Thamizh Talkies: Big dreams for the big screen
The writer is a content producer and art curator
The big screen has never been this bright since Covid-19 took over our lives. The car park and popcorn counters are full once again, and it feels like a carnival as families throng movie halls, the peak summer notwithstanding. Each day, collection figures of big releases seem to soar by a hundred crores more, as more screens seem to be getting added across the country to match the demand created by films getting released in more than one language. ‘Pan-Indian’ is the new movie mantra, even though the idea has been around for over two decades when films of Kamal Haasan and Mani Ratnam did well across states in the 80s. The recent big-ticket films all seem to have become box office winners, going by numbers shared online and in paper advertisements. However, the key question remains: Why are these figures important to the audience? From comparing whether my icon’s films are better than yours, it’s now come to debates on which film hit the fastest century or the fastest thousand crore mark. It’s like this is not cinema, but a cricket match!
With RRR, Beast and KGF: Chapter 2 all bringing in audiences to theatres, there is another question to be asked. Has the era of watching movies inside the comfort of our homes finally snapped? Have we gone back to the days when cinema was best experienced inside dark, air-conditioned halls? The answers will impact the film industry as producers today need to decide what kind of film they will release where and when.
For the audience, there are other questions to ponder over… like ‘what kind of experience am I willing to spend money and time on, by choosing to step out of my home?’. Most big hero films are high on adrenaline and low on logic and space for women (including RRR, KGF: Chapter 2 and the much-maligned Beast, which I found to be the better Vijay film of his last few). When bullets fly in high octane action sequences at breakneck (and breaking neck!) speed, what are we doing, bringing kids who ask questions like, “Why is there no song?” or “How long will the uncle keep beating up bad men?”. When the film industry gets so stressed about the censor board, why then doesn’t it follow prescribed ratings and continue to expose children to A-rated or U/A rated films? Perhaps we believe that A-rating is only for sexual content and not violence? Also, the general perception is that violence in our films is only ‘dishoom dishoom’, and not blood dripping from a freshly knifed head (like in Baahubali). Action films are tougher to execute and I, for one, loved the action in both Beast and KGF: Chapter 2 (work is by stunt duo Anbariv). But the question is, should our kids be exposed to all the violence and chest-thumping machismo and romance in the guise of Stockholm syndrome (in KGF) or two women vying for a hyper-violent man (Beast)?
The second issue I have concerns our love for the mobile phone inside theatres. How can the authorities stop us from clicking images or taking videos of the film being played? Is there a software that can disable the camera option the minute we walk into the theatre AND if possible, change the sound mode to ‘vibration’, so there is minimal noise and no stranger going, “Hello! Ya ya, I will be home for lunch”, during a film. Better still, perhaps theatres should come up with a grotesque ad-reel, like the one showing the after-effects of tobacco?