A frequent viewer of Tamil cinema can make a checklist of things he’ll come across in a film and can tick most of the points at the end of the film. Such is the repetitiveness we’ve come to accept as the audience. It is an undeniable fact that Tamil cinema is reaching new heights with various offbeat movies like Visaaranai, Aandavan Kattalai, Kaka Muttai, Irudhi Sutru, Ammani, to name a few. But the latest releases, Remo and Rekka made me realize that Kollywood can never be free of clichés.
Clichés in movies are never avoidable. The fact that the filmmaker has only 2.5 hours to 3 hours to tell a story and engage the audience is reason enough to justify their usage. But some clichés in Tamil cinema are so overused that without them, the film seems unappealing and incomplete. Though viewers do not expect the film to be devoid of clichés, some of these are too deeply rooted that we sometimes forget that they are clichés and begin to think they are part of cinema logic. Here are few of the age-old clichés of Tamil cinema.
1. There Will Be Blood….err… Rain
Intense emotions are always accompanied by rain. Be it a scene in which the hero realizes his love for the heroine or one in which the villain challenges the hero, the sky decides to pour irrespective of season.
2. Fight (Just One) Club
Even if the hero is alone and the villain has about a 100 people on his side, the villain chooses to go easy on the hero. He always sends only one of his goons at a time to attack the hero. The goons never miss out on the “heyyyyyy” sound when they come running to attack the hero (saving the music director the pain of composing a BGM for the run). Sometimes the villain chooses to fight the hero himself as a result of constant belittlement of his skills (aka masculinity) by the hero, only to lose in the end.
3. Mission impossible: Completing Food on Plate
Unlike real life, meal time is the time for serious discussion in movies. Apparently, any character who sits down to eat gets into an argument or gets emotional or gets a phone call that can change their lives and doesn’t get to complete his/her meal. Sometimes if the character doesn’t undergo any emotional trauma during their mealtime, their food is definitely poisoned and their plate is pushed off their hands.
4. The Beauty That Eats Like a Beast
However beautiful the heroine is, she never understands how to eat her chocolate or ice cream without having it all over her face. Ugly eating interprets cuteness in Tamil cinema.
5. The Secret Life of Heroes in Patti Thotti
If the protagonist in a Tamil film is a cop, he is sure to be involved in an undercover operation. Only the protagonist and the character who plays his reporting authority knows about the operation. Most of the times the protagonist doesn’t report to his immediate superior. He reports only to the highest authority in the state.
6. E.T.: Extra Talented
Not only would the hero be a master in all the martial arts in the world even if he was a school dropout, he will definitely know to sing or/and play at least one instrument. This is mostly accompanied by marvelous dancing skills.
7. (Feel no) Pain & Gain
The hero has to have an adjective that is the superlative of invincible. In spite of the villain being uninjured (and equally powerful), the hero beats him up black and blue even with two bullets on his chest and a knife on his back. And after the fight, he even carries the heroine or his mother who is seriously hurt with an arm that bleeds.
8. 50 Glasses of Milk
This is a well-known immortal cliché of Tamil cinema. The filmmakers tend to make a symbolic representation of the nature of the relationship between the hero and heroine with the glass that holds the milk. If the glass is pushed off from the hands of the bride, she is sure to suffer in the next couple of scenes. If the glass stays put in the corner of the room, the couple does not like each other. If the glass is rolled on a table with a little of the milk spilled, it means they have had a fight. If the glass is not to be seen anywhere, then it all went on well (and you can be expecting a song in a foreign location with lyrics that solely refer to the wedding night using metaphors that’ll take ages to decode.)
9. Taken…. ‘cuz Pregnant
Certain things never tend to change in Tamil cinema and one such thing is the portrayal of pregnant women. All pregnant women in Tamil cinema undergo all or at least one of the following things:
⦁ Any middle-aged woman who pukes on-screen is sure to have a baby. In Tamil cinema language a middle-aged woman does not have any other reason to puke other than pregnancy.
⦁ Generally pregnant women get kidnapped/killed or both.
⦁ Even if the pregnant woman makes it to labor without being killed/kidnapped, normal childbirth is never possible. Complication in labor is never avoidable in Tamil cinema.
10. Die Another Day… You Have So Much to Say
Death seems to wait till the dying person finishes talking to the character next to them. And the character next to the dying person is mostly more interested in listening to the speech of the dying person rather than saving him/her.
I haven’t mentioned the “stalk a girl to make her fall in love” part because I believe it’ll take at least another decade for us to stop seeing such scenes on-screen. We can expect a statutory warning in the future saying “avoid stalking girls to avoid legal action” in case a law is enforced against the atrocious promotion stalking gets in films.
The one thing we comprehend here is; these elements became “clichés” since they were great narrating instruments in any case and were constantly used. Most of them are unavoidable in films, therefore will be regularly used and eventually it might be accompanied by a shroud of funniness and self-depreciation in future.
Written by—Aparna Ramanan