The first week of November was agog with excitement over not a film’s trailer or poster or song or even a release! It was a tweet announcing a film directed by Mani Ratnam, starring Kamal Haasan. The expectation this film has set marks a great starting point for the upcoming year after what’s been an overall great 2022 which will be remembered for the blockbusters that the South gave the rest of India.
2022 is the year when three filmmakers, Mani Ratnam, Gautham Menon and Selvaraghavan, released their films in the same month. It’s the year which saw three films of AR Rahman compete for our listening time, with ‘Mallipoo’ from Vendhu Thanindhathu Kaadu towering over his other compositions owing to its simplicity and soul. It’s also the year that saw Kamal break every box-office record with Lokesh Kanakaraj’s Vikram. And finally, it’s the year where Karthi saw triple blockbusters (Viruman, PS-1, Sardar) and one in which Sivakarthikeyan gave Don and Dhanush gave Thiruchitrambalam. Hang on, this column is not a year-end listing but a glance at films gone by this year, that has two superlative performances — Vikram as Aaditha Karikalan and Nithya Menen as Shobana, in PS1 and Thiruchitrambalam respectively.
Coming back to November, I supposed cinema (art) imitates life and Pradeep Ranganathan’s Love Today is an example (albeit disturbing at some levels) of that reflection? Yes, that is a question directed at you, the reader and to the larger audience. The misogyny of our society is inside that film as well and it was upsetting because there are films I can quote from other languages that broke the glass ceiling for women in its feel-good romantic entertainers also.
Take, for example all of Zoya Akhtar’s films which have scenes blended into the narrative where gender inequality is not just questioned but also put in its place. I understand I am quoting films written and directed by women but it shouldn’t be any other way even when the films are made by men right?! In Love Today, the heroine makes simpler ‘mistakes’, for which the heckling from the audience is the loudest when compared to the grossly criminal activities the hero engages in, which the film’s writing quickly condones him because he ‘accepts her’ basically stating that we are still at that point where a man is needed to cover up a woman’s shaming and him marrying her is a ‘gift’.
This is why Thiruchitrambalam is the more robust film. It could have shown us the parallel journeys of Thiru and Shobana, but his family had a dysfunctional father-son equation that needed resolution ahead of the romance. 2022 has also been the year of believable, great performances from actors like Radikaa, Prakash Raj and Sathyaraj, whose portrayals in films they appeared in, were the pillars that kept the story tethered. Parthiban re-emerged with Iravin Nizhal that showed us the extent to which one’s passion for cinema can push a team of actors and technicians. Samantha and Nayanthara along with Vijay Sethupathy entertained the majority in Kaathuvaakula Rendu Kaadhal, while Trisha and Aishwarya Rai have left us yearning for more with their Kundavai and Nandini in PS1. Simbu shone bright as Muthu in Gautham’s VTK which certainly deserves a part 2!
This year has been both a blessing and a lesson for Tamil cinema where good writing has given us great films. The secret always lies in the writing and thereafter, on how well a filmmaker can translate it on the big screen. Will 2023 outshine 2002?