Forget this month’s Singam blitzkrieg at the box-office for a bit. Going purely by the first six months of 2013, the Tamil film industry has decided to invest on fresh and young talent and comedy, and the audience seem to love the change in flavour. Actors Sivakarthikeyan, Santhanam, Shiva, Vemal and Vijay Sethupathi are the new toast of Tamil cinema with audiences, producers and even critics approving of their work. Sudhish Kamath presents a quick half-yearly report of the films that hit the screens

Much awaited

The year began with Kamal Haasan’s Vishwaroopam and the multiple controversies surrounding its release. While the delay earned the film more publicity and theatres, the euphoria was muted given the records that the Rs. 95-crore film had to break, just to break-even, considering it had no entertainment tax exemption. The film turned out to be only half the story, as it set the stage for the sequel that promised to explain the holes and gaps in the narrative that went back and forth in time. While Kamal Haasan’s fans celebrated the film with whistles (the big reveal scene in the warehouse that drew applause was recently spoofed in Singam II by Santhanam), Mani Ratnam fans defended Kadal, the simplistic good-versus-evil launch vehicle for star kids, for its gripping first-half and colourful song picturisation in the second. The technical finesse hardly made up for the weak script and the film failed at the box-office and polarised audiences.

While Ameer’s Aadhi Bhagawan went cold within days of release, opening to negative reviews and poor word of mouth, Bala’s period drama Paradesi got mixed reviews for its controversial depiction of exploitation of plantation workers in the pre-Independence era. Critics accused Bala of doing exactly what he was criticising. The audience wasn’t kind to the film either, despite the backing and support it received from director Anurag Kashyap, the film’s biggest fan.

The masala film Alex Pandian rode on hype and marketing and managed to keep Karthi afloat.

Laughter all the way

Santhanam’s Midas touch continued throughout the year with successes in Kanna Laddu Thinna Aasaiyaa (KLTA), Settai, Theeyaa Velai Seyannum Kumaru (TVSK) and the climactic cameo in Thillu Mullu. While all four films rehashed plots from films of yore (KLTA was Indru Poi Naalai Vaa, Settai was the official remake of Delhi Belly, TVSK seemed inspired by Hitch, and Thillu Mullu was the official remake of the K. Balachander film), Santhanam’s irreverent one-liners and comic timing saw these films through.

The first half of this year saw Sivakarthikeyan emerge as a promising male lead after two of his releases Kedi Billa Killadi Ranga and Edhirneechal were received well by the audience. Known for his funny retorts as a host for popular reality TV shows, Sivakarthikeyan carried over his talent to films as he played Murugan, an aimless youth, in Kedi Billa Killadi Ranga. The actor held his own against a relatively experienced Vemal.

With Edhirneechal, Sivakarthikeyan showcased other facets of his talent and range. Despite the fact that the script wanders about in the second half, Siva manages to take the film over the finish line. He seems set for a fruitful year with Varuthapadaadha Vaalibar Sangam in the pipeline while Vemal has C.S. Amudhan’s zany Rendaavadhu Padam awaiting release.

Similarly, Shiva consolidated his position and rose above the botched-up remake Thillu Mullu with his one liners (the film has a watchable first-half before it ambitiously tries to depart from the original and lands on its face). With Krishnan Jayaraj’s Sonnaa Puriyaadhu releasing later this month and the comedy Ya Ya, where he is pitted against Santhanam, Shiva seems set to stay.

Vijay Sethupathi completed a hat-trick after Pizza and Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanom, with the insanely funny cult comedy Soodhu Kavvum, and established himself as the thinking actor. The satiristic neo noir crime comedy written and directed by Nalan Kumarasamy was a laugh riot, and is all set to top year-end lists. It would take something outrageously radical and original to beat Soodhu Kavvum this year.

Alphonse Putharen’s bilingual Neram was half as good, and that’s a lot given the layered brilliance of Nalan Kumarasamy’s film. Like Soodhu Kavvum, Neram too is very witty, doesn’t take itself seriously and entertains with its comedy of coincidences.

The also-rans

Kutti Puli emerged a winner at the box-office with its tried and tested blend of mass elements and village sentiments, while Radha Mohan’s well-intentioned social drama Gouravam scored for effort despite its poorly cast leads.

Manimaran’s kidnap drama thriller Udhayam NH4 drew praise for its taut treatment and fast pace while Chennaiyil Oru Naal in the same space, the remake of the Malayalam film Traffic, was well-received by critics and enjoyed moderate success.

Nagaraja Cholan, MA MLA, the disconnected sequel to Amaidhi Padai didn’t really set the box-office on fire but (the late) Manivannan brought back memories of the original.

(With inputs from Udhav Naig)