CE Year in Preview: Days of Future Past for Tamil Cinema
Tamil cinema had one of its most prolific years in 2023. Not only did the biggies make really big money, but the new order ensured they weren’t just also rans. But with a new year dawning on us, it will be fun to see if the new order has it in them to be consistent. Undoubtedly, it is this consistency that cemented the legacy of the once new order who have become the big alphas in the fight.
Of course, with the releases that are being planned, it is clear that the superstars are getting bigger and better too, and it will be interesting to see if 2023’s heralded game changers have it in them to spar it out in Round 2 i.e 2024.
The Opening Credits
Pongal is the first festival of the Tamil calendar, and like the conversations around all important festivals in the State, this too will invariably be about cinema. The past and future will fight it out at the box office with Dhanush’s Captain Miller and Sivakarthikeyan’s Ayalaan being released on the festive day. While the Arun Matheswaran directorial takes us back to the fictional past, the Ravikumar film is set to pull us to the fictional future. What will come up trumps is anybody’s guess, but the first month of the year is expected to be rounded off by Aishwarya Rajinikanth’s Lal Salaam, headlined by Vishnu Vishal and Vikranth with a cameo by Rajinikanth.
The Proverbial Comebacks by the filmmakers
They say form is temporary but class is permanent. What was told about the sports field can be extended to cinema too. National Award-winning director Bala, who has been facing a lull of sorts, faced a fresh setback when Suriya walked out of his Vanangaan. With Arun Vijay roped in to replace Suriya, Vanangaan might just be the shot in the arm required for Bala. After the rather sedate box-office response to Darbar, AR Murugadoss has been laying low for quite some time. But he is raring to make a comeback with his next, which will be headlined by Sivakarthikeyan. While Annaatthe is said to have raked in the big numbers, director Siva did face his share of criticisms for the overwhelming cliches in the Rajinikanth-starrer. Well, as an answer to that, and for so many other reasons, Siva is making a mass masala historical epic in Suriya’s Kanguvaa. Said to be dubbed in around 38 languages, Kanguvaa just might be that big pan-Indian, I mean pan-World film from Tamil. And director Hari too is reuniting with Vishal for Rathnam, which might put the former back in the reckoning as the mass director who knows the audience’s pulse. A bunch of proven debut filmmakers like Premkumar (96), Nithilan Saminathan (Kurangu Bommai), Desingh Periyasamy (Kannum Kannum Kollaiyadithaal), and Rajkumar Periasamy (Rangoon) are making their much-awaited sophomore films after a long sabbatical this year. They are making films with the likes of Silambarasan TR, Sivakarthikeyan, Karthi, and Vijay Sethupathi, and it might just be those dark horses that define Tamil cinema this year.
Sequels, Franchises, and everything in between
Some films warrant a sequel, and sometimes some filmmakers and actors need a sequel to either make a solid comeback or remain relevant. While let’s not get into the details of which film falls under which category, 2024 will have its share of films of this category reaching theatres consistently. If Sundar C is coming back with Aranmanai 4, the latest instalment of his horror-comedy franchise, Mysskin and Ajay Gnanamuthu are trying to re-establish the pure horror genre with the much-awaited Pisaasu 2 and Demonte Colony 2, respectively. CV Kumar, the man behind the birth of the present generation of unmissable talents in Tamil cinema, is back with Maayavan 2 and Soodhu Kavvum 2. Sequels to Mundaasupatti and Maragadha Naanayam are also in the works. The second part of Viduthalai is expected to hit the screens, and Kamal Haasan is back as Senapathi in Shankar’s Indian 2, which is expected to be one of the biggest films of 2023.
