Back in the old days(OK, maybe not too old), Tamil Cinema was ruled by the a handful of actors. This was a time when producers made movies only with actors who've got a strong fanbase and the basic idea behind making movies was not to entertain, but to only make big money. Of course this still exists to a fair extent, but the situation those days was far, far worse.
And this could be explained by our own little theory.
We call it The Kollywood Bus Theory.
THE KOLLYWOOD BUS THEORY
The ‘Kollywood Bus’ was driven by actors across generations, fuelled by the Producers and tickets sold by the Conductors (Directors), where the Passengers i.e. the audience paid for it because the ride was seemingly supernatural. The reality is, there weren’t many buses for us to get on!
Indeed, we did have a few filmmakers like Mani Ratnam who broke stereotypes and grabbed the wheel and steered the bus in new directions. Somehow, the other film makers were not ready to do so themselves and show the passengers what they were capable of.
This went on for a few decades and when there was still no one ready to change this scenario, there arrived a new Bus. Well, the guy on the driver’s seat seemed familiar as a supporting actor but the passengers weren't sure if they could approve him as a Film Maker but then, he believed in one thing: the route. He changed it. The trip wouldn’t cost much for the Producers. Even the passengers thought, "Let's get in and see what they’ve got for us.”
This brand new bus was called Chennai 600028 and the driver went by the name of Venkat Prabhu. He drove us in and around our houses and colonies, through our emotions to our passions, making it a heart-warming ride with dollops of humour and all the necessary commercial elements that required for the movie to be a success at the box office, and paid tribute to India’s most worshipped religion: Cricket.
Here are 5 ways in which Chennai 600028 changed the face of Tamil Cinema forever:
1. A cosmic explosion of fresh, unseen talent
Seriously, we’ve got to say this: It takes serious balls to be Venkat Prabhu.
Like we said earlier, in an industry ruled by star vehicles, Venkat Prabhu’s debut journey featured actors whom none of us had ever seen before. Yes, other films have featured newbies too, but VP here made sure each of his new faces performed in a way that we, the people, remember them for a long, long time to come. And this is why most of these young guns are still going strong, carving their own little niches in Kollywood. Names like Jai and Shiva became part of big films and blockbusters such as Subramaniapuram, Raja Rani, Engeyum Eppothum, Vanakkam Chennai, Thillu Mullu and many many more.
2. The destruction of the ‘formula’ as we know it
Before Chennai 28 released, the formula of Tamil cinema stories was as follows:
Hero: Next door boy (!) with fighting skills which appear out of nowhere.
Heroine: Who pretty much functions only in slow motion and possesses inbuilt dance skills and body movements that get activated according to the Background score.
Hero's & Heroine's friends: who pretty much have no purpose of existence and are present or given birth to, only for the sole purpose of Drinking/Smoking/Hanging out/ sight adichifying etc. etc.
FIVE songs that take us to foreign locations; "FROM ADYAR TO ANTARTICA" method.
The villain who would be the reincarnation of Bin Laden and Adolf Hitler in the beginning of the film, but would die at the hands saadhu next door boy(hero) who magically inherited skills from Ra's Al Ghul, making him Batman's Indian Twin all of a sudden.
But none of the above mentioned Clichés appeared in Chennai 28. It was the first cricket-based movie in Tamil, opening the eyes of an audience who had been hitherto used to only watching Vadivelu playing Cricket with Satyaraj!
3. Turning the ordinary into extraordinary
We spoke about the scenario before C-28 and during its release, but what came post the release was what mattered the most. Most of the movies look at changing something in the industry or perception of the audience. Some fail miserably but some succeed at both, like C-28. Not only did people become more open to such films but it also gave similar film makers the confidence to make honest films that reflected reality and found humour and emotion even in the mundane. It showcase the lifestyles and aspirations of Chennai’s lower-middle class and middle class citizens that immediately struck a chord with each one of us.
More than anything else, ‘gully cricket’ is more than just a game. It’s an emotion. A treasure chest of memories, to be precise. Basically, watching C-28 felt like witnessing our own lives unfold onscreen.
4. The hero of a film is ALWAYS the story and its characters
Agreed, C-28 never had much of a story. It had a decent, relatable plot line, but its true strength lies in its characters. Each and every character in this film reminds us a little of someone we know, a friend, a best friend, an enemy or even a random acquaintance who we’ve probably played a game of cricket with. Take Premji’s character for instance; a guy who always, ALWAYS misfields. Isn’t there a ‘butter-fingers’ like Seenu in every little gang?
5. Influencing Tamil pop culture forever
Indeed, the above mentioned dialogues are from C-28, but after almost a decade, these have ceased to exist as just dialogues alone. Similar to how Goundamani and Senthil of the late 80’s and early 90’s became a part of our lingo and mannerisms, C-28 reinforced the fact that cinema tends to have a sub-conscious, immutable effect on all of us, which is something that most films after the millennium stopped doing.
When it comes to changes, the aforementioned instances are just the tip of the iceberg. Chennai 600028 was no less than a modern revolution, a tour de force of young blood that took the film industry as well as the audience by storm. And after all these years, when Venkat Prabhu announces the commencement of the sequel, we can’t help but get excited like little girls at a Barbie store.
With our favourite driver behind the wheel, it’s going to be a hell of a reunion ride...AGAIN!
Written by Kishen Das and Mobin Thajudeen