The “Small” Yet Great Films In Tamil Cinema!

Have you ever come across the term “Parallel Cinema”? Originating in the Bengali film industry during the 1950s, this film movement aimed to provide an alternative to the mainstream Hindi cinema. Over time, various regional film industries, including Bollywood, adopted their versions of commercial and parallel cinema. In Tamil Cinema, the late 80s and most of the 90s were dominated by star-driven films, with luminaries like Balu Mahendra, K. Balachander, Bharathiraja, and Mahendran shaping the industry.

Exploring the Parallel Cinema Wave in Tamil Cinema

As the 2000s dawned, a new wave emerged with directors like Bala, Mysskin, Ameer, and Selvaraghavan bringing fresh perspectives. Cheran catered to diverse audiences, Gautham Menon introduced stylish characters, and Lingusamy and A.R. Murugadoss delivered entertaining plots. Films like “Pollathavan” and “Subramaniapuram” brought a different dimension to commercial cinema, while Venkat Prabhu’s “Chennai 600028” became a sensational hit. Despite occasional gems like “Paruthiveeran” and “Katrathu Tamil M.A,” a consistent evolution of content-driven cinema remained elusive, with impactful genres often fading away after making their mark. Join us as we delve into the fascinating journey of Tamil Cinema’s parallel cinema evolution.

In the not-so-distant past, the concept of new entries making waves in the cinema industry was virtually unheard of. However, the narrative began to shift in the early 2010s, witnessing a gradual increase in the production of alternative cinema. Despite a niche audience, these films successfully avoided empty theaters, thanks in part to the burgeoning multiplex culture and the widespread use of the internet. The digital era allowed people to explore a plethora of cinematic experiences with just a click, contributing to the rise of these indie gems. Notably, many of these films share a common trait—they are made on shoestring budgets and often feature lesser-known faces rather than big stars.

Unmasking the Unsung Heroes: Tamil Cinema’s Indie Gems

Examining these films reveals a trend: most are crafted with limited resources but possess compelling narratives and innovative storytelling. Since 2012, a new wave of filmmakers has emerged, filling the void in Tamil cinema’s landscape. Standout films like “Pizza,” “Vazhakku En 18/9,” “Marina,” and “Attakathi” marked the beginning of this cinematic revolution. The subsequent years witnessed an escalation in both quantity and quality. By 2016, the roster expanded to include cinematic gems such as “Irudhi Suttru,” “Sethupathi,” “Kadhalum Kadanthu Pogum,” “Iraivi,” “Uriyadi,” and many more.

A Cinematic Renaissance: Reshaping Audience Preferences

The success of these films lies in their rich storytelling, powerful screenplays, audacious directors, budget constraints, and, ultimately, their triumph at the box office. Notably, 2016 saw the inclusion of “Visaaranai” as India’s official Oscar entry, solidifying Tamil cinema’s position on the global stage. This impressive list reflects a shifting paradigm where audiences are increasingly receptive to fresh, innovative content. Join us as we delve into the captivating journey of Tamil cinema’s alternative cinema and the remarkable films that have redefined success on their own terms.

Marketing: The Silent Player in the Success of Indie Films

In the contemporary film landscape, the crux of a movie’s success lies in its marketing strategy, a facet often overlooked in the success stories of numerous films. Surprisingly, many of the aforementioned indie films witnessed minimal promotional campaigns before hitting the screens. Take, for instance, the cases of “Joker,” “Uriyadi,” and “Dhuruvangal Pathinaaru.” Beyond the film aficionados on social media, these movies garnered attention from the general audience post-release, reflecting initially modest openings.

The Catch-22 of Film Marketing

Reversing the narrative, the success of a film’s opening hinges on factors such as the star power involved and the efficiency of its marketing. For films lacking recognizable faces, renowned directors, or backing from established production houses, securing a distributor becomes a daunting task. Theatre owners, too, exhibit reluctance in acquiring films without these assurances. The intricate post-filming process transforms into a purely business-oriented venture, where quality takes a backseat to the dynamics of trade.

Word of Mouth: The Silent Promoter

In the realm of content-driven cinema, traditional promotional avenues often prove insufficient. Here, word of mouth emerges as the most potent publicity tool. The advent of social media serves as a game-changer, amplifying the reach of unconventional films. However, the unpredictable nature of audience reception remains a double-edged sword, and films that witness promising openings may face precipitous declines.

Budget Constraints: A Necessary Compromise

The genesis of unconventional scripts often encounters resistance from producers, who are wary of investing substantial sums. Without the allure of a marquee actor, satellite rights, or the guarantee of robust returns from distributors and exhibitors, the financial viability of these projects becomes precarious. Directors, fueled by passion and a willingness to compromise, navigate these constraints to bring their vision to life. In the case of “Dhuruvangal Pathinaaru,” director Karthik Naren’s father played a pivotal role by investing in the film, overcoming both financial constraints and the skepticism surrounding the filmmaker’s age.

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: Unveiling the Veil on Caste Discrimination

“Uriyadi” stands as a cinematic revelation, bringing to the forefront the pervasive issue of caste discrimination and the crimes emanating from it. In this narrative, the film becomes a mirror reflecting the unresolved societal concerns surrounding these deep-seated prejudices.

