Many of you might have heard the term “Parallel Cinema”. The film movement that started in Bengali film industry to create an alternative cinema to the commercial Hindi cinema during the 1950’s. Later on every regional film industry including Bollywood started having their own division of commercial films and parallel films within the industry. Coming to the South, Tamil Cinema witnessed a huge variety when geniuses like Balu Mahendra, K.Balachander, Bharathiraja, Mahendran and all were active. But the late 80’s and almost entire 90’s had star driven cinema, of course, the presence of Mani Ratnam and the emergence of Shankar cannot be ignored but the star power had taken over cinema. By the start of 2000’s, Bala arrived with ‘Sethu’, Mysshkin and Ameer followed up. Selvaraghavan had bounced in with a completely new point of view on cinema. Cheran pleased all kind of audience and Goutham Menon introduced stylish characters. Directors like Lingusaamy and A.R Murugadoss had also hit the ground with entertaining and fresh plots. Pollathavan had given a different dimension to commercial cinema. Subramaniapuram had created a storm, it was equally loved by critics and the audience, it had a long run of 100 days and more in the theatres. Venkat Prabhu’s Chennai 600028 also became a sensational hit. But we never saw a consistency in the evolution of content driven cinema, a Paruthiveeran and Katrathu Tamil M.A would arrive, make an impact then the genre would fade away. There was a time when new entry in cinema was totally unseen. Then by the early 2010’s it slowly started changing, the number of alternative cinema made in a year slowly started increasing, even though the audience for this type of cinema were less, the theatres didn’t run empty shows. Some credits has to be given to the multiplex culture and the growth of use of the internet. People were exposed to various kinds of cinema at the click of a mouse button. One common factor is evident when we look at these film, almost all of them are made in low budgets and we don’t see any big star’s face in them. Why is this happening? Most importantly which are these “small” films that is taking Tamil cinema to a greater level?! Let’s take a look at these excellent pieces of cinema…
As we mentioned above the consistency was missing and today we can proudly present a bunch of youngsters who have repaired the gap. Since 2012, we have seen at least 4/5 films that stand out from the general lot. Pizza, Vazhakku En 18/9, Marina and Attakathi were unique films of 2012. This number had increased in the next years and when we reach 2016, the list becomes more colorful with Irudhi Suttru, Sethupathi, Kadhalum Kadanthu Pogum, Iraivi, Oru Naal Koothu, Joker, Kuttrame Thandanai, Uriyadi, Dharma Durai, Aandavan Kattalai and Dhuruvangal Pathinaaru! Now that’s an impressive list and this year’s India’s official Oscar entry was also a Tamil film, Visaaranai! These films first have a rich story, powerful screenplay, gutsy director, constrained budgets, then actors and finally SUCCESS! This shows now the audience are also open to new contents.
When it comes to a film’s release in today’s time, the most important part is it’s marketing and almost all the above mentioned films had a very less promotion done before the release. If we take films like Joker, Uriyadi and Dhuruvangal Pathinaaru, apart from the film bugs of social media, they were noticed by the general audience post the release. The opening was very low. And if we go in a reverse order, the opening depends on who is in the movie and how it is marketed, if the film doesn’t have any familiar faces or a well known director or if is not backed by a capable production house it becomes difficult to get a distributor (the person who takes the film forward for it’s release with getting it theatres and doing the regional marketing, often films have many distributors at different regions) and theatre owners would hesitate to buy the films. The process after filming is purely business and that’s how the trade works, here the quality won’t be selling factor. So for the content driven category of cinema, the word of mouth is the biggest publicity. The popularity of social media helps a lot nowadays. And also there are films that get great openings and then face a terrible downfall. So when an unconventional or a different kind of film script is taken to the producer, he/she would not want to spend a lot of money on it as they would know that they cannot cast a big hero and they would not get enough money from the satellite rights or the distributors and exhibitors, they may not be sure whether the audience would accept the film or not, so all together it’s a risk. That’s how these films get caged inside a fixed amount of budget. And a director who is passionate enough to make compromises would make the film. In the case of Dhuruvangal Pathinaaru, the director, Karthik Naren’s father had put the money in for the film. Not just the film’s complex nature but also the filmmaker’s age was an issue to the producers!
