Geeta bhabhi and Seeta bhabhi disappear into thin air thanks to a "kasam" (vow). That's the ad line touted by a DTH provider. Here in Tamil Nadu, couch potatoes are likely to see the serials they are addicted to disappear into thin air when the inevitable blackouts come, now that cable wars have broken out after a lull.
The players going head to head in this war are Sun TV, which has long dominated the TV industry in Tamil Nadu, and the government promoted Arasu Cable TV Corporation. The Sun TV's Sumangali Cable Vision (SCV) is about to be nudged out, because when it started out, the might of the state gave it the necessary momentum. Now the might of the state is behind Arasu.
After the rift with the Marans, the government had announced the launching of a multiple system operator (MSO) called Arasu Cable through a new company, Tamil Nadu Cable TV Corporation. A cable TV service provider--Marans are believed to be behind him--promptly went to court and got a stay. The Marans aggressively went ahead with their own DTH, which of course will put cable operators out of business and so they are turning to the CM to protect their interests. And Arasu, which held meetings with some cable operators this week, is all set to launch services from June at Coimbatore, Tirunelveli, Tiruvanamalai and Thanjavur districts. The Marans might will be no match for Arasu's -- and the latter's next stop is Chennai.
"We pray to the CM to ensure that his family squabble does not destroy our business," pleads DGVP Sekar, chief co-ordinator, Federation of Cable TV Associations, Tamil Nadu, which represents the 50,000 cable operators in the state. But is anyone listening?
Et Tu, Brute?
You cannot have a fall-out with the first family and expect status quo to prevail and that's what the Maran brothers, whose father Murasoli was DMK patriarch Karunanidhi's nephew, are discovering. In an uncharacteristic public show of anger-- after months of silence following his ouster from the union cabinet last May--Dayanidhi Maran accused the police in Chennai of trying to sabotage SCV by detaining 35 of its operators and pressuring them to switch over to Hathway (the CM's son Madurai-based M K Azhagiri reportedly is the promoter) and Datacom, both rival MSOs. SCV controls the cable network in Chennai, Coimbatore, Trichy and Madurai.
Dayanidhi, who lorded over the telecom ministry and had police and babus stand to attention at the snap of his fingers, found out what it was like to be in the shoes of an aam aadmi. Neither the police commissioner nor senior officials were there when he stormed into the former's office last Sunday. "Why are they (the DMK government) not allowing us to do our business in peace? Let them improve the content of their channel (Kalaignar TV, reportedly owned by the CM's family) to compete with Sun TV instead of adopting such illegal strong-arm tactics to hurt us," he challenged. Not that Kalaignar TV is not trying -- it has recently bought the rights to several blockbusters.
A "Madrasi" Shines At Berlinale
South Indian film makers--call them Kollywood or Mollywood if you like-- have long felt that Bollywood gets all the credit and attention. I was witness to this simmering resentment at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) 2006 in Goa when the promotional song paid only a token tribute to South Indian cinema. Some producers and directors walked out, others chorused their objection loudly while film directorate officials, who organize IFFI in collaboration with the Goa government, looked embarrassed.
The idea that anyone south of the Vindhyas is a "Madrasi" may have changed but south Indian cinema, barring films made by Maniratnam/ Rajiv Menon/ Adoor Gopalakrishnan continue to get short shrift.
So don't expect tears here when an Eklavya, which had opposition from many quarters in Bollywood itself, did not make it to the Oscars. Or if Devdas, despite the chariot ride by Shah Rukh Khan and the luminous Aishwariya Rai in Cannes, get canned along the way.
Tamil film director Ameer Sultan, whose Paruthiveeran--a box office hit here last year--won the special jury award in the competitive section at Berlinale last week, aired his rancour: "It is sad that people have the misplaced notion that only Bollywood films can make it to international film festivals." Incidentally, Om Shanti Om, was screened twice while Paruthiveeran was shown five times at Berlin.
This was the first time a Tamil film made it to the Berlin film festival and the fact that it "broke the barrier" is gloat-worthy for Sulthan, whose earlier two films Raam and Silence Speaks have been critically acclaimed. Paruthiveeran is about Muthazhagu and her unstinting effort to marry her cousin Paruthiveeran and the bitter caste conflict that ensues. "I consider this an honour not only for the 70 million Tamils but for the entire nation," exulted Sulthan.
Child stars don't have it easy. Hansika Motwani, who was a much sought after child star, confessed to me: "I'd like to be like the other kids. Go to school, play and do masti." But she, like other child actors, juggled shifts, sometimes starting early and going on till late, trying to study with the sound of "Light, Camera, Action!" buzzing in her ear. There are many child actors who are robbed of their childhood because they tug at our hearts and that translates into moolah.
And that's the story Rohini, once a child artiste herself, has told in a 50-minute documentary titled Silent Hues. She said she did not want to be judgmental and that's why she has used the interview format with six child actors. A sample: Busy three-year-old Vishnu can do anything on cue--or for chocolate bars-- but the sunny tot can't cry. He's too young for glycerine. There's one scene in the film where the father asks the director "Do you want me to make him cry?" There was not a dry eye in the audience.
A shorter version of this film is to be shown at the Los Angeles Film Festival later this year.