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Tamil cinema: Rising like a phoenix
At one time Tamil cinema was associated with loudness and melodrama. Garish sets, an excess of sentiments, unnecessary songs, simpering heroines, larger than life heroes, vulgar comedy.... in short, there was nothing subtle or elegant about it.

Then there came a time when violence ruled and the theatres were full of gangsta movies, dripping blood and gore. Of course there have always been people like Balu Mahendra, K Balachandar, Bala, Cheran and others from time to time, who chose to travel a different road, but they were the exceptions.

After movies like Pizza and Soodhu Kavvum, the drizzle has turned into a flood.

Even as acclaimed directors like Mani Ratnam and Gautham Vasudev Menon (their recent movies were duds) lost their touch, Tamil cinema got a new lease of life with directors like Vettrimaran (Aadukalam, Visaaranai), Radha Mohan (Mozhi), Suseenthiran (Vennila Kabadi Kuzhu, Naan Mahan Alla), Karthik Subbaraj (Pizza, Jigarthanda), Manikandan (Kaakka Muttai), P Ranjith (Madras), Nalan Kumarasamy (Soodhu Kavvum, Kadhalum Kadanthu Pogum), Thiagaraja Kumararaja (Aaranya Kaandam), Pushkar-Gayathri (oram Po, vikram vedha), Lakshmy Ramakrishnan (Aarohanam, Ammani), Sudha Kongara (Irudhi Suttu) and many others. Without a doubt, the current crop of Tamil films is much better than Malayalam movies which were once lauded for their content and artistic merits.

This is truly an exciting time for Tamil cinema which is exploring new narrative styles, crafting original stories and launching fresh faces which are not weighed down by burdensome popular images and fans' expectations unlike actors like Vikram and Surya whose current films hardly do justice to their unquestionable talent.

Unfortunately, some viewers are yet to appreciate and understand the value created by these filmmakers and actors.

Many years ago, I was leaving the theatre after watching the movie, 'Anbe Sivam' only to hear a young girl declaim angrily about the atheist character played by Kamal Haasan. The movie did not do well and no wonder director Sundar C decided to stick to commercial potboilers. More recently, while viewing 'Taramani', a young man sitting nearby commented that Andrea Jeremiah must have demanded a lot of money to play the role of a freedom-loving, single mother in the movie! It is a real pity when viewers see things only in terms of box office returns and star remunerations. Might not Andrea have chosen the role for its scope and meatiness?

One of the central themes in 'Taramani', is about coping with change. While the small town hero struggles to cope with changing gender roles in the modern world, his predicament mirrors the disoriented bird's struggle to understand its place in its own world which has changed beyond recognition thanks to the real estate boom which has swallowed its former breeding and nesting grounds. The message of accommodation, empathy and compassion which is so essential if one is to live in peace and harmony in this world might have been entirely lost on that male viewer.

Movies like 'Kaaka Muttai', 'Kadhalum Kadandhu Pogum','Vikram Vedha' and 'Maragatha Naanayam' underscore the fact that Tamil films have finally come of age. Old rules are being broken faster than new ones are being created. Love stories don't always have happy endings. The story is the real hero, not the star. Sometimes even songs are not necessary. Women are neither sluts nor mother goddesses. Heroes cry and get beaten up by baddies. A new idiom is being created using local flavours and universal themes as in movies like Visaaranai and Kaaka Muttai. Tamil cinema is being born anew like the mythical phoenix, from the ashes of its old avatar. Seeing the sea change that has come about in the industry, one can't help wishing that perhaps an infusion of young blood might even have a similar salutary effect on Tamil Nadu's farcical politics as well!

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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