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Not Easy Doing Business During UPA, No Issues Now Claims Aircel Founder Sivasankaran

Suddenly exorcised “ghosts” are on the calling end of the mobile. Our very own serial entrepreneur Chinnappan Sivasankaran, he of the Aircel fame in a podcast hosted by Raj Shamani said he was pressured to sell his business during the UPA government. Siva claims that he was “pressurised” to sell off Aircel to Maxis by a duo of siblings who held far reaching clout in the UPA government. “I just made a paltry sum of Rs 3,400 crore from the deal, if I would have sold it to AT&T I would have got $ 8 bn (sic),” Sivasankaran said. On being asked what was the compulsion then. He said India today wasn’t like the India then. “Today no one can pressurise you,” he said, adding back then the entrepreneur had to face pressure “to sell the company to a particular person”. Why did Siva not come out openly with his allegations? Why watch helplessly when a brand you have built with much pain be sold off like an Arabian slave?  He says that he faces no such pressures in the current India (NDA government), that if you can ride high and turboprop your business, the sky is the limit. BJP Leader K Annamalai wasted no time in attacking the UPA government. On X he commented that “The misery of intimidation and subjugation businessmen went through during the UPA regime made India fall several steps in the ladder of development. Aircel founder Thiru Sivasankaran’s statement is a testament to the ease at which our country’s wealth creators are striving today under the leadership of our beloved PM Thiru @narendramodi.”

TN Congress Conundrum: Confusion Worse Confounded

Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra recently visited Chennai for the Women’s Conclave of the I.N.D.I.A bloc. According to informed sources, Mrs Gandhi was not feeling well so her trip to Sriperumbudur (place where Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated) with Priyanka was called off and both retired at the ITC Grand Chola. The Congress cadres waited patiently for an audience with her, with TNCC chief KS Alagiri keeping vigil, in vain. Reportedly, the next day Congress members were milling around to see Sonia. Peter Alphonse, the gravelly old hand had his say when he urged Sonia to find a younger leader for TN. For good measure he gave some unwanted advice too…Look at the live wire K Annamalai, TN BJP chief. Sonia shot back, “You are insisting on a change, but what has been done to build the Congress here”? One can imagine how uncomfortable Alagiri felt, when Jothimani Sennimalai too joined the chorus for a change. Even as Alagiri was expecting to be given an audience, Kanimozhi announced her lunch with Sonia at the same venue. With so much discontent and discord in the ranks of the Congress, analysts are flummoxed by this touch-me-not-attitude of the first family of the Congress. Either the Teflon coating is a firm shield or the Gandhis are certain that their political comeback is certain.
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Season 2, Episode 1: Senthil Balaji In The News Again

Arrested DMK minister V Senthil Balaji is in the news again. Balaji who was in Puzhal prison since June 13 has once again been admitted to the government-run Stanley Hospital for heart related problems.  After his bail plea was rejected… he went into a shell. But, a few days back he seems to have received some signal that he would be out soon and would get his Electricity portfolio back. Even speculations about why his TASMAC portfolio was kept back were rife ….was it a smokescreen? Political perfidy and daring to use power as front for illegal activity come easily when stakes are high. Is it too much of a coincidence that he suffers another heart event? His long sojourn at Kauvery Hospital after his arrest, an extended medical stay and omertà like gag on him are recalled. His brother Ashok is still “missing and wanted “. But in all this, it is only human to sympathise with Balaji…may be he is paying the price for being a puppet. Maybe he is paying the price for acts of omission. Whatever the case it may be but for now Senthil Balaji is a serial party hopper whose talent as a mover shaker is much sought after. He is willing to take risks but it’s his health which is letting him down.
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Tamil Nadu Minister Senthil Balaji Spends Over 100 Days In Jail, HIs Brother Still On The Run

Till Tamil Nadu minister V Senthil Balaji, Stalin’s points man, and serial party hopper hit the national headlines for his arrest on June 13 by the ED, he was only a regional mover and shaker. This talent gave him the heft to party hop. DMK was his fifth hop. TN chief minister MK Stalin honoured him with two critical portfolios — Electricity and cash cow TASMAC. But the laws of nature and physics inevitably bring such a luminary down. The ED’s arrest on charges of money laundering started a newsworthy saga of imprisonment. He had a heart attack, was taken from the Omandurar government hospital (where Stalin visited him) to a private Hospital, rumoured to have had a heart surgery, long and mysterious recovery there and later remanded to custody in Puzhal prison. Jail sources say he is withdrawn and morose. His brother Ashok Balaji still on the run despite ED’s relentless chase; was he a proxy to get his brother?  On September 20, the court denied him the bail and Balaji was remanded to further custody. TN has a tradition of celebrating 100 days run of a film… Balaji has also seen 100 days. Legal opinions aver that if a judge is fully convinced about not finding evidence of guilt in the sections that he is charged, bail is a natural step. Till then he will have to cool his heels.
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Nirmala Sitharaman Shocks Chennai Media, Gives Tongue Lashing To Stalin Jr In Chaste Tamil

The Press asked for a few minutes when the finance minister was in Chennai. What they got was over 15 minutes of a Nirmala Sitharaman nobody had heard so far in sucker punch sound bites in chaste Tamil. She was taking on Stalin Jr over his comments on Sanatana Dharma. She expressed her angst and anger at this provocative violence in speech, intemperate and insensitive. Almost at the same time DMK MP, TR Baalu had openly chastised Udhayanidhi, even as his father chief minister MK Stalin was present at a DMK meet. Baalu made it clear that indiscretion and verbal bravado would soon bring about retaliation by party seniors. Discretion is the best part of valour, said Baalu. Sitharaman uber cool and calm even as she took on this brash talk by Udhayanidhi said, “Once you have taken an oath as a Minister, you must be extra cautious about verbal violence or instigation to violence. The ultimate punch…they will say let this Pappathi talk (pejorative term used for Brahmin women, contemptuously by the Dravidian parties). The media had a collective moment of total shock when Sitharaman admonished, “The media is quick to pounce on the dare of a UP Baba when he said that he would reward anyone who brought this agnostic’s head. Media, be just…take note of those who threaten others, likewise.”  In just about nine years the FM has learnt the art of neutralising Opposition bullies …using their own rhetoric.

DMK’s Double Standard, Attacks Sanatana Dharma But Wants To Control Temples

A few steps from the late Kalaignar’s iconic Gopalapuram home in Chennai is the temple of Venugopala Swami. It is said that Karunanidhi had to see the main deity every single day as he exited his home. Krishna had this vantage point. This Janmashtami brought unprecedented crowds to this temple in the wake of his grandson Udhayanidhi referring to sanatana dharma as a disease that needs to be eradicated. Chennai witnessed a massive outpouring of Bhakti and devotion on Lord Krishna’s birthday. Apart from the emotional and religious anger and fury of a faith scorned, the response of senior journalists and opinion makers were worth being noted. YouTuber and media guru Rangaraj Pandey asks, You say sanatana dharma because you are wary of using the word Hindu, but at the same time you want to control the Hindu temples and its overfilled Hundis through the HR & CE (Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowments) Department. You even have a minister who decides which DMK cadres take up positions in temple management. Brahmins never aspire for managerial posts in temples…they are priests. “You could not eradicate Saraayam (liquor in Tamil) but you want to eradicate Sanatana Dharma”.

