The Curious Case of Toxic Fandom of Tamil Cinema

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On January 11, 2023, a 19-year-old Ajith fan named Bharath Kumar climbed on top of a lorry that was moving past the Rohini Cinema Complex in Koyembedu, Chennai. As he was dancing to celebrate the first-day-first-show of his idol’s Pongal release, Thunivu, he lost his balance and fell down from the vehicle, hurting his spinal cord. Bharath was rushed to a private hospital, but he died due to the injury.

Vijay from sets of Thalapathy 67 and Ajith in Thunivu.

On April 24, 2020, an ardent fan of Rajinikanth in Villupuram got into an argument with a Vijay fan about who had donated more for coronavirus. Things escalated to a point where the Rajinikanth fan in a fury pushed the Vijay fan, leading to his death.

On September 2, 2020, three ardent fans of Pawan Kalyan wanted to celebrate the birthday of their star, who is fondly called Powerstar. As part of the celebrations, six fans tried to erect a huge banner for the actor-politician, and they came in contact with a live electric wire. Three fans were electrocuted to death, while the rest suffered injuries.

One can go searching for such tragic stories online and they would keep piling up. “That’s what will happen here. There’s no other way,” says prolific Tamil writer Charu Nivedita, who is known for his unabashed criticism of Tamil cinema and culture. Charu has been writing about the appalling fandom in Tamil cinema for decades, and according to him, the biggest reason behind such culture is the existential void. “We as humans are bored and need some sort of ‘let out’.

For me, literature filled the void. For our society, it is cinema. The youngsters need some sort of hold in life and they, unfortunately, hold on to cinema over everything else,” he says.

On 18th January, a philanthropist named ENS Sekar contributed Rs 1 lakh to Bharath Kumar’s family, and it is by far the only recorded help that has come to the family.

Meanwhile, Ajith Kumar’s Thunivu has collected more than Rs 200 crore, according to film trade analysts. Days after the movie’s release, Ajith was spotted in Chennai airport. Reportedly, he has gone for a vacation to an undisclosed location.

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