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What’s Wrong with Tamil Cinema?

Rajesh , 2788

Movies can be segregated in two types:

• Those made for profit
• Those made for National Awards.

In the past two decades, most of the Tamil films can be classified as Type 1. The directors are under enormous pressure to make movies in a certain way to earn huge profits for their financial backers. This leads to the directors adding scenes in movies to please the fans of a specific actor, even though it makes no sense in the flow of the movie.

Unnecessary Scenes

With all due respect to the 'Superstar' Rajinikanth, fans will not enjoy watching his movies without the inclusion of his world-famous style. For example, Sivaji (2007) directed by Shankar is an average script that presents nothing new to the audience, as they have already seen many many times a hero, bankrupted by the villain, rise from the ashes to extract revenge. But to convert this average script into a blockbuster movie, Shankar cleverly adds certain scenes and styles along the way.

Rajini followed the same trend as Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan by using the word 'Cool' regularly in the movie, which became an instant hit with the fans. Besides, the way he takes a bubble gum by hitting it on his hand and making it bounce into his mouth also drew great deal of attention. Also the punch dialogues he regularly uses, such as, “Pannigal dan kuttama varum, singham singula dan varum” (which means: “unlike pigs which comes in group, the lion will always come alone”) was a massive hit. Even the song 'Adiradi Karan' was included just for the sake of his fans. The entire theatre can be seen roaring with laughter when Rajini enters the scene lying on a bike and riding it with his legs.

These are scenes which are often used in movies by directors to please specific sections of the crowd. To their credit, they often get it right and regularly produce hits, thus earning huge profits. So while the producers are happy with this trend, is this good for the cinema industry and for those fans who devote themselves to the movies? That is another question which can never be properly answered.

Same Trend

It is not only that, but most Tamil movies are often of the same type. The film usually starts with an introduction song for the hero; and along the way another four or five songs are played in regular intervals even though most of them make no sense to the script. Most often, the songs are played in movies just to make everyone remember the heroine. The trend of filming the song on a faraway island, where the lead actor and actress are often seen dancing without any understandable reason, is something the audience have now gotten used to. Then comes a villain - either a charming one or an absolute devil-may-care type - who gets involves in the hero’s life and usually kidnaps the leading lady. It is now upon the hero to single-handedly rescue her and then make her fall in love with him. And as always, the movie cannot end without a climactic action sequence, which often transcends the realms of human imagination to adopt other-worldly proportions.

Practical, logical sense is something which has been missing in Tamil movies for a long time. Despite the heroine being born in an elite community, she always falls for the hero, who is often a rogue or a jobless roadside romeo. The real reason why the beautiful wealthy women falls in love with the guy is never properly depicted. Even though the hero possesses all the possible vices, the heroine alone sees the good things deep inside his heart and falls madly in love - which is quite impossible to understand. A few exceptions are 7G Rainbow Colony (2004), where the hero bothers and eve-teases a woman till she falls in love with him (because that’s how women brains work, according to old Tamil male wisdom) or Vinnaithandi Varuvaya (2010), where the hero regularly stalks his female compatriot to finally make her say the three magical words. Hence, it is not easy for real fans to find love stories of some caliber.

Confusion Surrounding Commercial and Mainframe Movies

Even when we take a director like Cheran who often makes movies with a lot of practical sense, his movies are often slow melodramas. He falls in the Type 2 category, whose primary goal is to win awards. He has lived up to his reputation and bagged plenty of awards, notably four national awards for the movies Vetri Kodi Kattu (2000), Autograph (2004), Thavamai Thavamirundhu (2005) and Aadum Koothu (2005). With the exception of movies like Yudham Sei (2011) and Chennaiyil Oru Naal (2013), most of his movies are usually slow (boring?) dramas.

Tamil cinema seems to be of the opinion that logic can only exist in a drama or a documentary and not in commercial or action movies. Also, most of the time, the directors get stuck in between a commercial and a mainframe film – where both halves of the movie shows contrasting stories. Siruthai (2011), enacted by Karthi, falls under this category, as the movie which is based only around comedy in the first half comes quite serious in the second, as the hero tries to enact the role of a dead policeman who looks exactly like him. In the end the director Siva gets stuck between finishing the movie either in a comical mood or a serious one, does neither and ultimately messes up the climax. It is not just the ending, but also those in-between where the so-called comedian acts ridiculously in the name of comedy and throws around some useless dialogues to make the crowds go crazy.

Having said that, even audiences prefer movies of this class, rather than cinema that is more meaningful. Hence movies like Aaranya Kaandam (2011) hardly get the praise they deserve. The movie revolves around one day's action between two rival mafia gangs. Despite getting a great response from critics and also bagging two national awards, the film did not perform well at the box office. Many felt that the film was too raw, as it depicted anger and human emotion up too close. So perhaps the 'too-practical' approach did not please many, as the movie itself was given an A rating. Unlike a standard hero and heroine, who are separated from the rest, this movie focuses on the lives of six protagonists.

On the rare occasion, movies like Sudhu Kavum (2013) which is in pure opposition to commercial sense with a limited number of songs and the non-existence of an actress are slowly starting to enter the theaters. To its credit, this movie succeeds in respecting the normal time limit for a commercial movie and in fact was even able to engage its audience. Other movies like Boss Engira Baskaran (2010) and Jigarthanda (2014) have also begun to get a proper response from audiences. But, still Tamil cinema audiences do not appear to be entirely ready to watch meaningful, impactful cinema and I fear that unless this happens, the situation will not improve.