Tamil producer B Ashok Kumar committed suicide in his apartment in Chennai’s Alwarthirunagar on Tuesday, alleging he had been harassed and threatened by Madurai money lender Anbuchezhiyan, The Hindu reported.

In his eight-page suicide note, Kumar, who was the cousin of actor-director Sasikumar, said he had been paying the financier over seven years but the harassment had escalated over the last six months. Anbuchezhiyan had threatened to kidnap the women in his family, the producer alleged. The financier has been booked for abetment to suicide under the Indian Penal Code.

In his note, Kumar also apologised to Sasikumar for taking the step. Kumar had produced several of Sasikumar’s films, including Eesan (2010), Poraali (2011) and the upcoming Kodiveeran, which is scheduled to be released on November 30.

“Sasi, I couldn’t bear the torture you are being subjected to,” he said. “I am killing myself as I am not able to save you from them...I am leaving you amid cunning men, please forgive me for that.”

Expressing his grief at Kumar’s death, Sasikumar said, “Ashok Kumar, my cousin, was like a shadow to me. He took care of Company Productions and just before the release of my film, he was under depression due to financial issues.”

Industry speaks up

In a statement on Tuesday, actor Vishal, who is also the president of the Tamil Film Producers Council, urged the police to treat Kumar’s death as a case of murder and not suicide. “I truly wish that this will be the last sacrifice in the name of financial burden,” he said. “Suicide is not a solution and I hereby request Producers to reach out to us if they face such threats from Financiers, we will be more than happy to help them out.”

Director Suseenthiran on Wednesday alleged that several others in the film fraternity had been harassed by Anbuchezhiyan, including Tamil superstar Ajith. In a statement, which he posted on Twitter, the director claimed that Ajith had been pushed to a state of anxiety because of the financier during the filming of Bala’s Naan Kadavul (2009) and was forced to back out of the movie. He was replaced by Arya as the lead. Ajith has not yet responded to Suseenthiran’s claims.

“Directors Gautham Menon, Lingusamy and nearly 75% of the producers were affected by Anbuchezhiyan, who also instructs and pressurises Imman regarding films, the composer should agree,” Suseenthiran said. He also requested Central Government and Income Tax department to raid the financer’s properties.

Anbuchezian’s production house Gopuram Films has released a statement questioning the authenticity of the letter. “Was the letter actually written by Ashok Kumar?” asked a press note signed by Gopuram Films Manager Murali. “Ashok is Sasikumar’s associate. We only have business dealings with Sasikumar. It was a complete shocker and surprise for us to know that Ashok Kumar, who never had any business relationship with us, mentioned our name and committed suicide”. The statement also declared that there had been no complaint against 20-year-old production house so far.

Producer Gnanavel Raja said Anbuchezhiyan has been mired in controversy, Sify reported. “There are several complaints against Anbu but cops haven’t taken any strict action against him,” said Gnanavel.

Not an isolated case

In May 2003, Tamil producer G Venkateswaran, director Mani Ratnam’s brother, was reportedly found hanging from the fan in his Chennai residence. He was reportedly in steep debt. After Anbuchezhiyan’s name did the rounds in connection with the incident, the financier said in a press release that the producer did owe him money but it was not a significant amount and that he had nothing to do with his death, according to The News Minute.

In the wake of G Venkateswaran’s death, Tamil Nadu had passed the Prohibition of Exorbitant Interest Act, 2003, capping the amount of interest that can be charged on unsecured loans at 12%.

Anbuchezhiyan had reportedly been arrested in 2011 on an attempt to murder charge after a producer alleged that the financier had threatened him even though he had paid him Rs 1 crore for a loan of Rs 20 lakh.