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Is there a proven, time tested formula for making blockbuster movies? That would make all our lives easier. But unfortunately there isn’t. Directors who have stuck to one rule have always struck gold. The movie must entertain. That is the critical and most cardinal criteria. Everything else comes second. Whether it is commercial or realistic cinema, the entire package has to be delivered with a style that keeps the audience engaged from title to end credits.

Going by the trend of 2011, the movies that have clicked have been great entertainers. Most first time directors seem to remember this. That is why we had Engeyum Eppothum, a sleeper hit, directed by Saravanan which kept us engrossed in the lives of four innocent victims falling prey to fate. Kumararaja scripted Aaranya Kaandam as a drug deal gone wrong but the events were strung so taut that we couldn’t look away even for a moment. Azhagarsaamiyin Kudhirai weaved a tale with Appukutty and his equestrian love. It was fresh and appealing. All three movies did not have star power. They banked completely on the script and story to pave their way to success. And they succeeded with aplomb.

But even movies with star power reigned high. Aadukalam is Dhanush’s finest performance till date. But Dhanush’s Mappillai was a disaster. Even he is aware that his presence alone does not guarantee a hit. Vettrimaran’s screenplay was so perfect that all the actors had to merely enact the lines. They added meat to their role by perfecting their portrayals. Deiva Thirumagal landed in Vikram’s lap and he leaped beyond his boundaries with his stellar performance. Yudham Sei, a crime thriller, had Cheran with a two line script. But if anybody can direct a thriller, Myskin can too.

These two sets prove that one does not need a proven actor or a huge star to make a super hit movie. As long as the actor can play his role to perfection and the story keeps the audience engaged, the director will deliver.

To illustrate this further we saw Engeyum Kaadhal, a romantic interlude set in Paris, crash. The location was poetic but the storyline was weak. The actors seem to jump in and out of scenes and the comedy was forgettable. Nootrenbadhu, a debut attempt by Jayendra left without making any impact. The visuals were stunning in both movies, the former strolled through the street of Paris and the latter sailed from Chennai to San Francisco. But that was not enough. Even a seasoned director like Bala could not make Avan Ivan shatter records. Bala’s movies are a class apart. Even if it is about a grave digger we watch the movie for the perfectionist he is. He interlaces a heavy storyline with superb humor but even he couldn’t work his magic with Avan Ivan.

If established directors can fail, new comers can deliver hits, what is it that keeps the pulse of the movie under check? Do all directors have to be good writers? KV Anand seems to agree, which is why he left the scripting of KO to Subha. The movie defied box office records and the twists and turns ensured repeat audiences. The songs added power to this blockbuster.

With the way 2011 is hurtling, there are surprise hits, sleeper hits and blockbusters. It seems to come from places we least expect. Diwali saw the release of two big stars – Vijay and Suriya. While Vijay plays the villager turned vigilante, Suriya delves into the roots of Bodhidharma. Which will click? Both have star power and seasoned directors. Velyutham’s songs are chartbusters but 7aum Arivu brings a sense of déjà vu which doesn’t sit well with avid listeners.

Vijay promises a commercial pot boiler which suits the festive mood while Suriya is food for thought. But the one that breaks records will be the one that entertains the most. Audiences want charming romance, rib tickling comedy, jaw dropping stunts and an engaging story line. Velayutham seems to be the perfect match and that is going to be my ticket for this Diwali. Bodhidharmar has to wait for another day.

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