For many of us Thankar Bachan’s speech during a book launch on March 2nd, 2011 was just another day of over emotional extravaganza blown up on the stage. But there were things to be noted and to be concerned about.
“When we make few good movies we build the industry from base, then and there comes some commercial movies which shake the bottom brick of our efforts”
“We should be ashamed of ourselves while recollecting the past cinemas that have been made; how foolish we were?”
“There are only 2 to clean the mess in Tamil cinema while there are 98 to litter it”
– Thankar bachan.
His remarks on the Tamil actors may be too strong to accept but unfortunately there is a little bit of truth hidden in it. His concern for Tamil may be for any agenda but his words were thought provoking at times. While in India, especially in Tamil Nadu it is merely impossible for anyone to separate politics from cinema it is worth mentioning about the films like “Haridas” and “Mother India” which had considerable impact on the great leaders of those days.
While on one hand we don’t expect cinema to teach us moral or life, on the other hand, to some extent we don’t endorse the senseless slap stick or action flicks too.
If we recollect from the past box office movies most of them would have perished by time and trend. The main reason is the wafer thin plots without research and logic less magical stings attached to it. Those appalling movies were once applauded by our own hands, enjoyed by our own eyes and yet we have distanced from it after a while. On the contrary we recollect some of the movies and question ourselves how in the world these movies didn’t make to the box office. The question and answer lies with us, with our taste and maturity. Undoubtedly Tamil cinema as a medium has evolved and still is evolving from many clichés and formulas but at what pace and at what direction?
Tamil cinema along side Bengali and Malayalam cinema has made good movies which are time tested. Veedu, Udhiri pookal and Oru pulongulal aduppu uthukirathu are noteworthy to mention. Even though I don’t want to compare world cinema with us I am forced to.
Schindler's list was a famous movie of all times. It fared extremely well at the box office and earned a reputation for the director of being versatile. The reason was not just because there was mammoth named Steven Spielberg behind the movie, it was because he is a Jew and so he rightly portrayed their pain, agony and discomfort consciously, strikingly and heart meltingly. Motor cycle diaries, Che, down fall, life is beautiful, patriot, the great escape, Papillion, battle of Algeria, days of glory, paths of glory, the lives of others, platoon and saving private Ryan are few tiny drops of the mighty ocean. Every country has its own rebel, pre historic and truthful movies made frequently.
When I recollect such movies in Tamil for the past few years I got the same names such as Kappal Ottiya Tamizhan, Sirai Chalai, Veerapaandiya Kattabomman and Raja Raja Cholan. Of course Karnan, Sampoorna Ramayanam and Mahabharatam are derivatives of our epics. We don’t really have good movies based on freedom struggle, Sri Lankan crisis or even on the history of our rulers for that matter.
Even the most experienced actors like Kamal and Rajni rely on their fan base and are stuck with some formula. Kamal Haasan being versatile at times had tried hard to come out of the shell and most of the time he was unsuccessful. While his recent movies like Dasavatharam or Manmathan Ambu may be have been paisa vasool but these movies perished even before its 50th day. There’s nothing wrong in drawing inspirations from anyone but the problem arises only when you want to copy their work and not just Haasan or Ratnam but many have done it quite liberally and knowingly. However, Kamal Haasan is the actor who deserves a salute for getting down the gutter of Tamil industry if not cleaning it.
Even now our audiences are emotionally attached with heroes if not like the olden days. Sivaji Ganesan is the dictionary for acting but only few films exploited his potential and by that I am not taking about those breathless dialogues, long shots and over the top screams. I mean those speaking chins in Mudhal Mariayathai, subtle egoistic eyes in Devar Magan and so on. These kinds of movies define and refine acting.
While the industry travels on a commercial wagon it is equally and morally imperative to do movies on issues and people which are grass rooted to the society it thrives in. It is a good sign that new movies are made from villages and plots are folklores. It will take immense guts for any directors / actors to openly list their inspirations just like Vetrimaran did in the movie Adukalam’s end credits. We can also thank the Tamil film fraternity for not running behind the overseas market, NRI stories and skin shows just like Bollywood which by the name itself duplicates the Hollywood and has lost most of its audience in rural India.
All the actors, producers and directors should come forward to make movies which will travel boundaries, languages and times.