In Naan Mahan Alla, the hero struggles to take on the baddies. In Boss (a) Baskaran, the protagonist shares promo-space with a comedian. Sudhish Kamath on the refreshing makeover of the invincible Tamil hero
It's probably got to do with the wave of irreverence sweeping Tamil cinema post Tamizh Padam and Goa. The Tamizh film hero is showing signs of being human and real once again.
It comes as a relief to see the guy who beat up over a 100 people single-handedly in Paiyya struggle to fight off four raw, ultra-violent guys in Naan Mahaan Alla.
And it's a welcome change to see the hot property of the season, Arya, actually have the grace to touch the comedian Santhanam's feet as a foil to a comic scene in Boss (a) Baskaran. It's admirable that Arya is sport enough to let his fellow actor share equal footage in the film and in its publicity. It's been a while since a star joined hands with a comic actor to hog the poster and promos.
If Arya earlier spent three years growing a beard and investing in a role that cast him against the type in Naan Kadavul, Karthi had done his share of the offbeat with Paruthiveeran and Aayirathil Oruvan for us to forget his rare no-brainer outing in Paiyya (which at least tried to make a road film out of the run-of-the-mill action formula with just a boy and a girl and a car for most of its running time).
Mainstream heroes in Tamil films have turned real and relatable again. This, until recently, was the domain of a select few led by Dhanush and let's hope the young actor continues to stick to his conviction of doing realistic characters his fans can relate to without feeling the need to turn into a one-man army.
Movie stars around the world come with excess baggage. Down South, every upcoming star craves Superstar (read Rajinikanth) status. Not just on screen but off it too. A majority of actors who have cropped up in the last two decades only want to play the all mighty superhero in the Rajinikanth or James Bond mould, film after film because of the big box office myth — that the hero must be invincible and worshipped on screen for people to respect the star off screen too.
Not true. Nobody takes more beating than Rajinikanth or James Bond. A hero needs to fall first for him to rise again. An actor should be willing to invest in his character and embrace even its unique weaknesses.
As Rocky Balboa observes in the last instalment of the franchise: “The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows… It ain't about how hard you hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done!”
Also, there's a good enough reason that a James Bond or Rajinikanth film releases only once in two years. Every major star who has tried to do the invincible superhero routine every few months has failed simply because they look like they've run out of ideas.
Star and actor
A star becomes an actor you want to take note of only when he's willing to break the mould and step into the shoes of the character he portrays, as hits such as Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya have proved.
Tamil cinema has been at the cusp of change with the impending death of the formula film — a narrative with six songs, six fights and a comedy track will not work if not backed by a solid script and well-defined character motivation.
The twin successes of Naan Mahaan Alla and Boss (a) Baskaran and the failure of recent star vehicles have only proved that people are tired of investing in stereotypes, they want to see heroes in real flesh and blood. Heroes who can take a blow, fall and rise. Heroes who can laugh at themselves, on and off the screen.
“You wanna be really great? Then have the courage to fail big and stick around. Make them wonder why you're still smiling,” as Claire Colburn tells Drew Baylor in Elizabethtown.
Heroes on screen have been lacking in failure and vulnerability. Naan Mahaan Alla and Boss (a) Baskaran have brought back the real hero. If Naan Mahaan Alla is a realistic action film that tries to fight off formula with its vulnerability and raw, street treatment, Boss is a feel-good slacker film that went against the anti-formula — that recently flourished with the explosion of ultra-violent celebration of the tragic anti-hero.
Boss's story is no different from 7G Rainbow Colony. He has no social skills to woo the girl or get a life and career. Nor does he have smart friends. What's interesting is that he doesn't become rich over a song sequence. Nor does his life take a depressingly dark path under the pretext of realism. And that's what makes it relatable. Or real, as we know it.