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Dear Kollywood, where are the love stories?

A still from 'Vinnaithaandi Varuvayaa'

A still from 'Vinnaithaandi Varuvayaa'  

As Valentine's Day approaches, Tamil cinema is desperately yearning for romantic subjects, with the likes of an 'Alaipayuthe' or 'Vinnaithaandi Varuvayaa' just a nostalgic memory

The Valentine weekend is here, but there is no palatable excitement in the Tamil film trade. Among the new releases, there seems to be only one romantic film, Oh My Kadavule. That’s a far cry from the days when romantic subjects used to crowd the ‘Kadhalar Dinam’ weekend.

With the decreasing number of songs, the concept of love itself has changed in Tamil films. Veteran music composer Gangai Amaran, who was part of a jury selecting the best songs from 2019’s films, had a tough time. He explains, “I’m pained to say the quality of music and lyrics have come down over the years, as most music directors are in search of a catchy number without bothering about the lyrics and composition.”

In the last few months, films that were marketed as ‘rom-coms’ did not work well at the box-office. Films like Alaipayuthe and Vinnaithaandi Varuvayaa look like they were from a different time. The last romantic hit in Tamil was the Vijay Sethupathi-Trisha 96 in 2018, directed by Prem Kumar, who remade the film in Telugu as Jaanu with Samantha and Sharwanand. But even the filmmaker doesn’t describe it as a ‘pure romance’. “It did not have the kind of romance or love scenes that Tamil audiences are used to. I won’t be making any sequel to it. Now, I’m in the process of writing a new script more of an edge-of-the-seat thriller as I would like to do something different.”

Dear Kollywood, where are the love stories?

With the trend veering towards thrillers and horror comedies, romance seems to have taken a backseat. And that, in turn, affects the songs in the films. Today, most stars are not keen on lip sync songs and prefer background numbers. The number of songs has come down to three or four per album, as opposed to seven a few years ago. Singer Srinivas explains, “Songs have moved from ears to the eyes, as the idea today is to create a big bang impact as a promo to create a curiosity around the film. So the emphasis is on catch phrases and the need to catch the attention of the viewer in 10 seconds. Melody is no longer relevant in an age when composers are trying to create viral hit numbers.”

Carnatic singer Sudha Raghunathan agrees, saying, “The new romantic songs are no patch on the 60s to 80s evergreen numbers, the golden age of Tamil film music, and lack beauty in lyrics. Today’s romantic numbers are folk-driven. As a Carnatic singer, I’m unable to get over the fact that the melody, pain or sadness in a romantic number has gone missing.”

Challenges for composers

Tamil cinema’s popular music director and currently the busiest with an impressive list of romantic numbers, D Imman, feels that love tracks are difficult to be fit in non-romance genre flicks. “Only if the director got that extraordinary skill to form a neat lead scene bridging into a song will it work in today’s times.” He feels that the top heroes in the industry doing ‘mass’ commercial films require only four songs....most of them ones that play in the background. “With so many restrictions, implementing a romantic number or convincing a story teller to have a romantic song in their films is challenging.”

When a film needs to be trimmed, the romantic song is the one that gets hit first. A CBFC spokesperson says, “It has come to our notice that a lot of filmmakers are doing their own cutting to reduce run time. They remove songs or reducing their length prior to release after we have issued the censor certificate. It’s illegal as per law they should re-censor the film even if they cut one second from the original.”

Imman affirms by saying that it is only the fast-paced song that usually makes it to the theatre cut. “As a composer, once you do fast or rhythm-based songs, the intensity in melody making may get affected.” It is one of the major reasons why romantic songs are comparatively getting reduced these days.” With a new breed of filmmakers and composers taking over Tamil cinema, the onus seems to be more on creating chartbusters rather than a good old romantic melody.

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Printable version | Feb 20, 2020 12:51:14 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/dear-kollywood-where-are-the-love-stories/article30808462.ece

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