Home > Columns



Anbe Sivam is a classic that we are all proud of. However, it is also something that we remember with a hint of regret and morose. That is because we have the unbecoming ignominy of being an industry and audience which let such a beautiful piece of cinema sink at the box office. As a responsible audience, the only thing that we had to do was go and support this masterclass; in theaters. But, instead the choice of the masses was another ‘entertainer’ that had released alongside. All the harking for good, sensible scripts and subjects seemed to come to naught. Over the years, every time I watched Anbe SIvam unfold on TV my disbelief has only increased – How could this have failed? No matter how much we have praised or embraced the movie since; the injustice done to it in theaters cannot be repaired and it would be a fair guess to say that for quite a few years still to come Anbe Sivam will serve as a potent example in the hands of those who stand for complete commercialism in cinema.

But, Anbe Sivam was eight years ago. Haven’t we changed over the years? Perhaps, yes. The disbelief that I felt over the failure of Anbe Sivam at the box office is not unique to me alone, nor is it some kind of general disappointment felt by Kamal Haasan fans. It is a genuine and almost all pervading feeling amongst those who keenly follow Tamil cinema. Most people do not want another ‘Anbe Sivam’ (like debacle) to happen. Over the years there has been a very active transition towards giving good cinema a fair deal; not just in terms of awards or accolades, but also in terms of revenue generated from theaters. It is not just a connoisseur’s delight, but also a commoner’s choice. Be it Thavamai Thavamirindhu, Mozhi, Abhiyum Naanum, Veyil, Pasanga, Vennila Kabaddi Kuzhu or quite a few such instances. They might not have box office figures that are comparable to commercial cinema, but they do have a degree of respectability and hopefully a good margin of profits.

It did look as if we had come to a point where a producer wouldn’t be in two minds about putting his money behind a script that did not fall into commercial trappings. But, the recent performance of Nandhalala at the box office makes one think that it is a premature conclusion. It has not been able to complete four weeks of regular shows in Chennai city; in fact almost tottering along at a very few number of screenings per day even from its third week. All this for a movie that has invariably received glowing, even superlative reviews from all sections of the media; no exceptions. It was not the intellectual or arty type of film that could not get across to the regular film-goer. It was a simple yet beautifully crafted piece of cinema. Come to think of it; there are quite a few similarities between Nandhalala and Anbe Sivam. Both are basically accounts of the experiences of two people unexpectedly thrown together in a journey that builds a special bond between them. Both films do not end on a clichéd note of the two becoming inseparable companions for life; but choose to depict the bond as something above and different from the ties of friendship that are normally forged. And, both films have one character who is not the ‘normal guy’, but someone who needs to be understood with patience. All these similarities notwithstanding, there is one that irks a lot; that both of them (to bluntly say it) tanked at the box office.

Nandhalala is also perhaps a reality check for film critics and reviewers that their opinions and recommendations have very little say in the fate of a film. Else, the equivocal extolling of Nandhalala by the media (print and web) should have ensured it at least a decent run at the box office. Instead, what we see is that it has been literally forced out of theaters by the fourth week.

In recent times, we have seen a very healthy trend of eminent personalities in the film industry throwing their weight behind a movie that they think is worth its weight in gold. Such words, when coming from names that the people trust and respect, helps the movie in question gain a lot of mileage. The best example in recent weeks is Mynaa which continues in theaters, nearing two months. A lot of big names including director Bala and the legendary Kamal Haasan had said wonderful things about the movie which was also used very well as publicity material. This is not to say that Mynaa is now successful only because of these factors; it is a film of genuine quality, the success of which was catalyzed by the endorsement of the big guns. But, something similar did not happen to Nandhalala. There were very few voices from within the industry which chose to endorse the film; the two names that come to mind being KB and Cheran. Otherwise, there was a general silence. When there are people within the industry who want good cinema to proliferate and also do not want to see a repeat of ‘Anbe Sivam’, this should not have happened.

But, from what we see now, Nandhalala is another Anbe Sivam in the making. Perhaps, it has already been made. And, in years to come people might wonder what was wrong with this film to deserve a cold reception at the box office. And, perhaps, then we would still be asking for sensible scripts and refreshing cinema and we would not have anyone to blame but ourselves. We complain that good and unique scripts are scarce. But, one thing that is sometimes not understood is that for every Anbe Sivam and Nandhalala that tanks at the box office, at least 10 unique scripts might be stashed, buried or burnt because the producer feels it is unsafe; and we cannot blame them. Justice cannot b done to a movie years after it has released; the only justice is when people go and watch it on the big screen.

Respond to
Behindwoods is not responsible for the views of columnists.

About this page

This page hosts the views of the authors of the column. The views are generally about films, movie reviews, movie news, songs, music, film actors and actresses, directors, producers, cinematographers, music directors, and all others that contribute for the success or failure of a film. People looking for movies online, movie reviews, movie analysis, public response for a movie, will find this page useful.