Is Karthik Subbaraj India’s answer to Tarantino?

Is Karthik Subbaraj India’s answer to Tarantino?

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These are exciting times for the Indian film industry, and specifically for the Tamil Film industry. Now more than ever, we have film makers coming out and exploring various kinds of genres that were previously unexplored. We have lead characters who need not necessarily be the epitome of good. It is okay for characters to be morally grey (and sometimes downright bad), yet remain likeable by the audiences. Films such as Soodhu Kavvum, Sadhuranga Vettai, Aaranya Kaandam are examples. But there is one person who I think is leading the pack: Karthik Subbaraj.


Karthik who, you ask? The dude who made the cult thriller ‘Pizza’ in Tamil, which got remade in Hindi recently. And he’s out with his recent ‘Jigarthanda’ amidst tons of expectations, and successfully managed to satisfy critics, film buffs and regular movie goers all alike. In a way, he started this movement in Tamil Cinema and paved the way for short film makers to aspire to make a feature film. In this process, I can’t help but compare Karthik with someone who is revered globally: Quentin Tarantino.


The similarities are just too many to be dismissed. Both of them entered the industry from non traditional / non- film school backgrounds. Quentin worked at a video store, watched movies all day long, started making short films, sucked at it (as admitted by himself) and gradually learnt to make better movies and eventually feature films. Karthik’s background is also non traditional: starting from working in a regular IT job & making short films during free time, improving at it and eventually making the big entry in feature films.


There’s a certain element of ‘coolness’ and Indie film making that people can associate with both of them, and it’s no surprise that both had a kickass debut in the form of ‘Reservoir Dogs’ (‘My Best Friend’s Birthday’ was not a full length feature film per-se) and ‘Pizza’ respectively. Both of them brought in a completely fresh take on cinema in their respective periods and within their industry. Their respective second films ‘Pulp Fiction’ and ‘Jigarthanda’ seems to have completely fulfilled everyone’s expectations and bettered their earlier work. In fact, their style of film making also seem to be very similar — huge importance to background score, irreverent screenplay backed by interesting characterization.


I know it’s probably a sin to be comparing a 2-film old upcoming film maker with an icon like Quentin. Obviously there’s a long way to go to reach ‘THAT’ level, but these are truly interesting times for Tamil Cinema, for the battles that our film makers undergo are way too many. This was reflected in Jigarthanda, that takes a dig at the system of what all they have to go through. Whether it is producers arm twisting them to make a safe-bet commercial movie, actors with a strong financial or political muscle threatening them, audience expecting entertainment in the form of songs and titillation, government providing tax relief for certain kinds of films: Jigarthanda has it all and takes a satirical view of all this in the guise of a gangster story. The movie has its flaws, but ones which can be forgiven, for what’s surprising is that Karthik manages to beat the system not by fighting but by playing to its rules, and in the process making a truly kickass movie that doesn’t compromise. For this, and for this alone, I bet on this guy whom we can look back some day as India’s answer to Tarantino, or even better: our own Subbaraj.

Sugan Shreyas Vasudevan

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