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Contradictions At Home: Udhayanidhi Stalin Attacks Sanatana Dharma, While His Mother Is Doing Temple Rounds

The DMK and its posturing as Tamil saviours, savants, charlatans and atheists has scaled new heights of political arrogance through the “cub“ in waiting for the TN gaddi –Udhayanidhi Stalin, son of Tamil Nadu chief minister MK Stalin. Hindus all over the country are seething at his vitriolic attack on Sanatana Dharma, calling for eradicating it like scourges of malaria, dengue and covid. Probably, he does not have the guts to take on the other faiths — Islam and Christianity. May be he is confident that Hindus are soft targets for spewing venom. May be his Tamil upbringing did not include the iconic poet philosopher Thiruvalluvar whose couplet on indiscreet speech is quoted every day somewhere, “Yaagavaar aayinum nakakkaal, sogappar sol izhukkapattu” (be it anyone, the one who lets his tongue and talk run indiscreetly, will soon meet his deserved fate). Udhayanidhi claims that he is a true saviour of Tamil. That’s why he named his film distribution company Red Giant and this made actor-turned-politician Vijayakanth ask him why not Sigappu Bhootham (in Tamil)? Finally, Udhayanidhi in attacking the Sanatana Dharma pretends he is unaware of his mother Durga Stalin’s lifestyle; she is steeped in worship of Hindu gods, doing the Parikrama of numerous temples.
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AIADMK Leader Jayakumar Slams Udhayanidhi Stalin Publicly

Ex-AIADMK minister D Jayakumar has many epithets…motormouth, loose cannon, party mouthpiece, King of repartee, master of comedy. While in power, the media was hilariously entertained by his innuendos, and funny swipes. Jayakumar knows how to give what he gets…in spades. After his telling success at Mayiladuthurai’s DMK Youth Wing meet where Udhayanidhi Stalin upped the swag quotient, he went a bit over in inciting the AIADMK citing instance of an AIADMK functionary lodging a police complaint about his missing wife, and mirth erupting as some smart alecks suggested that Jayakumar be questioned. A composed Jayakumar said, “This Udhayanidhi is a mere cub. Neither his baap nor his baap’s baap can neutralise our party. I am warning this cub, stick to politics, don’t stray into personal attacks. If you try, we can pepper social media with filth exposés that you won’t withstand “. He further added, they call our party “garbage” but… garbage at least can be turned into fertiliser compost. The DMK has gnawed into the state like termites, leaving everything wasted in its wake. TN is now an “addiction” state — alcohol, ganja, power, money, you name it. Even the police are beaten up by cadres.  DMK scraped through in 2021 assembly elections with a mere 3 % lead. After 2026, it will be buried, swag, money, power and all. Will Udhayanidhi, the SUN in waiting, be more politically gracious in his speech?
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Is Superstar Rajini Thinking Of Dabbling In Politics Once Again?

Superstar Rajinikanth’s latest movie Jailer has crossed the Rs 500-crore magic figure. Having scripted one of the most telling comebacks, the superstar climbed the Himalayas to worship at Badrinath, even as he laughed all the way to the bank with his producers. The comeback seems to have boosted Thalaiva’s morale enough to think of a political comeback too. No, he has not made any announcements. But, his actions and touching base with key players in UP and Jharkhand have raised the speculation balloon sky high. He met Jharkhand Governor Anandiben Patel, UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav. His mercurial enthusiasm must have waned a tad when Yogi deputed his deputy CM for the special screen of Jailer. But the most visible and talked about optic was Rajini touching the feet of Yogi — a 72-year old falling at the feet of a 52-year old!  His avid rabid followers were visibly upset and condemned this “slavery attitude”. The talk that Rajini is back to teasing his followers, dangling the political entry bait is sweeping the fan clubs. But a more practical, sane voice says, with marked desperation levels, the BJP could have dropped the clickbait again…if not openly joining the party, at least give your charismatic voice. For the superstar, spouse pressure could well be the major push towards a political entry, yet again.

As ED Raids Another Tamil Nadu Minister, Is CM Shaken?

After Tamil Nadu minister V Senthil Balaji, the Enforcement Directorate trained its guns on DMK education minister K Ponmudi.  Raids on his residence and business locations have yielded a number of clues to financial irregularities including recovery of over Rs 80 lakh haul of British currency. This raid too was related to a 2012 case of illegal sand mining from quarries in TN amounting to Rs 28 crores loss to the State. His son Gautham Sigamani is alleged to have invested such earnings in UAE’s Universal Business Ventures. Earnings of Rs 7 crore were not declared. Besides, significant earnings of Rs 100 crore from share transactions in Indonesia in 2022 have been unearthed by ED leaving Ponmudi red faced. Reportedly, he cried on MK Stalin’s shoulder saying, “At 72 how can I withstand such raids? My sons are managing all affairs “. Tamil media sources claim that a Jakarta-based Tamilian business tycoon is the go to man for Ponmudi’s sons, and now the ED is busy digging up this shadow compatriot’s TN based businesses to trace the origins of the money trail . Obviously, the advantages of having investigating agencies like the ED are heightened in an election year. A so-called list of 9 “culpable probables”and mug shots are doing the rounds of the media!
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Can BJP Sway Dravidian Voters In TN With Annamalai’s Yatra?

In just three years, the stormy petrel of the BJP, K Annamalai has talked incessantly against Tamil Nadu Dravidian parties, in particular the DMK and what he consistently claims are its dark underbelly and unbridled corruption. This has brought him to the forefront of the BJP’s frontal attempt to carve itself a perch as a third alternative to the two parties that have held TN in their vice-like grip for over 60years. Annamalai now plans to walk the length and breadth of TN. His padayatra, to be flagged off by Amit Shah, will start on July 28 from Ramanathapuram which is already in the news that PM may contest 2024 Lok Sabha election from this revered pilgrim centre. Annamalai’s Yatra is to extend over 168 days, covering over 225 stops in all the TN constituencies, culminating on January 11 in Chennai with talk about the PM participating in this event in Chennai. Despite Annamalai’s penchant for taking on foes, fringe elements and even friends (he has had a few spats with Governor RN Ravi, BJP’s Vanathi Srinivasan, and local BJP functionaries) analysts are amazed at how his stocks have risen with the top brass. Reportedly, he may be nominated to Rajya Sabha. But, the litmus test of his relevance and political acumen — how many seats BJP will win in TN — will be known in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.  

At 72, Can Thalaiva Set The Silver Screen On Fire?

Diehard fans of Thalaiva can’t wait for August 10 – the release date of Jailer. Every time Rajinikanth’s big budget film is released, claims of it being Superstar’s swan song whet the voracious appetite of his fans to storm the cinema halls to rejoice and drumbeat for the one and only Rajini. At 72, will he be able to set the screen on fire? Politicians and film stars seem loath to retire, and ride off into the sunset. Why would they, when our country of over a billion are raring to dance to these pipers? As long as the audience and political party ATM’s jingle, big boss heroes are ready to canter through unreal capers.  After the tepid response to his last two films, Darbar and Annathe, Rajini, his director Nelson Dilipkumar, music composer Anirudh and bank rolling Sun Pictures have pulled out all stops to ensure Jailer locks up the audience for repeat views. The song, Kaavaalaa belted out by Shilpa Rao with Tamannaah Bhatia gyrating tantalisingly, is already a hit. To add more oomph, Kaavaalaa promos made with AI starring Samantha, Katrina Kaif, Kiara Advani and other marquee names have set the net on fire. The promo, featuring Superstar’s dialogue in his trademark gravel tone, is bound to click with the audience. “I am the King, what I set is law, my whims can change the rules.  Anyone dare? You shall be cut to pieces. This is my Hukam“.
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Stalin And Alagiri Smoke Peace Pipe: Will It Last?

The arrest of V Senthil Balaji by the Enforcement Directorate seems to have shaken and stirred Tamil Nadu chief minister MK Stalin. The aftershocks of the imbroglio are still rocking the DMK. The BJP’s “Raja tantra“ is moving heaven, earth and all between to bring Stalin to his knees. So it was not at all surprising when Stalin received his estranged brother MK Alagiri warmly at the Gopalapuram residence on their mother Dayalu Amma’s 90th birthday on July 9. Even when Stalin took oath as CM two years back, Alagiri chose to stay away from the ceremony. Was Stalin waiting for an opportunity to bring him back to the family fold given the political hardships he is facing? When a journalist asked Udhayanidhi, “So has your father and uncle made up”? To this he retorted, “When did they quarrel”? Stalin is aware that there are two potent power centers in the family besides his brother, it is his half-sister Kanimozhi.  The birthday of the grand old mother saw not only sibling rapprochement, even cousins cuddled up to cosy. Udhayanidhi, his cousins Arulnidhi and Durai Dayanidhi (Alagiri’s son) were seen joking and laughing. Stalin is on overdrive, juggling multiple confrontations. But for now, the family is smoking a peace pipe.
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At 80, Harrison Ford Dials Destiny -- A Brave Effort Or A Lost Cause?

