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The recent announcement of 58th National Film Awards has made every Tamilian proud with the monopolization of awards in various categories by our Tamil brethren. 

Vetri Maaran, director of Aadukalam who won the award for best direction and script was naturally happy and thanked the jury for not considering Aadukalam in the mainstream commercial segment. This triggered a question and also shook a myth perpetuated all along. If National Awards are only given to non-commercial films, the success of Aadukalam at the box office defies the existing belief that art films or rather ‘not so commercial’ films don’t fare well at the box office. What does this signify? 

Indian film industry has evolved hugely and the world is looking at our cinema in different perspective these days. The Indian diaspora settled all over the globe could perhaps be the contributors for this and also the Oscar Rahman. We have passionate film makers amidst us who have preferred the exciting creative thrills to seemingly normal and risk free careers and whose ‘one of a kind’ thought process has given rise to interesting projects which have entertained, educated and elevated their audience at various levels.

Over a period of time, the audience has been presented with films of diverse nature that are-non-conformist, coming of age, experimental, satirical, hard on your face, avant-garde, realistic, simple and straight forward - and many more such genres by prolific film makers in various Indian languages. The appreciation of a creative enterprise by critics and people is one thing and its endorsement at the box office is another thing. This is where the demarcation of a film comes into play- Commercial and Realistic. The term ‘middle cinema’ which found widespread usage in the late 80s has almost disappeared now. And it is in this domain of delineation comes the variation between the preferences and sensibilities of the audience belonging to different places in our country. 

The tastes of spectators are varied and a film that does well in a specific geographical locale may find no takers at all in a different state. It is in this sphere that the people of Tamil Nadu offer a comparatively very interesting (intelligent) standpoint especially from their counterparts up north.

Experimentations are much looked forward to and are supported well here. The power of stars can help in the initial draw but success solely depends on the strength of the content which has been proved time and again in many films. And Tamil audience welcomes any sincere, unpretentious and honest attempts with open hands and warm hearts. 

It is here that you find deafening applause when the name of the director or a cinematographer or an editor or a music director appears on the title credits in addition to stars. It is here that you get a standing ovation for a Suseendiran in Azhagar Saamiyin Kudirai or for a Sasikumar in Easan or for a Vetri Maaran in Aadukalam. It is here where the knowledge about cinema is widespread and the passion deep rooted that you get to find the common man discussing the technical aspects of camera angles and editing scissors besides styles of the stars. 

Films like Udaan or Well done abba or Dhobi Ghat may well have been appreciated by multiplex audience and critics. But unfortunately it found itself difficult to translate into a financial success which resulted in the films and the makers getting slotted as ‘festival’ or the ‘multiplex’ types. And that’s why we hear Vikramaditya Motwane, director of Udan lamenting about his joblessness after his film was the focal point of talk in the national and international circuits and the recipient of many prestigious awards. 

We may find intelligent and bold subjects in Hindi but are the audience there ready to lap it up to give a decent box office collection is still a debatable question. It is heartening to note that, in the current times, the spectators south of Vindhyas are reasonably a much evolved species who can bequeath success to a product that may not in the prescribed cinematic sense be categorized as mainstream commercial. 

The sensibilities here are mature and that’s why the cast of someone like Appu Kutty as the protagonist in Suseendiran’s film is all the more accepted, despite the perceived temerity of the film maker in the choice of the cast. It is only when such experimentations and fresh ideas gain acceptance from the audience that the film makers are encouraged to render quality products which in turn take the medium as a whole to the next level.

It is not an exaggerated statement to say that Tamil film industry is transcending to a new golden era which is being made possible, thanks to the patronage of seasoned and matured audience here.

Can’t help recall Namakkal Kavignar’s hind sighted words - Thamizhan Endru Sollada Thalai Nimirndu Nillada!

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