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Do Sun Music’s anchors deserve the hate for taking potshots at actor Suriya’s height?

In a film industry that thrives on blind worship of its icons, Niveditha and Sangeetha found it hard to get away with a silly joke.

Two female television anchors from Tamil channel Sun Music were attacked on Twitter on Thursday for making fun of actor Suriya’s height, reported The Newsminute.

On their show Franka Sollata (Speaking Frankly), a show that revels in light-hearted banter about celebrities and gossip about the film industry, anchors Niveditha and Sangeetha spoke about how filmmaker KV Anand has approached actor Amitabh Bachchan for his next film with Suriya.

“If Amitabh Bachchan sir agrees, this will be his first film in Tamil and it will be opposite Suriya,” Sangeetha says. At which point, Niveditha begins laughing. “Are there no other actors in Tamil?,” she asks. “I don’t understand. I don’t know what to say...I mean when he (Suriya) starred opposite Anushka Shetty itself, it was quite the height difference. Now with Amitabh Bachchan, I don’t know what will happen.”

Sangeetha completes the joke by saying, “He acted with Anushka by wearing heels. With Bachchan sir, he will need a stool.”

“Why stand and shoot at all,” adds Niveditha. “Let’s just take all the shots with the actors seated at all times.”

This segment from the show, circulated extensively on social media, has been criticised by Tamil actors, producers and directors. Many have argued that the jokes amount to body shaming and have insisted the anchors issue an apology immediately.

Producer KE Gnanavel Raja, whose Studio Green bankrolled Suriya’s latest release Thaana Serndha Koottam, went a step further and even abused the two anchors, asking them to admit themselves to a mental hospital and spit on themselves. Producer SR Prabhu asked if no one in Sun Music is concerned about their “anchors’ brain development”. The women have been threatened even with acid attacks.

Fans of the actor even sat in protest outside the Sun TV office in Chennai on Saturday morning.

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The actor took to Twitter to ask his fans to refrain from responding to “criticism that is below the belt”.

Amidst the shower of abuse, which forced Nivedita to block some accounts, a few others have pointed out that it simply isn’t such a big deal after all, and that the show’s format encourages banter. Those offended could just choose to switch off their television sets.

Could it be that the film industry is overreacting? Surely, the worst crime committed by the anchors is that they cracked a silly joke, but can it really be described as body shaming? The outrage, anger and hate seem disproportional to the incident.

It is also rich that the anger is coming from an industry that, like other film industries in the country, has thrived on jokes about size, shape, gender, sexual orientation and disability for decades. What is so terrible about two anchors taking potshots at an actor’s height?

The incident proves yet again that actors are off-limits, demi-gods to never be criticised or lampooned in public. The rage stems from the larger culture of adulation and worship that forms the bedrock of the Tamil film industry. From fans and film crews to even publicists, nearly everyone is a part of a fan club that blindly worships its screen icons. It unthinkable that a hero can even mildly be made fun of. An actor, like his screen avatar, is flawless, macho and perfect, and beyond the pale of any kind of humour or criticism.

For instance, film critic Maaran was attacked and threatened with death, even by the film fraternity, for simply saying he did not enjoy watching actor Ajith’s 2017 thriller Vivegam. Similarly, the editor of the website The News Minute was attacked online and threatened with sexual violence by fans of actor Vijay for tweeting that she did not enjoy watching the actor’s 2010 film Sura.

What are the odds, then, of the female anchors from Sun Music getting away with their silly joke? Sadly, none.

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