The latest in the Indiana Jones franchise, Dial of Destiny is attracting droves of Harrison Ford admirers, just to relive their enduring fascination for Ford as the intrepid adventure archaeologist. Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, the creators of Indy Jones (which took on the Bond brand) ensure the 80-year old Ford looks and pulls punches like he is 45 in the action sequences. All the amped up action of the Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Temple of Doom and the Lost Crusade are served up in spades, even as he is transformed to his youth apt for the time Travel theme. Dial of Destiny too harks back to historical religious uprisings, holy symbols and royal treasures buried in the caves of time. This film digs, dives even deeper to discover the science behind what Archimedes created, a Cypher driven dial, Antikythera that enables time travel. In this fast paced gig, full of chases and chill thrill action that whirls you through Morocco, Greece, Sicily peppered with back to back surprises. Ford fans love his comeback…for those befuddled by the overwhelming action and unbelievable theme, an IMAX screen, the buttered popcorn and the sheer amazement of going back to the time of Archimedes promises a definite Eureka moment.
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Is Superstar Vijay Glorifying ‘Drinking’ With His Latest Song?

Tamil film superstar and aspiring politician Vijay’s 49th birthday on June 22 turned out to be a rambunctious, rocking event. It was the release of the first song of Leo which featured Vijay singing this peppy number himself sending his fans into rapture. The furious pace of the song, Naa Ready only amped up the boozy, inebriate kick of the lyrics, the double entendre lyrics and the sizzling music meant to be a clarion call to his huge fan did not sit well with conservatives. Amongst all those who protested stoutly via videos and media, a case filed by Rajeshwari Priya, founder chair of Anaithu Makkal Katchi, a breakaway from Dr Ramadoss’s PMK, managed to hog more optics…she went in person to meet Chennai DGP Shankar Jiwal to file her case. Later, Priya claimed that she had netted 70 lakh hits for her videos of the expose. Then started what she claims as the Vijay incited reprisal…filthy memes, Facebook threats and a host of ugly protests that sent her scurrying for cover. Though the police are wary about Priya’s vociferous protests which could well be for political gain, TN has  a number of conservative influencers who object to film stars morphing as political leaders .Why glorify addictions like drinking and smoking ? This kind of cheap entry strategy to build up political impact is not inspiring.
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Is The DMK Govt Trying To Bring The 2000-Year Old Chidambaram Temple Under The HR & CE Act?

The 2000-year old Lord Nataraja temple in Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu’s Cuddalore district which draws lakhs of devotees has a fatal attraction for the Dravidian parties for the scale of earnings; it is not under the purview of the HR & CE (Hindu Religious And Charitable Endowments)Act (. Chidambaram temple has been uniquely managed by a very close knit, denominated sect, the Dikshitars. Ergo, there are no money filled Hundis, no cacophony of shops selling bric-a-bac, no potential for siphoning the take by politicians or trustees. There have been several legal attempts to challenge the right of Dikshitars to run this heritage temple from 1951, matters reaching even the SC. An uneasy truce exists, the Dikshitars represented by legal eagles adept at separating the spiritual rights of the temple and its devotees, from the temporal diktats of the government in power. The most recent attempt was by the DMK minister Sekhar Babu during a significant holy festival when the Dikshitars put up a notice that worshippers were not allowed to climb up the narrow steps adjacent to the sacred sanctum. A few police officers were sent to establish the government’s right, slap a few more untenable charges on the management and bring the Kanakasabhai (an awe inspiring Golden Dome built of 21,600 gold sheets, and 72,000 golden nails representing the total Nadis, nerves in the human body) under the government order. The devotees are asking why are Hindu places of worship being targeted for audit and control?
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Has Kamal Hasaan Mastered The Art Of Riding Two Horses?

Is Kamal Hasaan, a part time politician and full time film star or is it the other way round? Ever since he floated his party Makkal Needhi Mayyam in 2018 and cast himself as a significant political force, this question has been raised often. His party did not win a single seat in the Tamil Nadu Assembly election in 2021, little wonder he persisted in riding the elliptical of films and politics. Vikram’s success gave new life to a mothballed Indian 2 with ace director Shankar bent on repeating the success of the first Indian. Out of the blue, Kamal has been offered a meaty role in the prestigious director Nag Ashwin’s sci-fi Project 2 with Amitabh Bachchan, Prabhas, Deepika Padukone and Disha Patani. His rumoured remuneration for the film is Rs 20 crore. Recently, he gave a cheque to TN’s first woman bus driver Sharmila. Driving a private bus on the Coimbatore-Somanur route Sharmila was over the top when two women VIPs — Vanathi Srinivasan of the BJP and DMK MP Kanimozhi — travelled in her bus. But, the bus owner was unhappy with the publicity and Sharmila lost her job. Even as Kanimozhi, the DMK’s alter ego leader promised her a job, Kamal stepped in. Wags are now busy speculating that Kamal is already in election mode for 2024. Riding two horses simultaneously is a rare talent.
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With Hindi Dominating The Opposition Meet In Patna, Stalin Finds Himself Tongue-Tied

At the mega Opposition parties meeting called by the Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar in Patna, the Tamil Nadu chief minister felt a little out of place; he could not comprehend the fast and furious Hindi exchange of all leaders. A language that he is vehemently opposed to. Had the PM called for such a meeting, Stalin would have boycotted it. Observers close to a few participants talk about how Stalin was trying hard to get the gist from T R Baalu who also seemed at sea. After nearly four hours of this meeting, Stalin made excuses to leave early, citing his flight schedule departure time so as to avoid facing the media in Patna. Instead called for a Press meet at the Chennai airport where he could address in Tamil. A senior analyst asks didn’t Stalin travel in a chartered flight and that has no departure time compulsions. It is learnt that for the second round of the meet at Shimla, Stalin may ask Baalu and Kanimozhi to represent him. One has to wait and watch whether this ‘Unite to Unseat the BJP in 2024’ is still strong enough to reach the third phase at Chennai.
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Will The Real Senthil Balaji Please Stand Up?

A fortnight back nobody had heard of DMK minister V Senthil Balaji outside of Tamil Nadu till ED arrested him on June 14. Drama thereafter of him being admitted to a hospital, chief minister MK Stalin visiting him and Opposition leaders across the country coming out in his support and castigating Modi government did surprise everybody. Who is really V Senthil Balaji? Basically he is a fund raiser who ensures that funds reach at the highest level without any seepages. His controversial political trapeze act of crossing from the AIADMK to the DMK and getting rewarded with two plum ministries — Electricity and Excise (the cash cow TASMAC chain) — unleashed much heartburn among the DMK old timers. He is Stalin’s go to man. The Tamil Nadu governor has been firing missiles about the rampant corruption in Tamil Nadu. Ditto: BJP’s one man demolition army, K Annamalai. Balaji who was shifted from the government-run Omandurar Hospital to the privately-run Kaveri Hospital underwent bypass surgery under the Madras HC order. The ED filed a plea in the SC wanting a team of AIIMS doctors to take charge of Balaji. As if this intriguing cat and mouse game was not challenging, out of the blue, Stalin’s brother-in-law, Dr Rajamurthi, Director of the KK Nagar ESI Hospital has protested that he has been drawn into a controversy about Balaji’s Kaveri Hospital choice.
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Is Tamil Nadu Superstar Vijay Getting Into Politics?

In south India film stars dabbling in politics is commonplace. So Tamil Nadu superstar Vijay signaling his entry into politics is not surprising. But, his entry strategy is. Thalapathy, as he is fondly known, chose to launch his political entry with a unique event. He hosted a gala lunch to felicitate top three rankers from every constituency in Chennai’s Neelankarai. The student’s community were ecstatic to be honoured by their youth icon. The star picked the most impressionable group, Gen Z to motivate and build allegiance. This box office vasool Raja has quietly pursued his political persona, interacting with his legion of fans, engaging them in social service like blood donation camps, flood hit relief camps and helping the differently abled people. The AIADMK, DMK, AMMK and other parties have found their political calling thanks to film stars. Joseph Vijay Chandrasekhar has not openly claimed his religious faith. Vijay is strong and self-willed… father, director S A Chandrasekhar was in a hurry to launch Vijay the politician, leading to a family split. At the felicitation meet, the 48-year old Vijay exhorted the merit scholars, “If there is one crucial thing you can all do, it is to influence your parents DO NOT VOTE for money “. Vijay, who has set his sights on 2026 assembly polls, knows he has miles to go…but for now it is a good beginning.

