Hackneyed themes are now giving way to socially relevant issues. k. jeshion Tamil cinema’s de tour

The commercial success of such films is a positive indication Prabhusolomon

Refreshing - is how film lovers define the current trend in films. A welcome break from the two songs, one kuthu and one fight formula. And, realism and nativity seems to be the flavour of the season. Sethu, Kaadhal, Veyil, Paruthi Veeran, Imsai Arasan 23am Pulikesi, E, Katrathu Tamil…the number of off-beat films is growing. What has set this new trend?

“Appreciation. The commercial success of such films is an indication that new thoughts and socially relevant themes are welcome,” says director Prabusolomon, who made films such as Kokki and E. “The success of Kaadhal inspired me to make Kokki,” he adds.

Director Radha Mohan’s Mozhi is another healthy addition to the success list. Prabusolomon’s next film Laadam will capture the journey of an individual from a village to a city and how he copes. “There are no songs for the hero, but we have an entry song for the villain. The audience wants to look beyond the mundane. It could be the theme, the pacey camera angles, new editing techniques or great music. It’s time we explored technology too to tell meaningful stories,” he adds.

In the 1950s, Parasakthi, Panama Pasama and Raththa Kanneer, brought to the limelight relevant social issues. In the mid 1970s and 1980s, film makers Bharathiraja, Balu Mahendra and Mahendran made an effort to move away from the conventional fare and captured real people, emotions and lives.

Later, it was the trend of masala films such as Sagalakala Vallavan that ruled. After a wait of more than 15 years, the ray of hope came in the form of director Bala’s Sethu. It broke all known conventions of film-making, yet emerged a clear winner. He followed it up with Pithamagan and Nanda. Now, there is no looking back. Directors Radha Mohan (Mozhi), Ram (Katrathu Tamil), Ameer (Paruthi Veeran), Vasantha Balan (Veyil) have arrived.

“It marks the arrival of stories that reflect human values. In such films, people are treated as living beings and not as commodities,” says writer Pamaran, who is associated with Naaivaal film appreciation movement. “Such film makers get closer to people and blur the distance between the audience and the characters. For instance, the character of Surya in Pithamagan,” he adds.

Is it the changing perceptions of the audience that has brought about a revival of realistic movies? “People have always been aware. What has to be appreciated is the arrival of filmmakers, who look at cinema as an art for people’s sake. Their bold scripts aim to bring about a social change,” he says.

The film buffs say the co-existence of the offbeat themes with the unavoidable masala fare is a good sign. “In a list of top 20 films, along with commercial successes such as Malaikottai and Pokkiri, there are equally successful offbeat films too,” says S. Kamala Kannan, short-film maker. If Simbhu Devan raised the issues of politics and globalisation in Imsai Arasan…, director Jannanathan made E which dwelt on the serious issue of bio-war and the subject of impoverished Indians being made ‘guinea pigs’ by international pharmaceutical companies. “The commercial success of such themes has given an opportunity for the upcoming directors to experiment more,” he adds.

But, why are we still stuck with the song and dance format, wonders director Mahendran who has made classics such as Udhiri Pookal, Mullum Malarum and Nenjaththai Killadhe. “Songs should be used in the background as part of the narration, as it has been in Mozhi. Everyone watched the film, because the theme was engaging,” he says. Be it through action, music or comedy, the issues presented have to be genuine to ensure success. “What matters is a solid story and it has to be interesting for the viewers. For this more writers and actors should have a theatre background, the backbone of cinema. And such films should reach all class of people and not just the A centre or the B centre. Now, the trend is like a thiruvizha, you have silambattam, mayilaatam and oyilaatam, all happening at the same time,” he adds.

Commercial films are also welcome but what we want to present is sensible cinema, says director Vijay, who made his debut with Kreedam. His next film titled Paarappa Paarappa Pattinamam Pattinamam is a social satire. “No songs, no action but a good plot. Even big stars are willing to experiment with offbeat themes, which gives an opportunity for young filmmakers to work with different genres of cinema and themes,” he points out. As actor Revathy comprehensively put it: “The current trend in films is quite encouraging. You have films to suit everyone’s tastes - for youth, parents and the man on the street. Along with formulaic films, there are amazing films such as Kaakha Kaakha and Thavamaai Thavamirundhu.”