? Soorarai Pottru National Film Award controversy

The Suriya-starrer Soorarai Pottru made an emphatic mark at this year’s National Film Awards when the film grabbed five awards, including the Best Actor award for Suriya, who also backed the film. While many felt that the team deserved the accolades, there were speculations that it was Suriya’s association with one of the jury members, S Thangadurai, that led to the win. Thangadurai was part of the jury panel that consisted of 11 members and also claimed that he was the manager of Suriya. Several raised the question if a person connected to a film or actor under consideration should be part of the panel on the grounds of conflict of interest.

First of its kind? Claims on Parthiban’s Iravin Nizhal

Right from the time of the release of Parthiban’s Iravin Nizhal, which was claimed by the makers as the world’s first single-shot non-linear film, the film was mired in controversy. There were voices that dismissed the film’s claim, and this only got even more pronounced when the trivia section of the film, which was released on Prime Video, called it the world’s second single shot, non-linear film. However, Parthiban was quick to refuse the claim and said that those were the comments picked up from the IMDb site and went on to say that his film got affected due to such negative campaigns. While Prime Video changed the trivia section claiming Iravin Nizhal as the first of its kind, several on social media started to debate about the film’s authenticity. Many pointed out that the Iranian film, Fish and Cat (2013), is the first non-linear single-shot film made.

Love or hate? Pradeep Ranganathan on his old social media posts

2022 was a great year for Pradeep Ranganathan who directed and starred in Love Today, one of the year’s biggest hits. However, not everything was rosy for the young director, who was caught in a problematic situation after his old social media posts resurfaced. In these posts, Pradeep appeared to be using cuss words on his Love Today music director Yuvan Shankar Raja, who was highly instrumental in the success and reach of the film. In fact, these old posts also had Pradeep come down heavily on celebrities and films like Sachin Tendulkar and Vijay’s Jilla. Soon after these posts went viral, Pradeep clarified that some of the posts have been digitally altered. He further clarified that his Facebook account has been deactivated. Mentioning that few posts are real, he added that posts with cuss words are not him. “I’ve made mistakes, with age all of us grow and learn. I’ve tried correcting it. I still try to become a better person each day,” he wrote.

Sarcasm gone wrong: Siddharth-Saina Nehwal Twitter conversation

In early January, after badminton champion Saina Nehwal condemned an incident in Punjab’s Ferozepur, where PM Modi’s convoy was blocked, resulting in a security breach, actor Siddharth wrote to her tweet, “Subtle cock champion of the world… Thank God we have protectors of India. Shame on you #Rihanna.” This resulted in a backlash against the actor, with several prominent celebrities like Chinmayi and Khushbu criticising the actor for his comments with sexual innuendo and called it disrespecting the modesty of women through misogynistic comments. National Commission for Women (NCW) also called out his comment and demanded the involvement of police in the matter. Subsequently, Siddharth issued a statement of apology, which was also acknowledged by Saina.

Have we seen this before? Atlee plagiarism row for Jawan

Director Atlee came under the spotlight for the wrong reasons after it was alleged that his upcoming film, Jawan, starring Shah Rukh Khan, was plagiarised from an older Tamil film. Tamil producer Manikam Narayanan alleged that Atlee has picked the script from the 2006 film, Perarasu, featuring Vijayakanth. After the producer lodged a complaint with the Tamil Film Producers Council, the matter was probed and subsequently, relief was granted to Atlee after finding out that Jawan and Perarasu have different storylines.

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