As we settled for lunch I asked precisely that. “A composite set of problems, Narada,” he said. “However, nothing that relates to me individually. It is an industry problem. High production costs, very high wages for the lead artists, and mega serials in the small screen are the reasons for the decline of the Tamil cinema. Moreover because of heavy taxes the tickets are priced at Rs 30 or 40 in even C centres. A family of four find it unaffordable to go to a movie in a theatre these days.” I could see the economist in him. “But more importantly the real cause is the VCD menace, you know,” he said as if he was telling the climax of a story. “With the prices of VCD players plummeting, VCD of cinemas are available in the market even before they are released officially. With the administration unable to take of this piracy menace, virtually all the producers like me are financially ruined.”
“Do you mean to say that nobody makes movies and money in the industry? Do you ever have original stories and not ones adapted from foreign films? Are you suggesting that no movie is running to packed houses? Do you mean to say cinema industry has not recorded hits in the past few years? And to tackle the VCD menace, what is that you guys have done especially trying to bring in new technology that would make VCD redundant? Why is that there is so much violence and sex in Tamil movies that we cannot go to the theatre with our families? Why is that you have not thought releasing cinemas by beaming from the satellites using advanced receivers and eliminating the physical print copies, the fundamental cause of such piracies? Why have you not thought of reducing salaries to lead artists?” I virtually placed my charge sheet against the film industry. Any other day, Rajendran would have retaliated, maybe even physically. Age, pain and experience have perhaps mellowed him. Or was it that I was paying for the lunch, I wouldn’t know.
“Look Narada, forget the technical issues that you are talking. These could evolve sometime in future. I don’t know. But understand that the piracy issue is ruining us. And till the piracy issue is solved the industry would be wiped off,” he said brushing aside all my above questions and waved his hands as an expert would to a novice and added as “you should be inside the movie industry to appreciate this piracy problem.” I nodded as we finished lunch and I paid the Bill. “Can you do a small favour Narada,” Rajendran said and whispered, “Can you lend me Rs 2,000, I need to buy DVDs of 6 foreign movies and use them to pen a new story for my next venture. All my previous hits were based on foreign films, you know. Sentimentally, that works for me.” As I lent this money and left the hotel I was wondering whether there was a Copyrights Act or a Rights to Copy Act for this industry.