Let’s start with the one of the most used devices in Tamil cinema
– the Flashback. It will help us understand the hero better.
After the invasion of cable TV in the nineties, housewives turned captive to the charms of the idiot box. The cinemas of the North and South acted in diametrically opposite ways. Hindi cinema went abroad, chasing the NRI.
Meanwhile, Tamil cinema took to the streets because only the poor and the wayward (the population that didn’t particularly like staying at home) frequented the cinemas. Only a Kamal Haasan comedy or a rare Padayappa would drag family audiences to the movie hall.
As filmmaker Saran once observed, the audience in the cinema halls was all-male… and you know how much the boys love a little sex and a lot of violence.
The Tamil film hero had turned into a full-blown rowdy. He could send ten guys flying with a single blow. He loved to stalk, sexually harass women and would occasionally give the heroine lessons on how to dress.
Javed Akhtar, during an interview, remarked that the Hindi film hero was turning self-centred. It was no longer about the society, but about the individual. The hero was busy wooing the girl, sorting out his relationship woes and later went serial-kissing women, including some who were already married.
By contrast, the Tamil film hero still stood up for the people when
provoked. Superstar film plots were rehashed again and again. Captain Vijaykanth continued to make films for the rural centres, Sarathkumar began to experiment once in a while, Satyaraj bravely went full-on arthouse and, Prabhu returned to do weighty character-roles.
During the first half of the decade, Tamil cinema shamelessly
celebrated the hero and new matinee idols were born. Vijay, Ajith and Vikram together sent hundreds of stuntmen flying and once they became popular, they came with a premium for producers and rarely did anything remotely offbeat.
Meanwhile, Hindi films turned their attention to multi-starrers and
scouted around for fresh stories and newer conflicts, rarely
succeeding but at least, filmmakers tried. A new breed of multiplex
films was born and corporates were encouraged to put their money on newcomers.
Tamil cinema saw the arrival of a fresh batch of filmmakers
responsible for making stars out of actors – directors including
Saran, Bala, Dharani, Ameer, Selvaraghavan, Murugadoss, Linguswamy and Gautham Menon who believed in their script more than the star. And there were those (like Perarasu, Ramana and Hari) who continued to hero-worship the star.
The seniors Mani Ratnam, Shankar, K.S. Ravikumar and Cheran continued doing what they did best and succeeded with great consistency while the ruling demi-gods Rajni and Kamal made a conscious effort to stay clear of formula and experiment with offbeat scripts. They set a fine example for the younger breed of actors like Suriya, Madhavan and Dhanush who followed their path of alternating commercial films with offbeat roles. Simbu seems to have a taken a cue too signing up with Gautham Menon and Prashanth is set to make a comeback with an offbeat
The young and the brave pioneered Tamil cinema’s foray into the road less travelled during the second half of the decade that saw the arrival of Venkat Prabhu, Vishnuvardhan, Mysskin and Sasikumar.
Encouraged by the cinema produced and promoted by Shankar and Prakash Raj, talented filmmakers such as Balaji Sakthivel and Radhamohan flourished and the script once again turned hero.
For want of stars to back these scripts, filmmakers turned actors
following the example set by Cheran and S.J.Suryah. With scripts back in focus, half a dozen women filmmakers (Janaki Viswanathan, Priya V, Anita Udeep, Gayathri Pushkar, Nandhini JS, Madhumita) got a break.
As stars churned out flops, the business became risky and distributors turned wary of Minimum Guarantee. Ironically, this only made it more difficult for films without stars to be sold.
Film families saw this as an opportunity to launch a new generation of stars – Jeeva, Vishal and Jayam Ravi – who were open to the idea of doing script-based films.
To add to the list of problems including escalating star salaries,
production and marketing costs, increasing cost of popcorn,
old-fashioned policies on satellite and video rights and the lack of
takers for script-based films, the film business continues to be
plagued by pirates. No visible solution seems to be in sight.
But there are some problems that can be fixed.
Observes Anjum Rajabali, professional screenwriter and Department Head of Screenwriting at Film and Television Institute of India, Pune and Whistling Woods, Mumbai: “Flops are always attributed to every other reason other than the script. It’s like the elephant in the room. Nobody wants to admit that the film failed because of a bad script.”
The inherent problem with star-based cinema is that the star wants to play a character so powerful that there can be nothing that can affect him. The hero cannot be slapped since it amounts to blasphemy and villains are reduced to caricatures. The hero’s journey is, well, a cake-walk.
It’s high-time filmmakers and actors realised the importance of
conflict in storytelling. The greater the struggle, the greater the
glory. The sweet is not as sweet without the sour. The hero must get knocked down so that he can get up again.
But the Tamil movie star is too busy counting his money, perennially scared of losing his market. Unless he remembers the way back to the road that brought him all the way, he will continue to be lost and films will continue to flop.
Let’s have more films like Chennai 600028, Paruthiveeran, Mozhi and Subramaniapuram. Let the filmmaker make the film he wants to make. Let the director call the shots, please.
(Have removed the list of films because people seem to assume these were good films despite the Disclaimer!)
Script needs to be soul reason for making films and not the call-sheet of heros. It would have been better if you would compared hollywood style of script selection and how a movie is produced in contrast to Indian filmmaking scenario.
the years are wrong for many of the movies..
and they r just the list of movies for each of these ppl right??
not necessarily good or bad right?
