Off-beat films that speak the language of youth and portray life as we live it are the new chartbusters, says Sudhish Kamath
The twin successes of Nalin Kumarasamy’s noir comedy Soodhu Kavvum and Alphonse Putharen’s quirky thriller Neram has probably been the best news for Tamil cinema in a long time.
Simply because it has proved that the offbeat horror thriller Pizza and the unusual comedy Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanom were not flukes of the season last year.
Over the last couple of years, brave, young and confident filmmakers such as Thiagarajan Kumararaja (Aaranya Kaandam), Karthik Subbaraj (Pizza), Balaji Mohan (Kaadhalil Sothappuvathu Yeppadi), Balaji Tharaneetharan (Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanom) and now, Kumarasamy and Putharen have managed to break both form and formula by tapping into genres and sub genres rarely seen in Tamil cinema.
If Aaranya Kaandam introduced neo-noir rooted here, Karthik Subbaraj tapped into Hollywood horror constructs only to pull the rug from under your feet. While Balaji Mohan infused freshness into romance with a modern urban sensibility, Balaji Tharaneetharan brought the boys next door and their wisecracks to life on the big screen through a comic thriller of a bromance. If Nalin Kumarasamy mixed satirical elements in his dark noir comedy, Alphonse Putharen employed feel good in his light hearted comedy of co-incidences.
But what’s common to all these films spread across different genres?
They speak the language of the youth. Not filmy dialogues but casual banter you hear all around you. From the streets, campuses, offices and your own neighbourhood.
Ever since Venkat Prabhu’s street cricket comedy Chennai 600028 and C.S. Amudhan’s spoof Tamizh Padam paved the way for irreverence and anti-formula a few years ago, Tamil cinema has never been the same.
Though stars continued with the formulaic escapist entertainment on one hand and the other bunch of rural filmmakers continued to turn suffering into the new formula channelling poverty porn, a new reactionary cinema began to emerge as a response to formula.
Every stock situation would be countered with a cliché turned on the head. Every punch line would be reduced to a joke. Every filmy ingredient would be replaced with slices of life. And every hero would be replaced by the common man.
Young stars like Dhanush and now, Vijay Sethupathy have shown tremendous amount of commitment to avoiding anything remotely formulaic or heroic and have just played it straight. As the common man. Or the boy next door.
Brave production houses like Capital Film Works (S.P. Charan), Y Not Studios (S. Sashikanth), Cloud Nine (Dhaya Alagiri) and now Thirukumaran Entertainment (C.V. Kumar) have been backing radically different scripts over the last few years.
Anti-formula is the new formula.
Yet, it hasn’t been easy for a whole bunch of others because change is slow. It has been a long wait for many others.
Modern urban films like Milind Rau’s Kaadhal 2 Kalyanam and Venkyy’s Konjam Koffee Konjam Kadhal generated tremendous buzz and positive word of mouth in private screenings but are still waiting for the market to open up and smell the coffee.
Youth sells. Formula is out. Fresh is in.