Why This Fatal Attraction For ‘Ramayan’ By Bollywood?

After many hiccups and pickups, Prabhas led Adipurush is all set for release. One would think Bahubali Prabhas as Ram, Kriti Sanon as Sita, and hold your breath, Saif Ali Khan as Ravan would fly high even in the pre-release teasers and publicity pleasers. But controversy and caustic carp is already being tossed like hailstones. Prabhas, it seems, does not fit into that beloved divine mould of Lord Ram. Even his dialogue is dead pan. The cast and crew visited Tirupathi Balaji temple for a Big Bang trailer release, and director Om Raut stirred up a salacious controversy…he publicly kissed Kriti, the Sita Ma whose chastity is the anchor of the epic ballad. Ram devotees taunted Kirti’s claim that she had observed Vrat for the film. But the arrow that hit the jugular was the one liner of Censor Board Member and film critic, Umair Sandhu: ”Adipurush…Torture“.To add more grist to this devilish mill Kangana Ranaut, the self-styled moral police, critic and media high priestess has poured out her anger at yet another Ramayan in the works,  which has Ranbir Kapoor as Lord Ram, Alia Bhat as Sita and the KGF rough Yash as Ravan. Is Bollywood drained and devoid of compelling stories? Or is this artistic hara-kiri, to relive again and again the beloved epic of our land to indulge the egoistic fantasies of top stars?

Not A Big Fat Wedding: FM’s Daughter Marries OSD In PMO In A Low Key Event

In a country which celebrates weddings in unbelievable opulence and obscene lavishness, the Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman daughter‘s wedding was a low-key affair. So it was not surprising that the news that Sitharaman’s daughter Parakala Vangamayi married Pratik Doshi, OSD of Joint Secretary rank in the PMO, spread like a wildfire. It became talk of the town for being a low key affair. This quiet almost secret wedding held in Sitharaman’s Jayanagar home in Bengaluru was blessed by the Seers of Udipi’s Adamaru Mutt in the presence of close relatives; no fanfare or trumpeting, no glitterati or paparazzi. Naturally speculations were doing the rounds why it was such a low key affair, what did the bride and groom wear, and most importantly who is the groom was flying thick and fast. The bride, a journalist, wore a traditional pink silk saree, and Sitharaman, a Molekalmani saree. The groom Pratik Doshi is a Gujarati who worked as Research Assistant at Modi’s CM’s office after his graduation from Singapore’s Management School. Doshi’s transition to national level as OSD in the PM’s office with his portfolio of Research and Strategy was seamless and smooth as silk. Doshi, people in the know aver, is the eyes and ears of the PM. The same curious network is busy now, feverishly connecting the dots...Chanakyan intrigue, political chutzpah, or plain and simple falling in love?

M S Dhoni Announces ‘Let’s Get Married’

MS Dhoni’s popularity in Tamil Nadu is beyond belief…if he were to contest an election, never mind the party, he would win hands down. If there is a popularity contest between TN’s other Thala, star Ajitkumar and Dhoni with the same sobriquet Thala, all bets are off for who would win. Maybe Dhoni’s wife Sakshi was well aware that such high profile fame could easily be monetised; start any venture…sports goods, eatery, clothing with the Dhoni brand and harvest profits. Dhoni being Dhoni hit upon filmmaking, Tamil films in particular. Remember M S Dhoni: The Untold Story it was a box office hit and was ranked as the 5th highest Bollywood movie for 2015.  The couple have started their own production house Dhoni Entertainment, and just released the teaser of their maiden film Let’s Get Married. Ramesh Tamizh Mani directs a cast of popular actors. Harish Kalyan, Ivana, Nadia the evergreen beauty, Yogi Babu and other entertainers. The teaser clearly reflects the film’s theme – a wholesome family entertainment. Dhoni’s humility and never-say-fail attitude is sure to sustain this new venture of the Chennai King.

What Ails AIADMK Chief Edappadi Palanisami?

Is the AIADMK General Secretary Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS) ill and advised to rest? Seems plausible, as he has not been sighted in public for the past two weeks, communicating only through his staff. He had announced anti-DMK protest marches throughout Tamil Nadu but was not seen participating in any, even the one in Salem, his pocket borough, something quite out of character for a politician who thrives on being seen and heard with his hearty smile and presence. The party cadres are on chat and chatter mode, flying speculations in every which way. Some said he was having severe joint pain after the hectic birthday celebrations, early May, and has been advised to rest. Others are concerned about bone health issues. EPS has shouldered many burdens since the Assembly elections when the DMK wrested power from his party. Then he had to take on the rivalry and bitter power struggles with O Panneerselvan, his party heavyweight which brought on a number of legal battles. The speculations about his health took on a new dimension when he visited the temple, after a visit to Coimbatore to consult doctors about “bone problems”. Was he advised surgery, even a visit abroad for treatment? For now, his party cadres are joining in the prayers at the Lord Murugan temple, and wishing him a speedy recovery so that he can return to his busy schedule.

Ponniyin Selvan’s Success Puts Trisha In Big League, Bags Six New Films

South’s popular actor Trisha Krishnan is still in royal mode after her superlative performance as the Chola Princess Kundavai in Mani Ratnam’s two-part magnum opus, Ponniyin Selvan. After the slick success of her film with Vijay Sethupathi, 96 in 2018, her career was on a downward plunge. And then after her 40th birthday, she hit the mother lode with Ponniyin Selvan, a role she carried with much elan, and grace even when pitted against beauty queen Aishwarya Rai. Post Ponniyin Selvan, Trisha is the most sought after star.  She has signed six new films with all top heroes. Just shows what a legendary director and his talent to showcase an actor as a living character of the story can do to falling ratings. Trisha is already in Leo with superstar Vijay, a pairing that reminds of their earlier super hit, Gilli. She has Vidamuairchi with hero Ajit. She has signed up for a Mani Ratnam directed Kamal Haasan movie,  ready to pit her acting skill against Dhanush in his 50th film and has a hot Malayalam film with Mohanlal. Besides, first web serial The Road. Looks like her 40th birthday was the turning point of her life. K Town is in awe of this petite pack of dynamite who leaves an unforgettable impression. Despite talk of romantic links after she walked out of two engagements.

Is Kejriwal’s Helicopter Diplomacy Threatening The Grand Old Party?

Even as the Opposition unity drive is in turbo mode, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal is perceived as pushing his personal agenda that seems to irk the Congress party. He called on Tamil Nadu chief minister MK Stalin in Chennai and this seems to upset the GoP. The Congress is well aware that its vote share has been systematically cut by AAP in Punjab, Delhi, and to some extent in Himachal. The old Congress warhorses Ajay Makan and Sandeep Dikshit had warned party president Mallikarjun Kharge about Kejriwal’s hidden agenda. A senior political analyst feels that Kejriwal’s diplomacy could change DMK’s seat sharing arrangement with the Congress; it is generally benevolent with Congress. But, senior journalist Rajagopalan feels Kejriwal is not on a good wicket as far as his imagery is concerned. The Rs 65-crore Sheesh Mahal he has built has destroyed the clean ‘Aam Aadmi’ imagery he carefully crafted over the last decade. In the wake of a SC verdict on sharing of power over bureaucratic transfers/postings, Kejriwal came down heavily on five Babus who allegedly leaked juicy details about his Sheesh Mahal to Times Now Navbharat Times TV. He is baiting the Congress, hoping to drive a wedge in their relationship with DMK. Will he be successful in his wooing strategy?

