Thamizh Talkies: The triumph of a good story
The writer is a producer and art curator
A chance lunch post a recent film shoot led to a bunch of us talking about the kind of films doing well at the box-office right now. One of us, who had not seen any of the recent films but was aware of the euphoria connected with big releases, asked: “What kind of movies do well these days? KGF 2 and Vikram (larger-than-life) kinds or feel-good films (real, smaller scale)?” An ace filmmaker and an upcoming director were part of this discussion. The ace filmmaker said, “Frankly, no one knows, because what emotion/story works inside the movie hall doesn’t seem to work when we see the same film in our living room.” The upcoming director said, “I’m yet to make a film, but when I do, it will be in the ‘feel-good’ zone.”
The question that arose in my head was, “Do feel-good movies have the reach and appeal of larger-than-life films?” I’m sure every producer now wants to be in Kamal Haasan’s shoes, following the resounding success of Vikram. Multi-starrer movies will be the order of the day, but it’s not easy to assemble a cast of solid acting names without say, that one call from the Haasan's desk for which a Suriya will do his thumping ‘mass’ appearance. Lokesh Kanagaraj’s evocative achievement (in my humble opinion) with Vikram is to have the heroes shed their existing ‘image’ and make them play many shaded (and in Suriya’s case a full-on villain) characters. In any mass appeal movie, there is also the music, mainly the songs which play a major role in indicating whether a film has the potential to be a ‘repeat view’ success or garner crores of views on YouTube. Both ‘repeat views’ and ‘quick views’ mean something to the success of a film. So then, the question here is, “Does a filmmaker write his next story with all these success factors in mind, or is the film made to remain true to its setting and mood?”
The question answers itself. Irrespective of the scale of the film, irrespective of the pressure of making a song a super hit or the trailer acquiring a million views, what makes a film appealing, is when the characters, setting, and performances are true to its story. Whether it’s a large-scale suspension-of-reality film or a small-scale relationship movie, the emotions will have to be true to its story. Vikram and KGF have a protagonist who’s had to sacrifice much in order to have the final victory. Both films show mass action moments and have highs that work when one watches the film in the theatre along with a responsive audience. When one watches the same ‘mass’ film at home, the scenes will still have to work; the emotions will still have to appeal to the individual as it does to the crowd. That’s when a film can be deemed as a good movie.
Sivakarthikeyan is seeing a purple patch in his career with back-to-back successes in Doctor and Don. These films don’t belong to the larger-than-life genre, but they do belong to the masala entertainment space, in which there is a bit of everything but there is still one overarching emotion that works (humour in Doctor and sentiment in Don). Sivakarthikeyan’s prowess as an actor comes to the fore in both these films as he tethers these films with his presence and performance. So, does a filmmaker centre a story around an actor? Or around a particular trend? Or cater to what’s doing well in the present moment?
The best answer came from the ace filmmaker (experience, I guess!). “It’s always the story that leads one to make a film; everything else has to stay true to that core.”