Dilani Rabindran



Puli effect, Vijay


These days, you cannot visit any Tamil cinema related portal or page without catching a dose of Puli fever.
With the Tamil, Telugu and Hindi versions of the film all releasing on October 1, we are in the stage of peak promotions for the latest film starring the one and only Ilayathalapathy Vijay. But, the fact of the matter is that we’ve been engulfed and obsessed over this film and its marketing for months now. The trailers have taken almost every continent by storm; the second trailer alone racked up over 2.5 million hits in less than one week since its release.
It seems we are all indescribably excited about the concept of a Tamil fantasy film; as though it is something entirely foreign to the industry. But the fact is - we have seen it before. For example, we had 2013’s Irandam Ulagaam starring Arya and Anushka, and directed by Selvaraghavan. That film, a fantasy romance, was truly experimental at the time, and unfortunately did not make up for its risk factor at the box office.
So why are we so much more excited about Puli, a film that can be placed in a similar genre as Irandam Ulagam, which was met with a mixed response. Why didn’t this type of film catch on as big before as it is seemingly now? Is it because of director Chimbu Deven and our expectations for him to deliver a well rounded entertainer with substantial content? Or is it because we have 3 gorgeous leading ladies to accompany the hero - Sridevi, Shruti Haasan and Hansika? Or is it even because the film marks yesteryear queen of Indian cinema Sridevi’s return to Tamil films after 29 years? Perhaps is it merely the grandeur of the film, and the extensive sets and CGI that we have seen glimpses of in the trailers? Or is it simply, the Ilayathalapathy effect?
The way I see it, there are 2 arguments as to why we are so much more excited about this new attempt at a Tamil Fantasy adventure film…
The first being that perhaps we are warmer to the idea of this film because we can see that, although it is shrouded with the genre of fantasy, it actually looks more like a contemporary entertainer that is simply set in a magical land. We can see that we are going to get the standard deliverables of Vijay’s style, some wholesome comedy courtesy of Robo Shankar and Vidyu Raman (along with others), lots of glamor, incredible stunts and some classic punch dialogues. It saddens me to say this, as I am a constant supporter of unique content and bold attempts in cinema, but Irandam Ulagam, or even Kochadaiyaan for that sake, may have been too unique too fast for the majority of Tamil cinema audiences to immediately open up to the fantasy genre. With Puli, perhaps it is the guaranteed “mass” factors that have us so hyped up, out of a sense of reliability that this film will be uniquely pictured, but ultimately deliver what we are used to and what we find comfort in. Perhaps it’s because we know what we’re paying for with our tickets with this fantasy adventure flick.
Or perhaps - it is the second argument, which I am more inclined to support - where the fact of the matter is that if Ilayathalapathy Vijay is willing to try it out, especially at this peak stage in his career, then we’re all willing to give it a try.
Puli looks starkly different to Vijay’s past few releases Kaththi, Thuppakki, Jilla and Thalaivaa. A much more colorful and fun-looking film, it seems to bring back more of the playful Vijay we arguably only last saw in Nanban, and will seemingly provide more light hearted comedy that is probably better tailored for younger audiences as well. It is great to see Vijay’s willingness to “experiment” a bit while still maintaining a balance of delivering the style and theatrics he is known and loved for. Technically speaking he could stick to tried and true Kaththi or Thupakki type films and still earn big in box office dollars for a very long time. So here’s hoping that this new attempt at the genre will better open the magical gates for other filmmakers to try it out as well.
It really only takes one leader to step up and change the direction the crowd is headed in, so I will be watching Puli in happiness, hoping that perhaps this is a sign of Vijay’s willingness to experiment even more with his forthcoming films and further change the course of Tamil commercial cinema. Because, whenever he roars, many are certain to listen.

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