Now Tamil Movie ‘Farhana’ Stirs A Mild Controversy

In the name of religion one more movie that has created a mild stir is the Tamil film Farhana starring Aishwarya Rajesh in the lead. So much so the protagonist had to be provided police protection by the Tamil Nadu government. Earlier it was The Kashmir Files, followed by The Kerala Story. It seems Farhana has raised the hackles of Tamil Nadu Muslim women who are worried that Muslim women may seek emancipation like the heroine. Farhana is the simple story of a Muslim wife, mother and daughter of conservative Aziz who owns a footwear shop, leading a modest life. Her husband Kareem is trying for an overseas job. Farhana opts to work at a Call Centre much against her very conservative family’s will. The Call Centre environment of modernity, female freedom and openness is both daunting and exciting for Farhana. A change in assignment, puts her in the chat room for a week. Farhana is revolted by the quirky, kinky and smutty talk in the chat room. Is the film a metaphor for freeing Islamic women from stifling bonds? Director Ameer, a well-known name in Kollywood has heaped praise on Nelson Venkatesan for his sensitive handling of a woman centric story. He says by giving protection to Aishwarya, a wrong impression is conveyed about the film. Time to allow creative artists the freedom to chisel ingenious films.
Stalin amit_eps

Tamil Nadu’s Political Heavyweights Fly Into Delhi Separately To Meet Amit Shah

Three political heavyweights from Tamil Nadu — chief minister M K Stalin, AIADMK chief Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS) and BJP TN Head K Annamalai – flew into Delhi on April 26, separately, to meet the Union Home Minister Amit Shah. Stalin’s visit was obviously for damage control in the wake of the recent tape leak on social media alleging huge sums of money made by his son and son-in-law, and the simultaneous raids on homes and offices of a leading realty company said to be close to the first family. In the case of EPS, after becoming AIADMK chief, he sought legitimacy to his status from the BJP boss. Even as he walked into Shah’s residence with his coterie –Thangamani, Velumani, Jayakumar — he was jolted by the looming presence of Annamalai, bogeyman antagonist whom he dreads as much as OPS. At a media meet, when asked about Annamalai’s sphere of influence, EPS caustic response was “We only deal with PM, HM and Naddaji.” There is no love lost between Annamalai and EPS but Shah made it clear to EPS that BJP works as a team with a chain of command; it’s not faction-led. In other words, he was asking EPS to bury the hatchet with his arch rival OPS, unify the party and give BJP solid support or else BJP will fight alone under Annamalai’s leadership.

CM Eye On Their Performance, TN Ministers Jittery

Tamil Nadu ministers are a bit nervous these days. Not without reason: Chief Minister M K Stalin has been quietly keeping tabs on his ministers’ performances via two organisations. One is the government Intelligence Wing and second, is Peninsula Consultancy. Both these organisations have been secretly monitoring the performances of all the cabinet ministers. The performance appraisal of the ministers will be based on the inputs of both these organisations. So clearly, some heads are going to roll and some may get additional portfolios. For instance, education minister Anbil Mahesh Poyyamozhi heads the list of good performers followed by industries minister Thangam Thennarasu in second place and MSME minister T M Anbarasan in third place. Those who did not perform well are housing minister S Muthuswamy. It was no surprise that the old war horse Durai Murugan also figures in the non-performers list. Meanwhile, Stalin is besieged with another problem.  The finance minister P Thiaga Rajan’s private conversation about money allegedly made by his son Udhayanidhi and son-in-law V Sabareesan has put his party in an awkward position. Tamil Nadu BJP chief K Annamalai who earlier exposed corruption of the DMK government is going to town with this new audio tape. So now, there are talks that PTR may be replaced and several names are doing rounds including that of industries minister Thennarasu.

Kollywood Film Makers Bank On Story More Than Glamour

The latest Tamil offering Viduthalai-Part 1 directed by Vetri Maaran is drawing crowds and appreciation for almost every dimension of its story. When Vetri Maaran narrated B Jeyamohan’s story to producer Elred Kumar, he laid out a simple Rs 4 crore project, but then they cottoned on to making it in two parts that added a zero to the 4 crores.  Not that Vetri and team haven’t had hiccups. Viduthalai was immediately slammed as a copy of ‘Solagar Thotti ‘, a similar themed novel. The South film makers have the courage to cast the plot /story as the hero, and  dare to experiment with actors who don’t need glamour and unbelievable stunts to prove their machismo, they are super confident  enough to deglamourise even female leads. Focus is on the story unfolding with its relatable grip, and most important ….keep the cost down, cinema is an uncertain medium. Why pour the lion’s share of the money on a hero (with back to back flops) and end up in creative and financial penury?  Viduthalai is a period crime thriller. The film stars Soori and Vijay Sethupathi.

TN Minister Admits Doubts About Mani Ratnam’s Skill To Make ‘Ponniyin Selvan’

A close confidant of the late Kalaignar, and now a father figure to his son, Tamil Nadu chief minister MK Stalin, PWD Minister Duraimurugan is well-known for his wit and wisecracks that evoke laughter…sometimes silent resentment. Recently Duraimurugan was the chief guest at the launch of Ponniyin Selvan – 2 Trailer & Music with Lyca chairman Subhaskaran Allirajah presiding over the event. Duraimurugan started off reminiscing about what he told the producer before Part 1. “I was fascinated by Kalki’s epic as a student and read it with interest. But when Subhaskaran told me that he is bringing it to the big screen at a mammoth budget, I had reservations. I even tried to talk him out of it. Then I asked him, “Who is the director?” I was told it was Mani Ratnam, “I asked Mani Ratnam…The one who shoots all his films in the dark? No, don’t“.  But, after the super success of the film with its ensemble cast, Duraimurugan changed his views. He praised the film, and talked about a particular character, Vandiya Devan played so endearingly by Karthi. He is particularly fond of this character, who is supposed to be from Thiruvalam, part of Duraimurugan’s constituency. Even history gets linked to politics!

With AIADMK Firmly Under His Control, EPS Trains His Eyes On Alliance Partners

With the Madras HC rejecting O Panneerselvam’s application, Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS) was elected unopposed as General Secretary of the AIADMK, a party founded by MGR in 1974. After his death it was in the iron grip of J Jayalalithaa for 27 years till her death in December 2016 which saw both EPS and OPS pitted against each other for the control of the party.  With EPS firmly in the saddle, the scene at the party headquarters was upbeat with fire crackers bursting, a 50-kg laddoo on display and milk ‘abhishekam’ offered to the giant cut-out of EPS. Interestingly, EPS was coaxed to wear MGR’s signature cap and dark glasses. Not surprisingly, he obliged his party workers. His first announcement after the verdict was to add more muscle to the party with a membership drive. His second urgent strategy is to keep the current alliance partners intact especially PMK’s Dr Ramdas who is being wooed by DMK. But the real problem is Tamil Nadu BJP chief K Annamalai. Both don’t see eye-to-eye. Annamalai who wanted to walk out of the alliance, and go solo, has been stopped in his tracks by the party’s Delhi high command.  EPS is well aware of the serious hoops he has to jump. But, for now he is firmly in the saddle everybody will accept his leadership.

Are The Lines Between Bollywood And Kollywood Blurring?

Are the lines between the south Indian film industry and north Indian film industry (read Bollywood) blurring it? It seems so, as both the territories are very important for them. And incidentally, factoring these north-south audiences the film makers are doing casting that will appeal to both the worlds of cinema. Whether it is Oscar winner RRR or now Sriram Raghavan casting Vijay Sethupati in Merry Christmas with Katrina Kaif is certainly going to help both the industry. Now that’s just the operation part but we notice that the south is making that attempt of bridging the divide that was there in the earlier days. Now south stars have Pan India appeal but a few decades back actors like Kamal Haasan, Rajinikanth, Nagarjuna were not easily accepted. Today, satellite and dubbed films of south are being lapped in the north and the south’s overall business has grown by 20%. Perhaps Bahubali, KGF triggered this trend. Karan Johar was the distributor of Bahubali 1. One may not hear so much from Bollywood honchos but south actors have been vocal about calling it as one big industry. While talking to media Telugu star Nani said “Pathaan hamara hai aur Dasara (his film) aapka hai.” But all this conversation of one film industry started with KGF 2 when Yash fondly called Rocking Star said that we should stop talking about various industries and consider cinema in totality.  And celebration of the victory of RRR in the international world and by the whole country means we are now one.

Who Stole My Jewellery Asks Aishwarya Rajinikanth?

