Thamizh Talkies: An impressive beginning amid meaningless bickering
The writer is a former journalist who has worked in the film industry for several years and is passionate about movies, music and everything related to entertainment
We are in the middle of January 2019, and it still feels like the beginning of a new year perhaps because the weather at the Tamil Nadu Film Box Office (TNFBO?) has been as pleasant and cool as the one in our state. Petta and Viswasam have been declared winners, and we have watched or will be watching these two films with our families and friends. If you’re tracking films like me, then sometimes, you watch just by yourself too. The term ‘tracking’ is in some sort of a grey area in our state, as the actual numbers collected by a film are only as good as the one declared by the producer or distributor (s) as a whole figure, like, say 100 crores. Everything else is mere approximation when it comes to what final figures become available to the media at large, more so to the social media influencers, who, in turn, relay the ‘breaking news’ on a film’s run at the box-office as though it were an announcement of a race to the finishing line.
Frankly, my opinion on a film has never been influenced by how much it has collected or will collect. Do I like what I’ve seen? Will I recommend the film to those I know? Do I love the film so much that I will watch it again? These are the sole three factors which influence me to go see a film and comment on it. Also add critic ratings to the list mentioned in the first paragraph, which is just one person’s report card, and which again should not affect your own opinion of a film. On the other hand, what I do look for is a critic’s explanation of why a scene worked or didn’t and what else could’ve been there instead. A critique of a film must leave me with more information about the film or the craft as such, and not merely espouse ratings.
Unfortunately, a film review (with two or three exceptions at best) these days reads more like a synopsis of the story rather than an opinion on the film as a work of art. Yes, a feature film is a work of art, a labour of love, an expression of ideas and ideologies... It is perhaps the best creative platform which encompasses many art forms including music and dance, acting and drama, art and architecture, writing and research, colours and costumes... So to merely bring it down to a set of numbers is fixing a price tag to a product which did not exist, before a bunch of talented people came together to create it for us.
The hurry with which social media was abuzz with the collection figures of Viswasam vs Petta was totally entertaining to watch. How does it matter to you and me whether Ajith or Rajnikanth win in terms of collections, as along as we have liked one or both of their films? Why was there such a flurry of figures thrown at us with such rush about day-to-day and weekly collections to prove that Viswasam was more successful than Petta? And again, why should it matter to us, the audience? The only people who should worry about such data are those who invested in these two films. Things became so ugly that the producers had to argue with each another on the authenticity of these numbers, which became further fodder for more ‘analysis articles’ on which film was leading in this year’s Pongal race.
According to me, both films won in wowing the audience. Viswasam is an important film because it had a well-balanced story and a climax where a mass hero like Ajith holds his daughter and says “Yen saamy” (my God). It’s a powerful pro-woman message, and that the importance of the girl child is conveyed through a larger-than-life character is the sole trump card of that film. When it comes to Petta, both Rajinikanth and Karthik Subburaj have come up trumps in providing an engaging entertainer. It was great to see Rajinikanth’s return to form. And Petta is as much Karthik Subburaj’s triumph as much as it’s Rajinikanth’s. That is a feat in itself, given the film remains the director’s voice along with its main protagonist’s, and this was achieved way back in Thalapthy. So yes, it has indeed been a glorious start for the TNFBO to have films with ‘repeat audience’ value. I’ve watched Petta twice so far; what about you?