Marudhanayagam through Endhiran

Barriers and limitations exist only in the mind. They cease to exist when someone comes along and believes that they can be broken or surpassed. That one person or incident breaks barriers not only for themselves, but also for all those who aspire to do so. It is all about showing others that ‘this is possible’! What many once thought impossible has later gone on to become commonplace occurrences once the mental barrier was broken by a pioneer or a brave heart. Instances are dime a dozen.

The sub-four minute mile was considered a humanly impossible achievement by many until Roger Bannister proved them wrong. Now, running a sub-four minute mile cannot even guarantee an athlete’s qualification for the Olympics. 100 meters in under 10 seconds is the domain of mean machines, kangaroos and cheetas, many would have thought a few decades back. Now, we have people gunning for the 9.5 second mark. But, it is not just about athletics. In every walk of life, it has taken pioneers to show us that barriers are there only to be broken, if you are

willing to try. Science too has its instances of inventions that have had sweeping effects in the ways of thinking. No one thought that man could have traveled at the speed of sound - that was around 50 years back. Now, we are in an era where Concorde jets, which have gone at twice the speed of sound, have been phased out. Yes, all it takes is one foot in the door to keep it open, so that it never closes again. So, what does this have to do with cinema? Cinema too has its share of barriers and limitations which have been repeatedly broken from time to time by people who have dared to broaden their horizons.

Right from the day cinema began, one of the major rate limiting steps in its growth has been finance, as is the case with most fields. But, it is more so with cinema because of the risks involved in the business. In fact, it would be fair to say that cinema is the one industry where losses seem to be more common than profits. Therefore, it is pretty understandable that it takes a bit more courage, confidence and gumption than normal when it comes to breaking new ground in cinema. Because, if things go wrong, then losses could be huge and heads would roll.

It is this apprehension that has kept Tamil cinema, or regional cinema to be precise, from spreading its wings. As cinema becomes more and more technologically driven, money can make a huge difference, no matter how much the artistic competence of the people making a film, and the best technology always costs a fortune. It is this fact that has always kept Hollywood, at least a decade ahead, in terms of technology, to Indian cinema. But, now, it seems that we have a leveler at hand.

Yes, one man, or let’s say, a ‘League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’, have shown the courage to take on the barrier and let me daresay, break it. If budgets were a constraint in getting the best technology, then it no longer will be – post Endhiran. Many an ambitious Tamil project has met a dead end or had to be (cruelly) altered because of the great budget barrier that existed.

But, one man has time and again shown the courage to keep on breaking barriers, even as new ones kept cropping up before him every time. At the beginning of the decade, the 20 crore mark was unheard of in Kollywood. Along came Shankar and shocked the industry by splurging (that is what everyone called it at that time) almost that amount on a movie based on 5 ‘Boys’. That was the craziest thing to do, some thought, until it went on to become a trendsetter of sorts, showing that with good making and strong backing, even 20 crores can be retrieved from the market. Still, many thought of it as a flash in the pan, but it was no longer the same after Anniyan. More than 25 crores were retrieved from the market and a new era had dawned on Tamil cinema. Again, it took the same man to go past the 50 crore mark with Sivaji and showed that even this was possible. And, when we thought that saturation had been reached, here he goes, leaping four times to a budget of nearly 200 crores. Yes, from 20 crores at the beginning of the decade, he has shown a 10 fold increase to touch almost 200. That is a growth rate that cannot be matched by the previous three decades of Tamil cinema, one guesses. Shankar is really like an explorer whose thirst for finding new lands never ceases. Now, we might be thinking that 200 crores is as big as Tamil cinema can get. But, sit tight; we never know what he is thinking about next. If he can take it from 20 to 200 in ten years, and still has many more years left in him, we can only wonder where he will finish. And, it is not only his journey; Tamil cinema too will get bigger with Shankar’s dream and vision.

But, what good are visions and dreams if they do not inspire others. If the era of exponential growth is limited only to Shankar, it would mean nothing to Tamil cinema because all that would end the moment Shankar decides to call it a day. Shankar has taken the first step, as he so often has. Now is Tamil cinema’s chance to follow the precedent and grab the opportunity to get bigger while the glow of Endhiran is still alive. Well. We are not being overly optimistic or confident about the success of the movie. But, as a person who truly wishes that Tamil cinema gets bigger and better, there is nothing else that I would want more than Endhiran succeeding. If (and I am hoping it will) Endhiran brings back the 200 crores that was spent on it, it will prove to the industry that even such a big budget is feasible. We have had great artistes and technicians who have had to keep the best of their ideas in cold storage because budgets could just not be met. Endhiran might just open the doors for all of them to script their dreams.

The prime candidate for this would be Tamil cinema’s long standing dream, Marudhanayagam. More than a decade back, a few portions were shot for the trailer of the movie at a (then) whopping cost of 6 crores. It would have been the biggest ever in Indian cinema. The total budget was estimated to cross 50 and so it never happened. At today’s costs, it would go past 200, one guesses and the chances of it being revived and made depending on Endhiran’s show at the box office. Marmayogi too is something similar.

Yes, this is Tamil cinema’s big chance to grow to the next level, touch the sky and make films that are truly international. The barrier has been breached, now the pressure has to be sustained till it is completely shattered. And, all those who love Tamil cinema, let us keep our fingers crossed and hope that Endhiran vindicates a 200 crore budget. And let us also not forget to once again thank the vision and courage shown by Shankar and Sun Pictures. If all goes well, we might soon be celebrating the birth of a new era in Tamil cinema.

(By Sudhakar, with inputs from Arun.)

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