This filmi family is constantly in the news by design or by accident. Last month, Tamil star Dhanush was in the news for his newly built Rs 150 crore home in Poes Garden, close to his father-in-law Rajinikanth’s oft vaunted residence. The latest news is about Dhanush’s estranged wife, the feisty Aishwarya who lodged a complaint at the Teynampet police station in February about valuables –jewels, silver utensils, gem stones — missing from the locker. Apparently, it was discovered by her, four years after her sister Saundarya’s wedding when the jewels were worn. In her complaint Aishwarya mentioned that the valuables had moved lockers and locations three times as she had moved from their family home to her current apartment and frequent visits to parent’s home.  Naturally, suspicion for the theft pointed towards house maid Eashwari and driver Venkatesh. Both have been grilled by police, in the course of which some suspicious real estate deals and jewellery pledging trails have been unearthed. Reportedly, her maid has bought a plot worth Rs 95 lakhs at Sholinganallur with a bank loan. The police are investigating the money trail.  Meanwhile, Aishwarya is busy producing-directing Lal Salaam in which Daddy dear is doing a cameo, rumoured to be fast emerging as more substantial.

Why Did Superstar Rajini Visit Thackeray’s Home

The buzz around why Superstar Rajinikanth called on the Thackeray family at Matoshree is as audible as crickets chirping in a forest as night falls. It is well-known that intense activity, public profiling, media mentions, are all activated before a Rajini film release, and the legion of crazy (though now disillusioned ) fans lap up every bit and byte. Yes, his upcoming film Jailor’s publicity machine is on overdrive currently with news of mega stars joining the Jailor bandwagon. After all, the focus is that Jailor should overtake Kamal’s Vikram’s box office success, and so every appearance helps. Even a hint that yet another go at politics could set off clanging fan bells. So is Rajini’s alter Shivaji Rao Gaekwad creating more impact by calling on a bruised Uddhav? How easily this could be interpreted as a Marathi Manoos assuring Thackeray of his support! Did Uddhav take the lead? In politics, resurrections and relevance come in many packages. Uddhav needs a big jolt of support. So was the meeting for mutual advantage? Tamil Nadu whispers point to another direction. Rajini, the superstar, is a canny businessman, practical and political. It is well known that much of his huge net worth is invested in Karnataka and Maharashtra real estate and a token invested in TN.  Is he buying insurance to protect his properties because of the sudden clash between Kannadigas and Maharashtrians over the age-old border issue?
UStalin free bus

DMK Govt Goes Back On Its Promise, Free Bus Rides For Women, Senior Citizens To End

At last, the DMK had to get realistic; even reckless election promises need money to be fulfilled. The pink coloured free buses for women, free rides for old, infirm, transgender, subsidised travel for students, monthly bus passes can no longer subsist on ideology. The DMK has announced a plan to allow private bus operators to own and run buses on MTC routes under a Gross Cost Contract (GCC), which would factor in adding 500 vehicles for 2023, and increase it by another 500 by 2025, on a per km rate revenue sharing  model. Is this a creative public-private partnership model? Or is it mandated by the World Bank funded C-SUSP (Sustainable Urban Service Program)? The announcement was not happily received by the MTC workers who see in it a diabolical plan to gradually hand over the bus transport to private operators. K Arumuga Nainar, General Secretary of the Federation of Transport Workers has opposed the move as do other CITU unions. Interestingly, the Indian Express carried a stout denial by the Transport Minister SS Sivasankar, claiming that the government had only undertaken a feasibility cum revenue study. “Private operators will likely be allowed to run buses only on routes that have high patronage.” MTC is the lifeline of Chennai which operates 3436 buses over 625 routes, and is used by 30 lakh people every day.

Political Parties Showered Erode Voters With As Many As 18 Gifts At The Recent Bypoll

Freebies have become synonymous with elections. Voters are really spoilt for choice. But, freebies during bypolls seems a bit unusual. That’s what happened at the recent bypolls held in Erode East, Tamil Nadu. According to a source, at least 18 gifts were given to each voter by various political parties. It was Diwali in February with smart watches, mini fans, pressure cookers and a host of consumer durables. Besides, liquor and biryani packs were distributed every day until the voting day. Attached ingeniously to the biryani packs were what is euphemistically called “sweet boxes” in TN; cash in disguise. The Erode voters felt wooed and wanted. Vikatan TV’s social media handle talked about Erode East’s “withdrawal symptoms” when the election campaigners packed up and left the constituency. A funny incident doing the rounds is one for the books. TTV Dinakaran who decided not to field his candidate in the final run up, had a huge stock of pressure cookers — his party’s symbol that was allotted to another. A DMK minister is said to have asked Dinakaran to sell the stash at 50% discount! His advice “the symbol itself is not yours. Salvage the cost of this huge consignment. Sell it at 50% to me.” Commerce is the one abiding force that moves both winners and losers.
Stalin Jr

Succession Planning: Udhayanidhi Stalin In Delhi To Meet PM, Opposition Leaders

Udhayanidhi Stalin is on a two-day visit to Delhi to meet the prime minister and home minister. His life lessons have been mostly cinematic, cavorting with heroines and calculating box office takes of his Red Giant movie distribution venture. Ever since he was appointed as minister for Youth Welfare & Sports Development, Father Stalin is grooming him for the inevitable succession to the TN Gaddi, and is ensuring that Udhayanidhi gets to hear and see all the significant cues needed to take charge of the party and government. Being his first visit to Delhi, Stalin Jr has planned parallel agendas. Just in case the PM is unable to meet him, Udhayanidhi will attend a function at Banwari Lal Purohit’s home, meet the Sports Ministry bureaucrats for bringing better facilities, more funding, and equipment to TN. At a recent JNU scuffle, some TN students were injured by the so-called ABVP cadres, Udhayanidhi will meet them. But the main agenda is to deliver invitations to as many Opposition leaders and heavy weights to attend the mega public event — Chennai YMCA grounds on March 1 to celebrate Stalin’s 70th birthday. Udhayanidhi programmed to learn on the job, to coax, convince and cajole persons sitting on the fence to join the mega Opposition to take on the BJP juggernaut.
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Gayathri in shawl, extreme right K Annamalai

Mission Revenge: Gayathri Raguramm Quits BJP, Openly Takes On TN Party Chief Annamalai

Gayathri Raguramm, who was suspended by Tamil Nadu BJP Chief K Annamalai for defying party discipline in the now infamous TiruchI Siva /Daisy scandal is on a mission revenge even as she quit the primary membership of the BJP. Who is Gayathri Raguramm, you may ask as she is not as well bespoke as Khushboo, who is now firmly embedded in BJP after her carousel stays in other parties. Gayathri, a middling success as actor and dance director, quickly made a name and profile for herself in the party hierarchy. She was made the BJP coordinator for Indian diaspora. Articulate and aggressive, she found Annamalai, the rock of challenge, alleging that he hurt her by defaming her character after her tirade in the Tiruchi Siva incident. She called on VCK Thirumavalavan on February 21, saying she found him fair and gracious in his political stance, and that he did not prejudge her quitting the BJP under controversy. Thiruma is known as a prickly critic of the BJP. Gayathri will also meet the other enfant terrible of TN’s tinder box politics, actor-director-orator-feared political baiter — NaamThamizhar Katchi Chief, Seeman. Gayathri is busy in her plans to make Annamalai see red. ”Better to have an enemy who slaps you in the face than a friend who stabs you in the back”. Clearly, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

Tamil Cinema Top Star Dhanush Makes A Status Statement

The startling bouffant hairstyle, bushy beard and the unmistakable blaring blue Kurta, are enough to make several statements. But Kollywood top star Dhanush is unabashed even as he shows off his huge mansion at Poes Garden, a stone’s throw away from father-in-law Superstar Rajinikanth’s opulent residence. The gruhapravesam was minus his estranged wife, Aishwarya, who had joined hands for the Bhoomi Pooja of this rumoured Rs 150 crore residence. Dhanush had his parents and close family on display on this auspicious day. Memories also dredge up the wedding scene on November 18, 2004 with Thalaiva busy introducing Dhanush to his guests at his residence, the ceremony venue, attended by late JJ and a host of cinema luminaries. Dhanush has come a long way. To his credit one must acknowledge his cinematic success and how he has shaped his career as a bankable star. The crossover from masala movies, his last outings, Thiruchittrambalam, Karnan and Asuran have all made his mark as an actor, spontaneous and serious. His latest release Vathi (Teacher) on February 17 is doing well at box office, collecting Rs 21 crore in the first three days. Brother Selvaraghavan, a top director, released his Bhagasuran on the same day in which he is in the lead. But, it grossed just Rs 3 crore. Sibling rivalry is not the point here…just that Dhanush has arrived in more ways than one, despite his average looks.
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Erode Bypoll: Circus Or Comedy Show?

