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What exactly is experimental cinema? Not a new theme, new characterization or new faces. It is an attempt to introduce a new way of film making, a new language which audiences have not yet known. The definition of experimental cinema is dynamic. Only a pioneering effort can be called experimental cinema. The ones that follow a successful example are no longer successful. To explain better, let us take some instances of experimental cinema. Perhaps the first attempt to create a full length animation feature film can be called experimental because no one knew how audiences would accept such an effort. The first attempt to change over from silent cinema to talkie was an experiment that changed the face of cinema forever. Similarly, experiments that brought about the age of cinemascope, color, 3D were all experiments that changed the way cinema was experienced by audiences. Some very good examples of experimental cinema from India include Pesum Padam, the movie that had ambient sounds but no dialogues. Some great experimental feature films from world cinema include movies like The Blair Witch Project, the recent Paranormal Activity, Cloverfield and a few
movies that gave an extremely different experience to the viewer. This year, there have been a few examples in Tamil cinema too where film makers have been brave enough to give the audiences something that has hitherto not been tried in regional cinema – they are Bandi Saroj Kumar’s Porkkalam which was the first instance in Tamil cinema where an entire cinema was shot in desaturated color, almost giving a graphic novel feel. Then there was the more recent Oor Iravu which tried to emulate films like The Blair Witch Project in giving a first person experience to the viewer.

Over the past year or two, there have also been some trend-setting experiments with sound. Movies that released last year, though not hugely popular – Meipporul and Achchamundu Achchamundu – did stand out with their minimalistic re-recording and use of background music. Now, we are getting ready to usher in an era of cinema where the entire process of re-recording may start to be considered as dispensable; that is if Gautham Menon’s Nadunisi Naaigal manages to create a big impact at the box office.

Yes, you read it right; re-recording is being dispensed with. Well, there have been films before that have been shot on live sound. But, they have always had that re-recording stage to include background music and things like that – only the dubbing stage was avoided. But, this is different. When there is no re-recording, there cannot be any background music. Having minimalistic BGM is one thing, having none is something totally different.

Can you imagine a film without background music – not even a single violin playing in the background? BGM, over the years has been an extremely important tool of narration used by the directors, especially when we have masters like Ilayaraja who compose BGMs in such a way that emotions are conveyed in a better manner than they can be done with dialogues or expressions. It is this tool that Gautham has dispensed off with in Nadunisi Naaigal. What was going through his mind?

This is really surprising, especially when coming from a director like Gautham who is known and loved for his extremely sensitive and beautiful usage of music in movies. So, how and why did he think of avoiding music in all forms for his next film?

Nadunisi Naaigal is a thriller. Music, eerie sounds, fast paced beats etc., are inevitable to thrillers, to give the audience that pulsating feel. But, Gautham has thought differently. He thinks that using such sounds and beats is just manipulation of the audience and wants them to be thrilled only by the proceedings on screen, the ambient sounds and the adrenaline that it provides.

It is no doubt a huge call, and risky one at that. No one who has watched Tamil cinema on a regular basis will be able to completely imagine how a film lacking BGM will look and feel like. No matter how good or otherwise Nadunisi Naaigal turns out to be, it will definitely be a new and intriguing experience for all audiences. Many might not find it to their liking, but it is an experiment which will open up new possibilities for Tamil cinema. If it succeeds, then we might just see the dawn of a new kind of cinema - the kind that does not need re-recording.
Tags : Gautham Menon, Nadunisi Naaigal, Achchamundu Achchamundu, Meipporul
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