Few months it was unbelievable to see this film called Joker was made in Tamil Cinema, usually in our “political” films we see the hero entering politics and making big changes etc. but here, without even mentioning any political party, the harsh reality was shown of how imbalanced our democracy is! The director was extremely successful in conveying his vision to the audience. Raju Murugan deserves to be given more chances in the future in a greater scale. Sethupathi can be counted as one of the best cop movies in recent times, it had heroism and realism in a perfect mixture, director Arun Kumar’s first film Pannayaarum Padminiyum was also heartwarming little story that almost had a feel of the childhood bedtime stories. Uriyadi reflected the huge unsettled issue of the presence of caste discrimination and the crimes occurring due to it. Aandavan Kattalai can be presented as a commercial film as it had no complication, a good amount of comedy and of course Vijay Sethupathi. The director, Manikandan’s another film, Kuttrame Thandanai had also released last year, it was a crisp, fast film and many critics appreciated it by saying it can be put under the Hitchcock genre. Manikandan’s Kaakka Muttai was loved by all and the director is particular in selecting different genres for each of his films. The year ended with a totally unexpected Dhuruvangal Pathinaaru.
If we go a little back, we find the growth of Karthik Subbaraj, Nayanthara taking up solo films and opening up a market for heroine oriented cinema, new types of technicians coming up, even the pattern of film music changing, directors who have made one good film is also recognized by the audience, new genres and of course the birth of the star who is affectionately Makkal Selvan, Vijay Sethupathi. Today a whole lot of movies are taken to Vijay Sethupathi so that the makers can retain the quality and get a good market through the star. The presence of the actor and his role in getting limelight for the best films of 2016 is clearly seen. And when we speak about Vijay Sethupathi or Karthik Subbaraj or Mani Kandan or Pa Ranjith or Attakathi Dinesh or even Santhosh Narayanan, these guys have earned their popularity through the off beat cinema, it provides fame too. We have also seen films that didn’t work at box office when released but gained fans when telecasted in TV and through torrent copies, films like Aaranya Kaandam is an example of this category. The satirical treatment of the film and the way it got shot was later on discussed widely and referred till date. Even Sathuranga Vettai gained more audience through television. Coming role of heroines, it is slowly but steadily changing, we cannot say that the ladies are no more objectified but we can hope the practices would change in near future. Surely today when Jyothika or Nayanthara is coming with a good content, they are given the deserved attention. The villains have also changed and Thani Oruvan has to be mentioned at this point, the film had a popular hero yet it didn’t have any commercial adjustments and the show stealer was Aravind Swamy.
To sum it up, the superstar films may be the money makers (there are chances of a change in that) but years later when the future generations turn back to Tamil Cinema, they would find these “small” films most relevant. Today when we see packed up cinema halls that screen Maanagaram and Kuttram 23 (people welcome actors when they try something new like now Arun Vijay in Kuttram 23), we must understand that the content is the king and not the budget or actors. When Shankar is given a big amount of money to make movies it makes sense because he delivers a quality product but we see a lot of films that has big budgets for unnecessary gloss and arrangements, releasing with no story, no logic or even minimum common sense and they take the complete advantage of the audience, may be the makers are still thinking these stuffs would work and finally fail to impress or collect money. We need filmmakers like Karthik Naren who gives some work to our brains, like Karthik Subbaraj who would tell a story in the most unexpected manner, like Manikandan who presents tales of different classes, like Thiagarajan Kumararajan who would make us believe we too can make films with foreign standards and like Vetrimaran who would take our cinema to an International platform. Finally, it is a matter of utmost necessity that we need producers who wills to take up good cinema to the audience and they can proudly take the credit of taking the risks, and it would be great if the stars would try something different, it has become boring to see them do the same thing again and again, the audience have changed, the trade has changed and now its the actors’ turn! The time we witness now is the face of change in cinema, the change for greater things and these films are certainly taking the industry to a greater level!
Hardcore Film Lover and Ardent Movie Goer, Aspiring Film Maker.