The Erode bypoll campaigning seems to have all the ingredients of a comedy show. The two main contenders DMK supported Congress candidate EVKS Elangovan and BJP backed AIADMK candidate Thenarusu have almost become cameos in a blockbuster show. There are 77 candidates in the fray. Imagine the plight of the Election Commission (EC) in allotting voting symbols for this ensemble cast! The EC with much creativity taking a leaf from Montessori learning has allotted Pineapple, Scissors, Bindi, Pillow, Ludo, Cycle, Pressure Cooker, Jackfruit, Watermelon, Bangles , even Chillies and many more in a comedy of errors . Reportedly, the DMK is rumoured to have pumped in Rs 150 crore, and some of its high profile ministers have been given the whip to camp there, do whatever it takes to win. A few DMK stalwarts are trying out their culinary skills…making parathas and potato bondas as starters while free TASMAC liquor flows, even as hordes of voters are sequestered in hastily rented marriage halls to keep them out of the clutch of other “influencers“. Stalin’s son-in-law Sabareesan is camping in the battle ground. A DMK councillor stole the show by parading on a Camel during campaigning. With so much underhand activity, the EC has sealed 16 election offices in a bid to curb anti-constitutional moves. Ten such centres are DMK’s.
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@NayantharaU and @MalavikaM_

Clash Of Beauties: Malavika Mohanan Takes On Lady Superstar Nayanthara

Malayalam and Tamil cinemas sexy and outspoken star Malavika Mohanan is hissing like a cat on a hot tin roof. And no one can miss her direct and indirect references to Lady Superstar Nayanthara, now elevated as King Khan’s heroine in Jawan under production. Nayan has proved her versatility in movies like Aram, Naanum Rowdy Thaan, Raja Rani. Malavika was on the warpath last year too, baiting Nayan in veiled ways. There was the reference to Nayan’s scene in a movie where she had full makeup on for a hospital scene in which she played the patient. Mohanan shot her sarcastic arrow, “Guess even in a death scene such stars will flaunt full makeup”. Ouch! Now Mohanan is busy giving gyaan about why female stars should not use titles like Lady Superstar. Reportedly, Nayan is the highest paid heroine in south charging around Rs 10 crore per movie. Malavika herself is a drop dead gorgeous looker, and has been noticed in Petta, Master and Maaran. She is young, sought after and has miles to go before she takes off her makeup. Then why the barbed arrows? Currently shooting for Christy, maybe she is seeking publicity, even getting trolled by Nayan fans. Malavika has made social media handles sizzle. Is she eyeing the Lady Superstar title?

Tamil Nadu BJP Chief Annamalai’s Tech-Backed Collection Drive Impresses Rivals

Tamil Nadu BJP chief K Annamalai seems to have impressed the high command with his accomplishments within the state. Result: the ruling party DMK is indeed uncomfortable with him. Impressed by his performance the party recently appointed Annamalai poll-in-charge of Karnataka. Meanwhile he is getting ready to start his padayatra to galvanise people around BJP in the run-up to 2024 Lok Sabha elections. To partially fund the padayatra the state BJP is on a big collection drive. The target is Rs 100 crore by February 15 and party functionaries have been given targets of Rs 1 crore, Rs 50 lakhs, Rs 25 lakhs and Rs10 lakhs. Post that Annamalai will set out on his padayatra across TN. It is learnt, that the apparatchiks are on overdrive, meeting traders, businessmen, angel investors, corporates and the public, turning Valentine’s Day to Love for the BJP day — open your hearts and wallets generously. Even as rumblings about the election bonds of the party and other strong arm methods to mop up money are cited by the griping opposition, what hits them hard is the chutzpah of Annamalai in devising tech backed systems to give receipts for funds collected. The fund drive even has QR code for digital transfers.  Clearly, everything above is aboard and transparent.
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Just Chill With Latest Movies If Stuck At Chennai Airport

Time was when Chennai airport was just workhorse functional, fliers comparing it to the glittering breathtaking Changi, and feeling second class. Frequent construction for cosmetic renovation was always knocking the fliers’ rush. Suddenly this not so glamorous poor cousin airport has emerged as an attractive, talked about airport. Parking bays, arrival and departure bays, all spruced up. But it is the mint new AeroHub adjoining the airport with an umbilical aero bridge that is now raved about. Even before the mall has come up, PVR cinemas have thrown open a razzle dazzle multiplex of 5 screens to showcase favourite films, all on the fly.  Delayed flights, overnight transfers, waiting for technical glitch to resume your flight will turn into a fun experience as you walk across the bridge, drink, dine and dawdle over the latest film. The foyer decor, seating for 1150 people, Dolby sound , reclining seats, ample legroom, crystal clear projection on 5 screens , with Audi2 and Audi4 offering luxe viewing will definitely take the pain out of flying . Not just fliers, but outsiders are also welcome to come, drop a load of money on the peripheral attractions. Tamilians may appear stodgy and serious…but finally what they present in terms of entertainment and deluxe experience reminds one of Rajini’s dialogues, ”Naan lateaa vandalum latestaa varuven “ (I may be late, but I am the latest).

The Woman In Red Dominates Parliament

Nirmala Sitharaman has evolved, over her terms as finance minister. From briefcase to Bahi Khata to a red covered tablet, her budgets too have traversed the gamut of potholed roads and paved runways. This year, presenting her McDonald’s (Burger, Nuggets, Fries and Cola) populist budget, she stunned Parliament in Red Avatar, the way of fire. Gracefully clad in a red handwoven ILKAL silk saree, made in her Rajya Sabha borough, Karnataka she must have made the women member’s envy her. Dharwad’s Aarathi Hiramath and artist Rukaiva Bandunavar were given just 10 days to create this heirloom for an anonymous client, and now the duo are drenched in praise. Was Sitharaman sending a message in her Durga Avatar? Was it a subliminal warning to that encircling cabal that her government saw red in all coincidental portends hitting her party, en masse? The tea leaf readers and talking heads are on overdrive… Sitharaman has raised the battle conch of Dharmakshetra Kurukshetra. The lady in red can give as good as she gets in power dressing.
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Tamil Nadu’s Enduring Tryst with Titles, Doctorates & Epithets

Tamil Nadu politicians have this strong fetish for creating titles and using them on every billboard and official communication. So much so, many organisers have been pulled up for invites not including these “conferred” honorary titles. So you find a plethora of Doctorates conferred on chief ministers, and the competition to add more epithets is overwhelming, often laughable. The unlettered wouldn’t know that such doctors can neither heal nor have they added to the boundless fund of knowledge. PonmanaChemmal (Golden Heart), the late MGR was conferred three Doctorates, his protégée J Jayalalithaa went overboard with five. Kalaignar (creative artist) is M Karunanidhi’s everlasting sobriquet. The former PM Manmohan Singh was asked to use the epithet, in spite of his difficulty to pronounce Kalaignar, as Tamilians love titles. Not only politicians, even film stars love such honorifics and epithets. Rajini is Superstar and Thalaiva; Kamal is Ulaga Nayagan (global hero); Vijay is Ilaya Thalapathy and Ajit is Thala (head). Recently, yesteryear hero Sarathkumar hurled a challenge to Rajini. He claims that his own Supreme Star title overtakes Superstar! No wonder TN Governor R N Ravi too got into this christening fray, wanting to float his own cache of titles? Social media wags aver that you get as good as you give. Was Guv’s controversial effort to make Tamil Nadu, Tamizhagam a reflection of this amusing craze for honorary title culture?
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The Unstoppable ‘Pathaan’

