Thamizh Talkies: A year of plenty
The writer is a content producer and art curator
The first week of November was agog with excitement over... wait… not a film’s trailer or poster or song or even a release! It was a simple tweet announcing a future film. A film produced by Raaj Kamal Films International, Madras Talkies and Red Giant Movies, directed by Mani Ratnam, and starring Kamal Haasan. The popular phrase, “That’s it, that’s the tweet!” has never been more relevant! The expectation this film has set, marks a great starting point for the upcoming year after what’s been an overall great year for the Tamil box office in 2022, a year which will be remembered for the blockbusters that the South gave the rest of India.
2022 is the year when three filmmakers, Mani Ratnam, Gautham Menon and Selvaraghavan, released their films in the same month. It’s the year that saw three films of AR Rahman compete for our listening time, with 'Mallipoo' from Vendhu Thanindhathu Kaadu towering over his other compositions owing to its simplicity and soul. It’s also the year that saw Kamal Haasan break any and every box-office record with Lokesh Kanakaraj’s Vikram. And finally, it’s the year when Karthi saw triple blockbusters (Viruman, PS1 and Sardar) and one in which Sivakarthikeyan gave Don and Dhanush gave Thiruchitrambalam. Hang on, this column is not a year-end listing but a glance at films gone by this year, that has two superlative performances—Vikram as Aaditha Karikalan and Nithya Menen as Shobana—in PS1 and Thiruchitrambalam respectively.
Coming back to November, I supposed cinema (art) imitates life and Pradeep Ranganathan’s Love Today is an example (albeit disturbing at some levels) of that reflection? Yes, that is a question directed at you, the reader, and to the larger audience. The misogyny of our society is inside that film as well and it was upsetting because there are films I can quote from other languages that broke the glass ceiling for women in its feel-good romantic entertainers. Take, for example—all of Zoya Akhtar’s films which have scenes blended into the narrative where gender inequality is not just questioned but also put in its place (just think of Konkana Sen, Katrina, Priyanka and Alia’s roles in all of her films). I understand I am quoting films written and directed by women (Zoya and Reema Kagti) but it shouldn’t be any other way even when the films are made by men right?! In Love Today, the heroine makes simpler 'mistakes' in the course of her relationship, for which the heckling from the audience, rather scarily, is the loudest when compared to the grossly criminal activities the hero engages in, which the film’s writing quickly condones him because he 'accepts her,' basically stating that we are still at that point where a man is needed to cover up a woman’s shaming and him marrying her thereafter is a 'gift'.
This is why Thiruchitrambalam (which elevates the heroine through the journey of the hero) is the better 'feel-good film' for me. A more robust film could have shown us the parallel journeys of Thiru and Shobana, but Thiru’s family had a dysfunctional father-son equation that needed resolution ahead of the romance. 2022 has also been the year of believable, great performances from actors like Radikaa, Prakash Raj and Sathyaraj, whose portrayals in films they appeared in, were the pillars that kept the story tethered.
Parthiban re-emerged with Iravin Nizhal that showed us the extent to which one’s passion for cinema can push a team of actors and technicians. Samantha and Nayanthara along with Vijay Sethupathy entertained the majority in Vignesh Shivan’s Kaathuvaakula Rendu Kaadhal, while Trisha and Aishwarya Rai have left us yearning for more with their Kundavai and Nandini in PS1. Simbu shone brightly as Muthu in Gautham’s VTK which certainly deserves a part 2 in which Muthu will shine brighter!
This year has been both a blessing and a lesson for Tamil cinema where good writing has given us great films. The secret always lies in the writing and thereafter, on how well a filmmaker can translate it on the big screen. Will 2023 outshine 2002?