Movies

Do family dramas find space in films?

From Vikram.

From Vikram. | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

When the Indian entertainment industry moved away from mythologies in the mid-1950s, social dramas took over. Most of them were based on either Bengali novels or shorts stories. Tamil cinema of the time too reflected this change with films such as Padikkatha Medhai and Padithaal Mattum Podhuma. Most of these films were front-lined by Sivaji Ganesan and became super hits as well, sometimes outrunning MGR’s action-packed tales. These high-on-emotion movies tugged at the audience’s heartstrings, who didn’t mind going back to the theatre for repeated viewing.

From Padikkatha Medhai.

From Padikkatha Medhai. | Photo Credit: THE HINDU ARCHIVES

It was a time when television was still a faraway dream and the Internet was unknown. But with the advent of television in the 1970s, the family drama gradually shifted to the small screen, where it continues to rule. This did not mean that the genre totally disappeared from the big screen. Writers and directors like Visu, K. Bhagyaraj and Vikraman never lost their belief in its timeless appeal. Lingusamy, who came to be known for his action-based love stories like Run and Paiyya, made his debut with the much-loved family drama, Anandham.

From Padithal Mattum Podhuma.

From Padithal Mattum Podhuma. | Photo Credit: THE HINDU ARCHIVES

Popular remakes

From the black and white period to colour era, sentimental family saga has been popular in the remake circuit too. Telugu cinema developed a penchant for social dramas like Missiamma, but its primary affinity was towards mythologies. There has always been a big audience for the sentimental and emotional narratives. For instance, the recent RJ Balaji film Veetla Visesham, a remake of the Hindi hit Badhai Ho, has brought the older folks back to cinema halls. The much-loved Rajinikanth-starrer Baasha also had a family tale and a friendship as its central plot.

From Missiamma.

From Missiamma. | Photo Credit: THE HINDU ARCHIVES

A good film always brings all kinds of audiences into its fold. Lokesh Kanakaraj’s Vikram in its eighth week, and now in its OTT run, has appealed to both the young and the old. This action film in its climax has a man saving his family against all odds. How can we then say family movies have no takers?

From Veetla Visesham.

From Veetla Visesham. | Photo Credit: The Hindu Archives

In 2013, the Telugu multi-starrer, Sitamma Vaakittlo Sirimalli Chettu brought together two heroes from two different generations, Venkatesh and Mahesh Babu, along with a host of well-known actors. Producer Dil Raju organised exclusive screenings of this “deep-rooted family movie” for women.

From Bhaley Pandiya.

From Bhaley Pandiya. | Photo Credit: The Hindu Archives

Due to prohibitive costs of remaking the film, it was released in its dubbed version across Tamil Nadu. Earlier, Tamil films like those of A. Bhimsingh’s starring Sivaji Ganesan and other stalwart actors would be remade and released in Telugu with almost the same bunch of actors; only the hero and the comedian/villain would be cast anew.

This was possible because most of the South Indian films were shot in studios such as AVM, Vijaya-Vauhini, Gemini and Prasad in Madras. These family dramas focussed mainly on performances, dialogues and emotions. Which is why we had actors of the calibre of Sivaji and Savitri, not to forget Balaiah, Manorama, M.R. Radha, Nagesh, and Ranga Rao. They could all emote effortlessly. Humour is harder to replicate, which is why a film like Bhale Pandiya (an all-time favourite of our family across generations), in which Sivaji and M.R. Radha don more than one role, still holds its own.

From Michael Madana Kamarajan.

From Michael Madana Kamarajan. | Photo Credit: The Hindu Archives

Comedy can draw both the family and young audience. Something which Kamal Haasan proved with his films written by Crazy Mohan ( Michael Madana Kama Rajan is perhaps a fitting tribute to Bhale Pandiya). We get to watch the clips of these films online but rarely on TV. One wonders why, especially when retro songs are often remixed and re-released. .

Comedy, action or social dramas, the reality is that only few films today cater to the family audience. Is it a reflection of the nuclear family system becoming the norm, or the changing tastes of movie-goers? Your guess is as good as mine. ‘Per vachaalum vaikkaama ponaalum mallivaasam’ and ‘Rambhambham aarambham’ from Michael Madana Kamarajan were remixed by Yuvan Shankar Raja recently.

The writer is a content producer, writer, artiste and curator.


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Printable version | Jul 22, 2022 6:46:19 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/do-family-dramas-find-space-in-films/article65666260.ece