Every Wednesday I contemplate quitting my corporate job and heading to a set to carry water bottles for Mani Ratnam. Tamil movies are a rich source of entertainment and a disguised learning resource and have grown to include a vast variety of innovative hybrid genres; from romantic political dramas, travel thrillers, to horror comedies and dark satire.
With the rich expansion and experimentation of genres there hides a silent bystander – the Tamil movie that stole (some may say with pride) scripts and cinematographic style resembling the golden period of Malayalam cinema; a period known for producing unforgettably fine actor to the likes of Thilakkan, Revathi, Mohanlal and Srinivasan to name a few. I am referring to the movies which hardly trended on social media, cinematic gems with unpublicised trailers sans any 100-day success barometers. In a time when most movies receive a crowdsourced 7-8.5 rating on IMBD it is hard to trawl for the qualitatively superior movies of the year.
Thailaimuraigal (Balu Mahendra, 2013) comes to mind spontaneously as the subtle generational drama laced with unspoken humour. Other releases centred around complex family dynamics such as Saivam, Ammani and Metro find a parallel in Anjali Menon’s debut Manjadikuru – an observational piece on family, society and the hypocritical ideals attached to both. Some may argue that Tamil cinema never found its much loved Mohanlal-Srinivas duo until many years later (Arya-Santhanam?) but it did produce teams of actors that we’ve come to love thanks to the entourages introduced by Venkat Prabhu or Nalan Kumarasamy.
More recently, Tamil movies have gratefully also moved away from adoring the dream girl from God’s own Country and have instead embraced the Tamil and Telugu female protagonist; may that be Premam’s Malar or Iraivi’s Kamalini Mukherjee. With Vijay Sethupathi’s enviable diversification of roles in Soodhu Kaavum, Orange Muttai and Andavan Kattalai, there is a promising potential to find an actor whose roles may be more memorable than the actor himself.
In recent years, Pizza, Uriyadi, Quarter Cutting, Kuttram Thandinal, Metro and Dhruvangal 16 humbly announced the advent of fresher content and novice faces; this at a time when Malayalam’s poster child Vineeth Srinivasan had already outgrown his brand ambassador title as a new-age film maker and established himself as a recognised director of substance. Not to forget are also the uncategorised character actors like John Vijay, Bobby Simha, Kishore, Nasser and Urvasi who essay roles across both languages with marked flawlessness, yet enviable ease. The latter are perhaps the most underrated overachievers of the southern industry.
A glimpse of Aditi Rao Hydari in the recently released millisecond snowflake teaser of Mani Ratnam 2016 (or Mani25!?) hinted that the Ace-Director may have perhaps found his new Shobhana Pillai – a petite, elegant beauty with dialogues most likely to be written by the outspoken, individualist; Ms. Suhasini herself. If reports are anything to go by, the much awaited cross-border fruition is likely to blossom even further this year with Nivin Pauly polishing up his Tamil and Jessie learning Malayalam. Critical and commercial Malayalam hits of recent years like Charlie are in the talks for a Tamil remake with an equally enviable cast, leaving you with eager anticipation that archived masterpieces such as Sandhesam or Ghandinagar 2nd Street may enjoy a revival for audiences not familiar with the rich celluloid world crafted by Malayalam film makers of the 1980s.
The invites to actors from neighbouring Kerala continue to be plentiful; Mohanlal, Mamooty, Dulqer, Jayram, Revathi, Nayanthara, Nazrya, Shobhana, Amala Paul et al. have all left their mark and are accepted whole-heartedly by the Tamil audience. Most remarkably, many talked about movies are no longer suspiciously eyed as originally Korean (let’s ignore the lovable adaption of Kadhalum Kadhanthu Pogum) but acknowledged as proudly Tamil-produced, -directed and executed original content.
It’s an exciting year to look forward to (yes, there’s more than just the sequels of Baahubali and Enthiran) because frankly, what’s not to like when the School of grounded Malayalam film-making crosses paths with the technically brilliant Tamil fraternity?
Written by - Arachi