The BIG Guns
Thug Life, Mani Ratnam and Kamal Haasan’s first film after Nayagan is expected to be a 2024 release. Kamal Haasan is also working on KH 233 with H Vinoth, and it will be interesting to see if the actor-politician will have multiple releases a year for the first time in almost a decade. Meanwhile, Rajinikanth too is currently working on Jai Bhim director TJ Gnanavel’s next, titled Vettaiyan, which will be a 2024 release. Even if his next biggie, Thalaivar 171 with Lokesh Kanagaraj, doesn’t hit the screens in 2024, there is no doubt that the film will hog the headlines the entire year. The Greatest of All Time, Vijay’s maiden collaboration with maverick director Venkat Prabhu can already be pegged as the film to break all records in 2023. While there have been no discerning updates from the team, it is clear that Ajith’s Vidaamuyarchi, helmed by Magizh Thirumeni will be one of those slick blockbuster actioners of 2024.
From what we have seen so far, our safest bet for this year’s award circuits will be Pa Ranjith-Vikram’s Thangalaan. Vikram is also working in Chiththa director Arun Kumar’s next, and it is heartening to see stars throw their weight behind filmmakers who let their work speak out loud. Apart from Kanguvaa, Suriya is set to reunite with his Soorarai Pottru director Sudha Kongara for Puranaanooru, which might go back in time to talk about a theme that is pertinent to this day. Sivakarthikeyan is raising his game with collaborations with Rajkumar Periasamy and AR Murugadoss. Oh… and actor Dhanush is reuniting with director Dhanush in D 50. The latter is also working on his third directorial, Nilavuku Ennadi Enmel Kovam, and the former is Hindi cinema-bound with director Aanand L Rai, who gave him Raanjhanaa and Atrangi Re.
Clutter at the Box-Office
2023 saw the Tamil box-office often bombarded with 5-6 films a week with a sense of content fatigue setting in. Almost 250+ films were released in the past year, and things show no signs of reducing in 2023. This doesn’t include the number of originals, both films and web series, releasing directly on streaming platforms, and the re-releases that seem to have become the trend. While every film finds its audience in one form or another, will the stakeholders of cinema sit down and figure out how the small fish can swim in the same waters as the big sharks and find a way to co-exist? In 2023, we saw how the New Order managed to stay strong even as the big-ticket juggernauts rolled through the conversation. If the former’s percentage has to increase, then it is high time systems are in place to ensure breathing space for all films.
The New Order
While the films of the big guns will undoubtedly govern the conversations around Tamil cinema in 2024, if the New Order plays its cards right, they will be more than just the fillers in these silences. Kavin has films with Elan (Star) and choreographer-turned-director Sathish (Kiss) in the pipeline. Ashok Selvan will be seen in Neelam Productions’ Blue Star, alongside Shanthnu Bhagyaraj. He will also be seen in a bunch of other films that follow the template of Ashok Selvan films that might come out of nowhere but manage to win the hearts of the audience. Manikandan’s next, Lover, has already shown signs of being the ‘youth’ film of 2024. He will also be part of a yet-to-be-titled family entertainer. While actors like Kalidas Jayaram, Vasanth Ravi, and Vishnu Vishal are coming up with a bunch of interesting projects, we also have a bunch of up-and-coming actors who are just one good film away from their next elevation waiting to showcase their wares in 2024.
Women of next year’s cinema
After a not-so-successful 2023, the next year carries hopes of making things better for the women in cinema. It’s been a lovely couple of years for Trisha, who is riding high on the success of Ponniyin Selvan films and Leo, and is setting her sights on even bigger things with Thug Life and Vidaamuyarchi. Actors like Nayanthara and Keerthy Suresh are backing interesting projects that have the potential to work majorly due to its promising premises. After a year’s break, Sai Pallavi will be back in Tamil cinema with SK 21, and there are a bunch of proven actors like Rukmini Vasanth (Vijay Sethupathi’s next), Meenakshi Chaudhary (GOAT), and Anna Ben (Kottukaali) entering the big leagues in Tamil. While some of these films already come with a lot of hype, what will be interesting is to see those little gems in the offing that are making the right noises in the right places, and will one fine day burst into the public consciousness.
The Mid-Credit Surprise
Oh, there is another small thing of a new strain of Corona doing the rounds in the country and talks about one of the GOAT superstars of Tamil cinema taking a much-awaited political plunge. Wait… is it 2021 all over again?
What is history if not repetitive, right?