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The movie industry seems to be shaking off the effect of the pandemic.film,  Siva Karthikeyan’s film, Doctor, has been running to packed houses in theatres. The film’s success has upped the market value of director Nelson Dilipkumar.

Siva Karthikeyan’s recent films had bombed. By turning around the former VJ’s career, Dilipkumar has proved that he can be trusted. Kollywood grapevine has it that he will direct Siva Karthikeyan’s next. It has ready been announced that he will direct Vijay’s Beast. Dilipkumar’s first film was a not-so-remarkable Kolamavu Kokila.

Nelson’s success shows that the next generation of Tamil film directors has arrived. And what is different with this gen-next is that the most promising ones are almost all specializing in entertainment films with little claim towards producing artistic value. This was not the case until recently. From Bharathiraja through Vetrimaran and Pa Ranjith, they had a profile outside of pure entertainment.

In the past even those directors who were known to churn out masala entertainers cut their teeth with serious films. SP Muthuraman, the maker of masala blockbusters like Sakala Kala Vallavan, made Bhuvana Oru Kelvikkuri, Oru Uthappu Kan Simittukirathu and so on. Mahendran may have made Uthiripookkal. But he also made Jani, albeit with his touch so it was always known as a Mahendran film. Mahendran and SP Muthuraman collaborated in films like Adupuli Attam and Thayalkaran rather seamlessly but their differences were always stark.

Shankar may have been known only for his action-comedy box office magic but Mani Ratnam had a profile beyond that. Art and entertainment films may not have been entirely distinct but there were clear differences. Today, those differences have vanished. Today’s films have mixed the two genres thoroughly. Unusual scripts are being written such as in Kannum Kannum Kollaiadithal but there is no Bhagyaraj who could write crystal clear scripts.

The trend can be said to have started with Balu Mahendra’s student, Bala, starting to direct. Sethu, Nanda, Pithamagan, Naan Kadavul and so on were entertainers but were somehow evaluated as alternative movies. Even run-of-the-mill stuff like Avan Evan was looked at with some respect because of the Bala tag.

Another Balu Mahendra student Vetrimaran became famous for presenting largely entertainment oriented films artistically. Today’s directors are a natural progression of these filmmakers. But what is different with the young kids on the block is that they haven’t done the long apprenticeship typical of successful directors in Tamil films. For instance, Nelson studied Visual Communication and after that worked in a Television reality show.

After Abavanan’s Oomaivizhigal, the film institute became a source of directors. Today, Vis Com graduates are coming in droves.

Notable debutantes are Dhuruvangal Pathinaru’s Karthik Naren, Sathuranga Vettai’s Vinoth, Irumbuthirai’s PS Mitran, Uriyadi Vijay Kumar, Kidari Prasad Murugesan, Managaram Lokesh Kanagaraj, Pambu Sattai’s Adam Dasan, Ettu Thottakkal’s Sri Ganesh, Ispade Rajavum Idhaya Raniyum’s Ranjit Jeyakodi, and many others.

But if we were to ask who among them had a successful second film, the list would get considerably shorter. The maker of frivolous movies like Iruttu Araiyil Murattu Kuthu, Santosh Jayakumar, casteist Draupadi’s Mohan Ji are also considered directors in Tamil film world.

Though Karthik Naren made his mark as a young director, his Dhuruvangal Pathinaru was, in its essence, a typical thriller. His next, Mafia, was not remarkable.

Irumbuthirai’s PS Mitran did not shine in Hero. Though Uriyadi was out-of-the-box, the sequels were not quite noteworthy. The same was the case with Kaidi and Master of Lokesh Kanagaraj.

Ranjit Jayakodi’s two films have made a mark, it must be said. His Puriyatha Pudhir had shades of Kim Ki-Duk’s Pieta. Jayakodi seems intent on establishing himself as a talented director in command of his material. Only the next films of Prasad Murugesan, Adam Dasan, Suresh Sangayya and P Virumandi will really show if they are not one-film-wonders.

Every generation has their romance movie. Oru Thalai Ragam, Idhayam, Kadal Kottai and Autograph defined romantic love for various generations of fans. Prem Kumar’s 96 was one such movie. But it is hard to say if he has the capacity to stay for a long innings.

Marri Selvaraj’s has directed two impressive films. He generates confidence.

H Vinoth has made three stand-out films. Sadhuranga Vettai, Dhiran Adhigaram and Nerkonda Parvai were all different. He did not repeat himself in the movies. He also generates confidence.

In Tamil cinema, Balachandar is called as the Apex Director – Iyakkunar Sigaram. He was the tallest in the industry. But many would say it was Sridhar who showed how movies could be made over many decades. Sridhar did not aspire for any artistic image, and he made entertainers. Yet, he made cinema as it was supposed to be made in his time. It is not known if any of today’s filmmakers have it in them to become a Balachandar, Sridhar, Bharathiraja or Balu Mahendra. It is possible they can become a Shankar or even a Mani Ratnam, possibly.

Times have changed. So has talent coming into cinema. In the past, Tamil magazines were either entertainment providers or literary journals. That distinction is no more there. Those who wrote for literary journals write for entertainment publications, too. Films have gone through a similar change.

Many youngsters have entered films. International movies and web series have been their inspiration. This shows in their films and how they present content. Technology is helping their narrative styles. They need little or no apprenticeship to direct movies today. For that reason, it is hard to find too many directors who have made three good movies. Would they be able to leave a mark with so few films?

Fleeting fame and fortune long ago started defining many forms of media in the West. In India, however, many aspired to pass the test of time. But, perhaps, times have changed that Tamil film directors can only get their 15 minutes of fame. And those 15 minutes are all they aspire for.


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