With the Tamil industry in shutdown mode over the past month, actors have become more politically active, lending their voice to the burning issues facing Tamil Nadu, such as the protest against Sterlite and the demand for the formation of a Cauvery Management Board (CMB). The Nadigar Sangam, the actors’ association, showed their solidarity towards the people’s movement in the state by uniting on April 8 at the Valluvar Kottam in Chennai for a silent protest between 9 am and 1 pm.
The Kollywood stars in attendance ensured that the agitation garnered a lot of media attention. Vijay was one of the leading actors to reach the venue first, at 8:57 am. Actors Karthi (treasurer of the Nadigar Sangam), Sivakarthikeyan and Vishal (general secretary of the Sangam) followed. The President of the Sangam, veteran actor Nassar, kicked off the meet. With the consent of all the actors in attendance, he said it would be a silent, non-violent protest. Not a single actor drank water during the four-hour-long meet.
Industry seniors, Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth dropped in after 11 am. Prior to this, Rajini had held a press meet outside his home, speaking out against Sterlite. He also voiced the need for the CMB and suggested that CSK’s players sport a black badge during their IPL matches to raise awareness about the issues in Tamil Nadu. When a reporter asked him about Haasan, he said he didn’t see the actor as his enemy and that there were other pressing problems that needed his attention.
Suriya, Vikram, Dhanush, Vijay Sethupathi, Jayam Ravi and Siddharth also attended the protest. Owing to its silent nature, there wasn’t much drama or dialogue, except for the friendly banter among the stars. Shutterbugs captured the warm moments they shared, with the photos going viral on social media. Vijay’s fans took to social media to praise him for his continued concern for public issues and his punctuality.
Meanwhile, Ajith was conspicuous by his absence. Though he usually doesn’t attend film-related events, he had marked his presence at important industry gatherings previously. Jiiva and Arya were also not spotted.
Post 12:45pm, towards the end of the protest, a few actors, like Sathyaraj, animatedly voiced their opinions to the waiting media. The actors also signed a petition talking about the Sangam’s stand on the Cauvery issue and Sterlite, which will later be submitted to the Governor of Tamil Nadu. Vishal told the media that about 30,000 people from the industry would sign the petiton.
Varu Sarath Kumar, Dhanshika and Ritwika were the only young actresses who participated. None of the A-listers like Trisha, Nayanthara, Samantha and Keerthy Suresh were present. From the directors’ fraternity, Shankar, KS Ravikumar, SA Chandrasekhar, Lingusamy, P Vasu and Hari were among the important attendees.
Simbu (STR) did not attend the protest, but at a press meet held later at his residence, he took a dig at this silent protest, saying the issues had snowballed to this stage only because people did not speak up when it mattered. He said that when there were so many issues within the film industry itself, it wasn’t right for people to take up bigger
issues such as Sterlite and Cauvery. He said the state began facing all these issues only after Jayalalitha’s death. He also admitted that the Nadigar Sangam hadn’t invited him to attend the protest. Suggesting a humane approach to this issue, Simbu did not talk about the legal angle. His press meet has been a main talking point on social media.