A group of 100 directors, cinematographers, editors, music directors and artistes launched the Indo-Russian Cinemas Film Union on January 25 to represent independent artists and film technicians across South India. The initiative, headed by G Venkatesh Kumar, was formed as a response to the “lack of assistance from Tamil cinema bodies like the Producer’s Council and Producers Guild to independent filmmakers,” the Tamil director told The New Indian Express.

The union is a product of the film club Indo-Russian Cinemas, a platform for short-film makers supported by the Russian Centre of Science and Culture, which Kumar has been running for three years.

“As a member of both the Guild and the Producer’s Council for the last five years, I can tell you that independent filmmakers get very little help,” Kumar, whose credits include the 2013 film Neelam and Unakkul Naan (2016), told the The New Indian Express.

To elaborate, he explained the difficulty he faced in getting his 2017 film Light Man released. “I had finished censor certification formalities by January 31, 2015,” Kumar said. “Every week after that, I was trying to get my film released, and every week, the distributors cited some reason and pushed it back. I was even willing to pay the theatres the same amount of money (Rs 5,000 per show) as the big films.”

Kumar said he finally got the same weekend slot as as Si3 (Singam 3) in February 2017, but on the day before his film could reach theatres, it was allegedly leaked on movie piracy site Tamilrockers.

He alleged that the leak was a conspiracy and claimed to know who runs Tamilrockers. “Eventually, I understood who had leaked it. In fact, today, I even know who’s operating Tamilrockers, how it runs, and from where. It is not run by a single person. I have all the proof, and if I open my mouth, the industry will collapse,” he said.

Kumar said he hopes his union will make it easier for independent filmmakers to apply for censor certificates. “Procuring the censor certificate is the biggest issue for indie filmmakers like us now, and I hope that we can make it easy with our union,” he told The New Indian Express.

At the launch of the Indo-Russian Cinemas Film Union, a representative of the Russian Centre of Science and Culture expressed support for the initiative and said the Centre hoped to encourage and support self-expression and content.