Soundarya Rajinikanth is in the news for her separation from her husband Ashwin Ramkumar. With speculative stories in the media in the last two days, Rajinikanth's daughter tweeted on Friday evening confirming the same, saying the couple has been living separately for the last one year and that divorce talks are on, while requesting privacy.
But this is not the only development involving Soundarya that has made everyone sit up and take note. On Friday, she was drafted into the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) as a co-opted member. While the main executive of the Board is appointed by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, the Board in turn, appoints over one hundred co-opted members to help with different responsibilities of the Board.
The superstar himself has acted in 'Murattu Kaalai' (Rogue Bull) in 1980 in which the bull-fighting scene showing him taming the animal, was one of the highlights. Rajinikanth's other son-in-law, actor-producer Dhanush openly expressed support for Jallikattu in January. Within the Rajinikanth household, this may lead to an embarrassing position.
In fact, Rajinikanth's heroine in Enthiran's sequel '2.0', Amy Jackson courted controversy in December last year when she tweeted that people should sign the Peta petition against Jallikattu. A fringe group called Tamilar Viduthalai Padai, protested, seeking Amy's removal from the movie, arguing that anyone working in Tamil cinema should not speak against Tamil traditions.
Other members of the Tamil film fraternity like Kamal Haasan, a close friend of Rajinikanth, have openly articulated in favour of Jallikattu, arguing it should not be confused with bull-fighting in Spain. The actor has been of the view that while in Spain, the bull would be hurt and even die but in Tamil Nadu, the bull is pampered as a member of the family and worshipped.
The AWBI however, has documented that the animal during the event is subjected to the worst form of cruelty, including chilly powder thrown into its eyes and anus, tailbone broken and half a dozen louts jumping on to it at the same time, in order to tame it, terrifying the animal.
Jallikattu has been in the midst of a controversy with all political parties batting for it. Ahead of the Tamil Nadu assembly elections, the BJP in order to woo the electorate even tried to push the staging of the event this January, by issuing an order which was immediately struck down by the Supreme court.
A senior AWBI member said it is immaterial what Soundarya's stand on Jallikattu is as an individual, as the highest court of the land has already declared the "barbaric'' sport illegal. Another member said there is more to animal welfare than Jallikattu. But now Rajinikanth's fan following among farmers and cattle rearers in Madurai, the practitioners of Jallikattu, expect the superstar to clarify his position on Jallikattu.
The AWBI says it is more bullish on Soundarya's role in the AWBI. She will be part of the sub-committee to monitor performing animals in movies given her expertise with both the medium and use of animation in films. Soundarya had produced 'Kochadaiyaan' in 2014 that featured an animated avatar of her father with Deepika Padukone.
"Many filmmakers give a false affidavit that the scenes involving animals are computer-generated and an untrained eye cannot really spot the difference," says Chinny Krishna, Vice Chairman of the AWBI. "Soundarya as someone familiar with the use of computer graphics in films will help us monitor this better."
In any film where animals are to be used, the moviemaker is expected to submit a synopsis of the film to the AWBI before the shooting commences, ensure the location details are provided for an AWBI member to be present on shooting location to ensure animals are not tortured during the filming and finally submit the film for a no-objection certificate. But in most cases, the rules are flouted than followed.
For instance, a Tamil film in 2012 tried to keep the AWBI in the dark by not submitting all the scenes in which animals were used. Worse, the filmmakers tried to throw their weight by complaining to bigwigs in Bollywood. One member of the fraternity, a renowned lyricist even displayed arrogance when he rudely asked the AWBI representatives if they did not have any other work to do, unaware that the members do this work voluntarily.
The AWBI feels having a high-profile member of the film industry will help ensure better compliance with the law of the land while not curtailing artistic freedom in any way.
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