sensitivity of an art film (minus the excessive artiness).Suddenly,
it seems there is a new Tamil audience, a young audience,
willing to see new things. The big Pongal releases,
for instance, seem un-entertaining and even tame to
a new Tamil audience now used to a cinema that is more
The Tamil New Wave is also characterized by style, personal
filmmaking, a minimum song soundtrack (with songs in
the background rather than lip synched and danced to)
a shorter running time, no parallel comedy track (the
comedy arises instead from within the plot) and themes
that are sharply observed, tough-minded explorations
of rural life and life on the mean streets. The characters
here are rooted in family, culture and tradition but
are forced to break with everything because of their
personal choices — usually love or ambition.
The significance of these films is not for Tamil cinema
alone. Their influence is already being felt through
the rest of Indian cinema, signaling to filmmakers that
our formulaic movies can be reinvented. Already paralleling
the Tamil revolution is a new kind of Hindi movie, evidenced
by the multiplex movie. Except their themes are urban,
looking at sex, adultery, relationships, work pressure,
crime and everything else that contemporary living throws
up. If Tamil movies depend too much on a rustic milieu,
Hindi movies lean too much on the urban. Both cinemas
need to crossover.
How exactly did this new cinema come about? Had its
young audience, now exposed to better cinema from around
the world, begun to tire of the more formulaic, fantasy-driven
films? Or was it the young directors themselves who
now desired to tell new stories in new ways?
It is difficult to pinpoint the exact moment when this
film revolution in contemporary Tamil cinema started,
but I’d like to mark two films as possibly having
inspired and kick started this new wave: Autograph and
Kaadhal. Both films were artistically made, entertaining,
and — most crucially — huge box office hits.
It must have startled the Kodambakkam industry to see
two intimate love stories with no stars winning such
a huge audience.
Balaji Sakthivel’s Kaadhal and Cheran’s
Autograph signaled two things to Kollywood’s aspiring
younger directors — that there was an audience
for character-driven, strongly scripted, low budget
movies, and that there were bold producers and passionate
filmmakers willing to risk telling more realistic, intelligent,
personal stories. Paruthiveeran and Kattradhu Tamil
confirmed it, while Subramaniapuram, Poo and now Naan
Kadavul have gone on to establish it firmly.
However, I must also add that there is still plenty
that is disturbing about even new Tamil cinema: endless
violence, obnoxious attitude to women, and ingratiating
tropes. What is cause for celebration, though, is that
this vibrant new cinema in Tamil is not at its culmination
but is just beginning. Already in many of these films
violence is not gratuitous, and there are no item numbers.
It certainly feels like Tamil cinema has finally grownup,
turned a corner, and gone beyond old Kollywood.
Behindwoods is not responsible for the views of columnists.