Remember 2007, when boys next door turned a pin-code into a phenomenal cult film on street cricket? And a film about a girl who cannot talk spoke volumes about the intelligence and evolution of modern day audiences.
Venkat Prabhu and Radha Mohan showed the way last year and now, we have a whole new brave generation of filmmakers ready to show the box office that it is good scripts that make films work, stars or no stars.
Though star-struck audiences still buy into hype and practice idol worship, this year Mysskin with Anjaathey and Sasikumar with Subramaniyapuram have provided further proof that the audience for Tamil cinema has come a long way.
With half a dozen offbeat films from young, promising filmmakers in the cans, we decided to sample some of the blue-blood and got these filmmakers together for a photo-shoot at Sathyam Cinemas recently.
Snatches from the conversation.
Krishnan Seshadri Gomatam
“The market has exploded. It has changed,” swears Krishnan Seshadri Gomatam, director of Muthal Muthal Muthal Varai, smartly abbreviated to a market savvy ‘M3V’.
“Earlier, we used to make a movie for the mass. Today, with the IT boom and the impact of globalisation, attitudes have changed. People have more exposure to International content. The mood is upbeat,” he explains why he believes that the audience is ready for a new genre of films.
“The hero-heroine-villain kind of thing is getting old. That’s not the only kind of films people want to see. Today, you can concentrate, target people and talk only to them, thanks to the multiplexes. Satyajit Ray’s cinema reflected a different kind of India. Today, it’s all about celebration of life.”
Unlike regular male dominated films, in M3V, you can expect the girl to play a role that’s as important as the guy. “The hero of my film has no qualms about getting help from the girl to achieve is dream. Men and women are stepping into what used to be considered exclusive domain. Our films need to reflect that change,” he says.
M3V starring Satyajit, Anuja Iyer, Charan and Keevna is set to release this month.
What made someone who made a hardcore Thala film to venture into a territory reserved for the underdog filmmakers?
“It is only content that matters today,” says Vijay, speaking about his Khosla Ka Ghosla remake ‘Poi Solla Porum’ all set to release on September 12.
“I want to do different kinds of films. If I do ten films in my life, I should’ve dabbled in ten different genres,” he says.
There are advantages and disadvantages of working with experienced actors and stars. “They are professionals, they know how to portray characters. There is little you have to tell them. But when you are working with newcomers, everything is your responsibility. But I had a blast working on ‘Poi Solla Porum’. I was able to experiment on a lot of things.”
Vijay is an advocate of change. “Tamil cinema definitely needs a change otherwise it will get monotonous. Hollywood has different genres. People are welcoming the new kind of cinema. That’s a good sign. We have to make sensible movies.”
Poi Solla Porum starring Nedumudi Venu, Nasser, Karthik Kumar, Pia, Om and Bosskey is about a group of underdogs who take on a powerful land shark.
She made her first film in English. “Knock, Knock, I Am Looking To Marry” ran a record six weeks when the multiplex culture had just set in and now she’s done with eighty per cent of the shoot of her Tamil debut ‘Kulir 100’.
“I think I understand the balance between what I want to do and what will click with the audience,” says Anita Udeep, who also has an animation feature ‘Gullivers Travel’ to her credit.
“If you can work out the economics backwards and make a film, you can make something that you really like, something that’s your style, something without compromise that will appeal to people… But you have to also look at a way where you make money. But I am sure there will be so many people like me who will want to watch a different kind of film.”
Anita’s film Kulir 100 is about a bunch of six high-schoolers. “It’s not the regular kind of high school comedy with sexual innuendoes or puppy love. I’ve tried to capture the vulnerability of that phase of being 17-years old when your mind is not stable, it is constantly wavering.”
Kulir 100 features Sanjeev, Ria, Karthik, Akash, Ritish and Syed is all set for a Diwali release.
Vellithirai was one of the most candid films made on the film industry itself, a critique on the state of the art. Did it go down well with his fraternity?
“I think they enjoyed the film and the characters. There was no negative feedback since I had not attacked anyone specific,” says Viji, who is readying up the script for his new film for Mirchi Movies.
There will always be two aspects to the business – art and commercial, he says. “The commercial films will use stars and there are also good things about that too. I employ humour to make it more commercially savvy.”
Viji too wants to make all kinds of films. “But the films should represent the times. We can’t recycle the same plots. The angry young man may not be completely relevant today,” he says.
Viji’s yet to be titled film tries to capture the change in attitude through the story of four boys and four girls. “Be it the joint family system, the father-son-family relationships or girl-boy interaction, everything has changed over the years. We have to make our cinema contemporary,” he says. “Yes, the public wants something different. The climate has changed. I can’t say the total trend has changed. But different films also are working.”
“For us, doing a different kind of film is as important as making a film commercially work,” says Gayathri, also speaking for Pushkar. The duo’s Oram Po may not have set the box office on fire but it was received well by critics and the people who watched it.
“Seventy per cent of commercial films fail. Somewhere you have to look at it from the audience point of view and see if people will enjoy it. And you need to have your unique voice with something new to say,” she explains.
Stars do make things a lot easier, adds Pushkar. “If you get a star, you automatically you get a producer. Let’s say you have a story that needs a certain kind of budget to get it realised and if you have a strong vision, you need to get a star. The onus is then on your head to go get the star and convince him.”
The duo are currently scripting their new film ‘Raakozhi.’ “Our films are a light-hearted take on life, that reflect the time and space the characters…We like the story to be rooted in the local milieu. We’re strongly against delivering messages. We don’t have that kind of life experience. Also, you wont be seeing dramatic situations, melodrama or major crying in our films. Stay away from melodrama is one of our mantras.”
What gave him the guts to make a non-glamourous realistic film set in the eighties and have nothing else but pictures of four unkempt bearded men on the posters?
“The story made me,” says Sasikumar, director of Subramaniyapuram. “I told myself whatever it is, do or die. You got to prove yourself. This is the age we can take risks. We shouldn’t compromise.”
Sasikumar wanted to go back to the origin of the angry young man. “The eighties was when it all started. The unemployed youth became misguided and took to rowdyism. Also, we have not had flashback films that went so back in time. I was confident that people who are over 35 would want to see it out of curiosity.”
Though he is a fan of Ram Gopal Varma, he says that his cinema is derived from real life. “The raw violence you see in the film is something I took from Madurai. It still happens. Violence is like that. If you read the crime stories in newspapers there, you will get gory details on how murders are committed.”
“There are different ways to drive home a point. You can say anything with love or create fear. With Subramaniyapuram, I wanted to scare and show the consequences of a violent path.”
Sasikumar will now be seen acting in Samudirakanni’s “Nadodigal”. “Again, it is a non-formula film. The Kathai is the hero. We are starting shoot in September.”
His next directorial venture goes on floors in February 2009.