If you have the time, do set the record straight… which years are wrong? Like I mentioned in the disclaimer, it’s just for reference of films they did during the decade. No comments on good or bad.
could you please let me know how many filmmakers have you seen working out their scirpt/screenplay using Final-Draft ??
Kamal Haasan, Gautham Menon, Rajeev Menon, Shankar (just a guess since I’ve only seen his scheduling sheet)
1. Why Saran had been given importance as good director?really??I have reservations.
2. If so WHY NOT Thangar Bachaan? Don’t you thing he is a good director??He had produced beautiful movies…and so does R.Parthiban in his earlier days.
3. Do you think ” karagaatakkaaran” ran for 2 years because of the so called “meticulas” SCRIPT??
4. Don’t you people believe in sponteneity or Instincts?? Why do Mani Ratnam’s films not give you the fullest satisfaction you expect but the K.S.ravikumar’s films eventually give you the satisfaction which you had never expected?? I think its because of the meticulas and flexible scripts respectively.
5.Love your movie reviews in “The Hindu”.
The review pertains to the last decade, karagattakaaran was made earlier and had a decent script. It’s not possible to mention every filmmaker in this less than 1000 word overview and hence I’ve limited it to those who have proved that good films can make good money too… Saran was quoted for his insight on the business and those who compare Mani Ratnam and K.S. Ravikumar are comparing apples and oranges!
That is a well compiled list, nice analysis. I might have some reservations on a few directors and their movies, but then its your list so all jolly good wonly.
Nice read… Makes a lot of sense…
Sudhish, I think “Thambi” is missing from the Madhavan list.
brilliant article….. pudhu pettai is 2006…! n thirupaachi is a milestone film is it?? Sachein is okay but thirupaachi n yaaradi nee mohini r no where close to milestones…
For the last time people, read the disclaimer.
This is not a comprehensive list. And a mention in this list does not mean a film is good or bad. They are films they did during the decade.
Removed list. Easier than clarifying every time. People don’t have the time to read stories anymore, they browse/breeze through.
Rajini experimenting? vikram formula based? vikram may not have great script scene – at least his choice of directors n characters sounds promising always (well even suriya or any other actor here doesn’t have script scene(Danush an exception – maybe?) – no1 cant be an Abhay Deol) and why after 1999 only? or is there a prequel to this article? didnt MGR or Jayshanker, Rajini of the past do the same thing again n again?
I think the confusion is because people assume all commercial films to be crap and all arthouse attempts to be offbeat… Far from it!
There are some solid commercial film scripts… Dhil or Dhool or Saamy for example… because these films had something for the villains to do. And films/stories are about the conflicts.
Suriya’s commercial films have had smart villains or twists… but he’s in the danger of falling in the rut too if he starts believing that the villain should be reduced to a caricature. Rajnikant did a film called Chandramukhi and it wasnt named after him… he made a late entry into the film, he did another film called Kuselan where he’s not even in half the length of the film and Sivaji was a half decent script because it gave him a powerful adversary.
wat i meant was vikram some times have been stale but most of his attempts have always tried to make us believe in projects – be it something larger than life (un)realistic things or the subtle things … and ya rajini after the Baba fiasco have changed a lot
sorry Sudhish!!! but the list is not complete…. Maddy did Thambi,vaalthugal,guru en aalu… u missed it
That’s exactly why I said it’s NOT a comprehensive list and to be used only for reference in the Disclaimer.
He also did some useless movies like Aethiree, Priyamana Thozhi before that…
NOT comprehensive means NOT complete.
Anyway to avoid this confusion, have taken it off. People don’t read Disclaimers, do they?
Do you watch Malayalam movies?
they dun!!!! sowey! but was Thambi useless?? u think so??
n its not priyaman thozi… its priya Saki LOL!!!
There was a Vikraman film called Priyamana Thozhi… Priyasakhi was another disaster. Fat guy with paunch during martial arts didnt work for me either.
hehehe… dude… can u pls review “eternal sunshine..” i really wanna know ur evaluation…
Sorry to disappoint you but I am not a Kaufman fan really. Liked Eternal sunshine though…
Manmadhan was decent dun u think?
hmm… thats okay machan….. !
A nice sum up as far as the evolution of Tamil Cinema goes in the last decade. On the one hand, looking at Bollywood, I feel that we are much better off. On the other end, we still seem to be swimming in our own sea of cliches and sagas, and sister sentiments. I however don’t blame the directors and stars, I blame the audience. As long as morons continue to rule the halls, such films will continue to be made.
That being said, I still maintain there’s nothing like a Formula superstar movie.
P.S: Nice blog btw.
You forgot to add
‘Pasanga’.Gem of a movie.:-)
with no stars in it:-)
On an off topic note,have you tried Korean cinema?Might be right up your alley:-)
tamil film makers have to work more on their scripts. heroism is amusing, but add to it a well-written script, the movie becomes much more enjoyable. hollywood movies that shows heroism like die hard 4.0, pirates of the carribean, (Bond movies?? may be..) can boast of a decent script that complements the hero status well enough to entertain the movie-goers… film-makers like gowtham menon, ameer, S. P. Jananathan,etc., have taken up the responsibility to take tamil cinema to the next level.. Good luck to them…:)
Interesting read. Paruthiveeran and Subramaniapuram. Nice.