In suicide note, B Ashok Kumar said the moneylender threatened to kidnap his family members
The film fraternity in Tamil Nadu is in shock after the suicide of B Ashok Kumar, a prominent film producer who was allegedly harassed by a loan shark. Mr Kumar was found hanging in his apartment at a highrise in Chennai on Tuesday. Actor Vishal, who heads the Tamil Nadu film producers' council, has asked the police to treat the suicide as murder.
"It's time we put an end to such financiers who harass producers... I request the police to take stringent action and bring justice... I consider this a murder and not suicide," Vishal said in a statement.
Ashok Kumar, the brother-in-law of actor Sasikumar, left a suicide note alleging harassment by a Madurai-based financier well-known to the film fraternity.
Over the last six months, wrote Kumar, the moneylender had threatened to kidnap the women and elderly in his family, even though "I paid interest and interest over interest over the last seven years."
The police have charged the financier for driving the producer to suicide and are looking for him.
A senior police officer said, "At the moment, there's no information on how much money Ashok Kumar had borrowed, how much interest he was charged and how much he had repaid."
Sasikumar said, "The financier had obtained a red alert from distributors ahead of the release, because of which the film couldn't be released. He was under stress."
Tamil Nadu had banned the practice of loans at exorbitant interests in 2003, the year G Venkateswaran, a corporate film producer and the brother of renowned film director Mani Ratnam, committed suicide because of his huge debt burden.
It was rumoured then that he had borrowed money from the same money lender, who has come under scrutiny again because of Ashok Kumar's suicide.
Industry sources say a majority of Tamil films are funded by such "extortionist" moneylenders. Though a prominent bank had started loans for films, insiders say many borrowers had defaulted and so it was no longer the preferred funding option.
Recently, a young couple set themselves and their two children on fire outside a government building at Tirunelvelli, alleging police inaction against a moneylender who had been harassing them. Though they had paid close to Rs 2 lakh interest on a loan of Rs 1.40 lakh, the money lender demanded the principal and harassed them.