Thamizh Talkies: Where are the romcoms?
The writer is a film producer and an art curator
The past week has seen a plethora of teasers and trailers, in both Tamil and Telugu. The count has been more in the latter though one trailer starring Ashok Selvan, Nithya Menen and Ritu Varma of a film called Theeni (‘Telugu original Tamil bilingual’, and hence, perhaps the underwhelming title), written and directed by debutant Ani IV Sasi, did tick the right boxes for a romcom. The genre itself is such an underplayed one of late, with crime, sex comedies and thrillers occupying much of the content space in theatre releases, and obviously on OTT platforms as well. A good love story seems so hard to come by these days and I wonder why, as Tamil cinema has had them aplenty always. With romance comes good humor and great emotion, and yet, when you have to name a romcom that touched your heart, do you not find yourself looking at least a decade ago?
Music, of course, is the calling card for this genre. Harris Jeyaraj and his brilliant debut with Minnale (including the track ‘Poopol poopol yenn nenjai koithaval’ and the humming which follows) is now 20 years old! To some extent, films like Oh My Kadavule worked in the music angle also but none to the extent of Harris’ debut along with Gautham Menon. Music indeed is the food of love and I’m sure every music director worth his time now wants that one script that can do justice to the six songs and three BGM bits that will become caller tunes and ringtones once the film gets released. But does the genre itself need a revamp? If yes, why?
Well, for starters, a romcom is expected to be a low-medium budget outing, because it’s led by just ‘dialogues’ between the characters and at the most, you have to shoot a couple of songs in a tasteful set and a foreign locale. But let’s rewatch the massive Telugu superhit with a superstar like Allu Arjun, Ala Vaikunthapurramulo. Each song was thematically, visually and aesthetically different from the other. The depth of the sentiments of the supporting characters bettered that of the lead pair and while the film was more of a ‘family drama’, it is a good go-to film to check how a mainstream star can do justice to this genre. I would love to see a Vijay or Dhanush reprise this role in Tamil, but then, the top tier of stars have moved to ‘mass cinema’. Does this mean that love and romance are not ‘mass emotions’?
A romcom set in a realistic scenario, with a genuinely believable yet aspirational romance (the kind that reflects reality) is a winner always. Mani Ratnam followed by Gautham Menon hold a firm grip on this genre, even if the plot of their films may deal with cops or terrorists. But a full-length romantic comedy with laugh-and-cry-out-loud moments, with a hero and heroine to root for, will always work. This summer, I hope we see films in this genre from our much loved filmmakers.