Aandavan Kattalai: Blending Comedy with Social Commentary

On a different note, “Aandavan Kattalai” presents itself as a commercial film devoid of complexities. It seamlessly weaves humor, commercial appeal, and the charismatic presence of Vijay Sethupathi. The film, directed by Manikandan, encapsulates an entertaining experience with its unique blend of narrative elements.

Kuttrame Thandanai: Manikandan’s Hitchcockian Masterpiece

Exploring Manikandan’s filmography, “Kuttrame Thandanai,” released in the same year, emerges as a crisp and fast-paced cinematic venture. Many critics commend the film for its distinctive style, labeling it as fitting into the Hitchcockian genre. Known for venturing into diverse genres, Manikandan consistently delivers films that challenge conventional storytelling.

Changing Dynamics: From Kaakka Muttai to Dhuruvangal Pathinaaru

Manikandan’s earlier work, “Kaakka Muttai,” received widespread acclaim, highlighting the director’s adeptness at selecting diverse genres. The cinematic journey of the year takes an unexpected turn with the release of “Dhuruvangal Pathinaaru,” leaving an indelible mark on Tamil cinema.

An Era of Evolution: Karthik Subbaraj, Nayanthara, and Vijay Sethupathi

A brief rewind showcases the meteoric rise of talents like Karthik Subbaraj, the emergence of Nayanthara spearheading solo films, and the advent of Vijay Sethupathi, affectionately known as Makkal Selvan. This ensemble of visionaries has contributed to the evolving landscape of Tamil cinema.

Vijay Sethupathi: The Catalyst of Quality Cinema

In the contemporary scene, Vijay Sethupathi plays a pivotal role, serving as the go-to actor for filmmakers seeking to retain quality and secure a robust market for their productions. His involvement has often catapulted films into the limelight, earning recognition for their cinematic excellence.

Offbeat Cinema: A Route to Recognition

The journey of Vijay Sethupathi, Karthik Subbaraj, Manikandan, Pa Ranjith, Attakathi Dinesh, and Santhosh Narayanan underscores the transformative potential of offbeat cinema. These personalities have carved their niche in the industry, gaining popularity and acclaim through their unconventional and thought-provoking contributions.

Televised Triumphs: The Resurgence of Unsuccessful Films

Beyond the confines of the box office, certain films, such as “Aaranya Kaandam,” have experienced a resurgence in popularity through television broadcasts and torrent copies. This phenomenon attests to the enduring appeal of unconventional cinema, transcending initial commercial limitations.

Satire and Cinematic Mastery: Sathuranga Vettai’s Enduring Legacy

The satirical brilliance of “Sathuranga Vettai” reverberates in discussions even today, establishing itself as a film shot with finesse and vision. Notably, the film found renewed appreciation through television broadcasts, exemplifying how unconventional narratives can transcend initial theatrical limitations.

Shifting Paradigms: Evolution of Heroines in Tamil Cinema

The role of heroines in Tamil cinema is gradually undergoing a transformative shift. While challenges persist, notable progress is discernible. The narrative landscape is witnessing a positive change, evident when accomplished actresses like Jyothika and Nayanthara garner well-deserved attention for their content-driven roles, challenging traditional norms.

Villainous Resurgence: Arvind Swamy’s Impact in Thani Oruvan

In the realm of antagonists, “Thani Oruvan” stands as a milestone. Despite featuring a popular hero, the film refrains from commercial compromises, placing the spotlight firmly on Arvind Swamy’s compelling portrayal. The film serves as a testament to the evolving dynamics of villainous characters in contemporary Tamil cinema.

Relevance of “Small” Films: A Glimpse into the Future

While superstar-led films may dominate the box office, the enduring relevance of “small” films becomes apparent when future generations delve into Tamil cinema’s history. Cinemas like “Maanagaram” and “Kuttram 23,” drawing packed audiences, underscore a crucial truth—the content reigns supreme, surpassing the allure of big budgets or star power.

Challenges in Filmmaking: Balancing Quality and Extravagance

In the era of colossal budgets and grandeur, the distinction between a quality cinematic experience and superfluous extravagance becomes apparent. Filmmakers like Shankar, known for delivering quality products with substantial budgets, coexist with instances of films relying on excessive gloss devoid of substance. The emergence of directors like Karthik Naren, Karthik Subbaraj, Manikandan, Thiagarajan Kumararajan, and Vetrimaran reflects a welcome shift towards narrative substance over unnecessary embellishments.

Role of Producers: Nurturing Risk-Taking in Cinema

Integral to this transformative phase is the role of producers willing to champion good cinema and shoulder the associated risks. The credit for steering the industry toward greater heights rests with those who dare to support unconventional narratives. As the audience evolves, stars too must embrace change, offering diversity in their roles to keep pace with shifting cinematic landscapes.

The Face of Change: Tamil Cinema’s Evolution

The present juncture marks a pivotal moment in Tamil cinema’s narrative. The ongoing evolution, spurred by films with substantial content, is propelling the industry to new heights. It’s not just a change; it’s a promise of greater things to come, a testament to the power of storytelling and the collective vision of filmmakers steering the industry into uncharted territories.

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About the Author

Mahima Nandakumar
Hardcore Film Lover and Ardent Movie Goer, Aspiring Film Maker.

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