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Are senior directors still relevant in Tamil cinema?

A still from ‘Market Raja MBBS’

A still from ‘Market Raja MBBS’   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

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With Saran’s ‘Market Raja MBBS’ hitting screens this Friday, filmmakers talk about the pressure to reinvent themselves in these changing times

The most difficult part of commercial filmmaking is not reaching the top of the ladder, but sustaining it. In that sense, very few directors have survived in the industry. Actors, who were once stars, have managed to survive switching to playing character roles. But is the directors who usually fade out after a successful run. Directors Mani Ratnam and Shankar, who started out in the 1980s and 1990s respectively, have stayed at the top of their game, despite tough competition.

Having said that, there are also unsung directors who have managed to hang on, despite facing several setbacks. Some of them are even going strong; like Saran, whose Market Raja MBBS is slated for release this Friday. SA Chandrasekhar’s Capmaari releases on December 6 and KS Ravikumar’s Telugu film Ruler hits screens on December 20. It is inspiring to note how these directors have stayed afloat, fighting against all odds. This was not possible for directors like Suresh Krissna and Dharani, who have almost faded from the limelight.

The curse of time

The reason is that actors, who gave opportunities for these directors in their initial years, are now opting for young directors. For example, Rajinikanth worked with KS Ravikumar in Lingaa. Since then, he has changed his formula and is now working with ‘new age’ directors. He worked with Pa Ranjith in Kabali and Kaala, Karthik Subbaraj in Petta, AR Murugadoss in Darbar, and with Siva in a yet-untitled film. Vijay too went on to work with Atlee in back-to-back projects and is teaming up with Lokesh Kanagaraj. Ajith Kumar will be seen in Valimai, directed by H Vinoth.

Director Saran

Director Saran   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Speaking about longevity, director Saran says, “I survived in the industry for the last 21 years because I chose my subjects with care. Mani sir and Shankar sir are two people I look up to. I have seen failure at close quarters and made suitable changes to my style of filmmaking, to suit today’s audiences. The basic elements of Tamil entertainers are the same, but the treatment and business have undergone a change. My longevity is because of Ajith with whom I worked in four films (Kadhal Mannan, Amarkalam, Attagasam and Aasal). His fans still have a soft corner for my films. Next year, I will be doing another movie. I have no regrets.”

All for new ideas

KS Ravikumar, on the other hand, is the only director who has worked with A-listers like Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan, Vijay, Ajith and Suriya. He has not directed a Tamil movie since Lingaa. “I have stopped directing Tamil films because honestly, the offers I get do not fit in with my style of filmmaking. I am busy directing films in other languages. Meanwhile, I am also doing significant supporting roles like the one I did in Comali. I am also working with a new breed of directors,” explains Ravikumar.

Director KS Ravikumar

Director KS Ravikumar   | Photo Credit: V_GANESAN

If the trend is anything to go by, it is clear that established stars in Tamil cinema will henceforth work only with young directors, who come up with innovative ideas and concepts. Lokesh Kanagaraj, after the critical and commercial successes of Maanagaram and Kaithi, is now doing Thalapathy 64 with Vijay. He is flooded with offers and has to take a call whether he will do a film with Kamal Haasan or Suriya.

A veteran producer who has been making films since 1980s says, “Some time back, I had the dates of a big hero and a well-known director who had previously worked together in a superhit movie. The production got delayed because the hero was not too keen on working with the veteran and preferred a newcomer. I agreed to his suggestions and the film became a hit. Cinema has changed over the years. The one thing that has remained constant is Tamil cinema’s reliance on superstars. Today’s stars are aware that they need to reinvent themselves. Which is why they prefer young directors who are in sync with today’s audiences.”

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Printable version | Dec 16, 2019 5:59:32 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/survival-of-the-fittest/article30087322.ece

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