The sizzling pair of shirtless Shah Rukh Khan and daringly bared Deepika Padukone have raised the sagging, down in the dumps spirit of Bollywood to unimaginable heights, despite all the pre-release boycott threats, raves, rants and reprimands. Is Deepika’s bright orange costume too “besharam” for Jhoomta Pathaan? Besharami is in the eyes of the beholder!  Director Siddharth Anand, the alchemist has peppered Pathaan with enough spills, thrills, chills and on screen sizzling chemistry of the lead pair. It is an immersive cinema experience (ICE). The first to be made in this format. Boycott calls and anti-Muslim propaganda filled pre-release. King Khan was silent. The entire industry was mobilised.  And then that whispered fiat from the PM happened…Don’t make public comments to rake up controversy on films, Bingo! The movie’s destiny changed. Released simultaneously in 100 countries, it is the first Hindi Movie on BookMyShow to hit 10 lakh bookings of which 30% was from the South. First Khan movie to have a 6 am show, with producers opting for more screens apart from the 5500 screens in India and 2500 overseas, selling over 8500 tickets in Germany worth 1.5 crore euros, beating KGF‘s full take. The first day collection at the Box Office was Rs 60 crore! Now the hot debate on media…did this boycott threat make Pathaan a forbidden fruit? Once again Pathaan has proved…leave artistic expression severely alone…the audience is the sole judge to applaud or trash.
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How This Fake Passport Holder Got Caught In Coimbatore When Asked To Sing National Anthem

When a full Flight, G9413 from Sharjah landed at Coimbatore’s International airport on the night of January 22, the Immigration authority homed in on this 28-year old man, Anwar Hussain. Scrutinising his travel documents, they made an unusual demand of Hussain. They asked him to sing India’s national anthem. Passers-by may well have thought Ah! It warms the cockles of our patriotic hearts to see that the immigration guys are true Desh Bhakti, asking even an Indian Passport holder to sing Jana Gana Mana! But Hussain could not sing! Stage fright? No. He was holding a fake Indian passport, with a fake West Bengal address. The authorities immediately got suspicious on why a WB passenger would travel to Coimbatore from Sharjah. The local police then took charge to make this canary sing in all its fake ID glory. Hussain was from Bangladesh’s Mymensingh DT’s Palpur village. Why was he in Coimbatore? The Q Branch after intensive questioning, quickly realised that his ignorance of the national anthem was a serious aberration in his preparation for entering the country illegally. Hussain is now booked under 14 C of Foreigners Act, 12 A of the Passport Act. It’s evident that Formal Training and intense drilling in spycraft need more such innovative methods.
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Freebies Back Into TN Govt Coffer As TASMAC Liquor Sales Zoom During Pongal Week

This year’s Pongal celebrations in Tamil Nadu touched a high point for the government-run TASMAC liquor sales. Sales zoomed to Rs 850 crore in the run-up to Pongal (Jan 15) week and by Kanu Pongal day (Jan 17) it was expected to touch the Rs 1000-crore mark. The bump in sales could be attributed to a cash gift of Rs 2000 given to all ration card holders. Pongal is freebie time and all political parties in Tamil Nadu have been capitalizing on it to the hilt. Both DMK and AIADMK have made freebie gifting, a fine art form. Cycles, fans, mangalsutras, Pongal hampers are bankrolled by the state exchequer. But, Tamil voters are canny, impartial…they vote one party to power, alternately. But wait, there is a savvy, fully end-to-end integrated business model to this freebie. The story goes, when chief minister M K Stalin was asked about cash freebies even as TN is burdened with huge debt, one DMK warhorse quipped, “Don’t worry, by this evening the Rs 2000 freebies will come to TASMAC from  our Kudimagans“. Kudimagan has a double meaning – it could mean a citizen or a drunk. PMK Chief Dr S Ramadoss lamented about the high sale of liquor during the Pongal festival. His moral stance, liquor leads to ruination…of health, wealth and family. The very same PMK has climbed on to the alliance bandwagon, alternately to suit their political needs.
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Award Winning Song ‘Naatu Naatu' Was Inspired By Tom & Jerry, Charlie Chaplin Says Choreographer Rakshit

Ok, India and particularly Tollywood is still drenched in the acclaim for winning the prestigious Golden Globe for the iconic song Naatu Naatu from S S Rajamouli’s magnum RRR with music by M M Keeravani. Soon the Choreographer Prem Rakshit who put in grinding hard work to make this hit sizzle on screen is also going places. He is over the top when talking about the congratulatory phone call from none other than Dance Wizard Prabhudeva. “All that blood sweat and tears while getting the hook step just right, seemed worth it. We were in Ukraine’s Kiev in August of 2021, roasted by heat…a few of my team suffered with burst veins, but practiced relentlessly for two months,” says Rakshit. He recollects the joy of choreographing the award winning song. Who inspired him? With a chuckle of mirth and joi de vivre, he says “My inspiration came from Tom & Jerry, and Charlie Chaplin”. Now it becomes clear that the frenzied dance steps and the foot tapping beats could only be inspired by the likes of Tom wantonly chasing Little Jerry, and that master super mimic, Chaplin. S.S Rajamouli, his heroes Jr NTR and Ram Charan have collaborated for an unforgettable film, RRR which raked Rs 1500 crore globally, along with great entertainment.
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Tata Group Chairman Chandrasekaran Meets TN Chief Minister Stalin

Tamil Nadu chief minister M K Stalin wants to fulfil the DMK’s election manifesto promises and prepare the ground for 2024 Lok Sabha elections. More significantly, he needs to project his intention to create and save jobs. The shutdown of Ford Maraimalai Nagar plant remains a vexing issue. It had accumulated losses of over $2 bn. Recently, Tata Group’s Chairman N Chandrasekaran along with Tata Motors Executive Director Girish Wagh visited Stalin’s camp office. Also part of the meeting were Tamil Nadu chief secretary, ministers Thangam Thennarasu and Udhayanidhi Stalin. It was a courtesy call but it is clear that the Tamil Nadu government has been feverishly looking for a new owner to take over Ford Chennai plant. It may be recalled that Tatas have already bought over Ford’s Sanand plant in Gujarat. So buying Ford’s Maraimalai Nagar plant seems a logical conclusion. Both these plants can crank up Tata’s EV capacity. Currently, with significant bookings for Nexon EV, and Tiago. Tatas are able to meet only 50 % of the demand. The Ford Chennai plant has a number of hidden assets — its erstwhile vendor team supplied 40% of their captive production, the trained workforce can be retrained and logistics support of the Port is one of the biggest advantages.  Tatas have taken a lead in EV, and if this acquisition happens then Chennai could emerge as an EV hub.


Editor’s Note: Big Punch In Small Pack

It is the Third Anniversary of Short Post and as a news media startup launched during the Covid-19 pandemic it certainly feels better than good to find ourselves where we are today. Here, I must cite the unstinted support of our seasoned contributors, all senior editors in the country, who brought a great degree of maturity and sagacity to the Short Post newsroom. But for them, our tagline “Authentic Gossip”, an Oxymoron, would not have matured viably. Our user numbers may be small but our stories have created the desired impact among people who matter — decision makers and influencers. We offer a big punch in a small pack and Short Post with its 225-word stories has been punching above its weight category. Having posted close to 3,000 stories in the last 36 months, Short Post, I feel, is an idea whose time has come.
And this is vindicated by our two marquee advertisers – IDFC FIRST Bank and ICICI Lombard. Both believed in our story and have supported us from Day one. A big thank you to both.
If you look at the media landscape – print, TV and digital — it is a mixed bag. There are job losses as some outfits have closed down while a lucky few were bailed out by large corporate houses. Yes, there is a lot of action in the digital space. However, the entry of corporate houses has raised the question of independence of news media outfits. Sadly, there are just a handful of independent media outfits in the country that are highly respected for their neutrality. At Short Post, our credo is not to take sides, prejudge issues or be biased but, informing readers of behind-the-scenes happenings. In essence, Short Post strives to be a neutral editorial platform — neither anti-establishment nor pro-establishment.
As I said last year, disruptions in the media world are moving at a fast and furious pace. Technology is playing a very big role in how content is generated and consumed. But, we are neither alarmed nor perturbed as it is all a part of the evolution process. What gives us comfort is that AI is unable to create original gossipy content. And that is the news arena where we have achieved a distinction.