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Films that Made Me - Arun Matheswaran: Veedu is one of the best Tamil films- Cinema express

Films that Made Me - Arun Matheswaran: Veedu is one of the best Tamil films

A biweekly column exploring the films that inspired, influenced and shaped the cinematic sensibilities of contemporary filmmakers

Published: 11th May 2022

In the first edition of Films that Made Me, Arun—after struggling to boil down the number of films to among a plethora of titles that influenced him—shares the films that defined his sensibilities

Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

Directed by: Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris

Written by: Michael Arndt

I was introduced to the film by Thiagarajan Kumararaja during the pre-production of Aaranya Kandam. I loved the film. I think it’s one of those rare films with every character getting great arcs, and we witness a drastic change in each of them. The writing of the characters left a huge impression on me. I also love the film’s humour, the dynamics in the dysfunctional family, especially the grandfather's character. It was exciting to see how much transpires in the constricted setting of a van. Moreover, I love road films. There is an element of ‘road’ in Rocky and Saani Kaayidham as well.

Veedu (1988)

Screenplay and direction: Balu Mahendra

Story by: Akhila Mahendra

I think it’s one of the best films made in Tamil. Veedu represented the life of the middle and lower-middle-class beautifully. It’s a slice-of-life film that presented reality without any embellishments. Balu Mahendra’s film language needs no introduction; it’s neat and he doesn’t sweat over his staging either. It’s a film that showed how drama can be simple yet effective. Once again, it has a wonderful grandfather character. His final scene where he goes and touches the house, invigorated by Ilaiyaraaja’s soundtrack… is a magical moment. There is a black and white version of the film, which is equally brilliant.

While I saw the long walking shot in Rocky as an extension of such shots in Jim Jarmusch’s films, I can't deny the influence of Veedu in that shot. There’s a long tracking sequence of Archana and Bhanu Chandar walking on a road, and this memory might have shown up while shooting Rocky. You see, such has been the influence of these films on me.

The Delta Force (1986)

Directed by: Menahem Golan

Written by: James Bruner & Menahem Golan

I know, it’s the odd one out. There are many extensions of this film, like Police Story, the Rambo films, and more. These are films that I watched in VHS while growing up in Nigeria. Also, it’s the portrayal of an alpha male who can take down 100 men single-handedly. The Delta Force is my starting point for many action films I went on to like later, like the films of Jackie Chan and Sylvester Stallone. The honesty in these films has stayed with me. When you are making an action film, you need to put the effort and it’s visible in these films. Yes, I understand how politically incorrect it is, but as an action film, it influenced me. Perhaps the final showdown with a machine gun in Rocky emanated from such action images.

Seven Samurai (1954)

Directed by: Akira Kurosawa

Screenplay by: Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto and Hideo Oguni

I watched it in film school. The influence of Seven Samurai on the films that followed is indescribable in words. The idea of the film became a genre of its own and has given birth to thousands of other films. My next film with Dhanush also has an element of Seven Samurai. It changed the way I look at films. The western genre and how it was adapted in different countries, be it Japan, Italy and America is a beautiful case study in storytelling and I love how Seven Samurai stands out among these.

Amma Ariyan (1988)

Directed by: John Abraham

It's another film that I discovered in film school. The crowdfunding process that went behind its making is fascinating. From a storytelling perspective, it has a simple premise: a mother has to be communicated about the suicide of her son. The sociopolitical drama that transpires behind this story, however, is mind-blowing. As a film that talks about Naxalism and Communism, I saw it as a counter-culture film; it’s very progressive. I like its film language too, laden with simplicity. And characters walk a lot… perhaps it’s one of those things that seeped in. Films like Veedu and Amma Ariyan taught me that drama can be effective even if it’s simple, sans the flashy visuals and thumping sounds.

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