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Oh Manapenne! released in October revolves around a start-up. The remake of the Telugu film Pelli Choopulu, the Tamil flick directed by Kaarthikk Sundar saw Harish Kalyan and Priya Bhavani Shankar reprising the roles of Vijaya Devarakonda and Ritu Verma. The protagonist wants to become a chef and start a restaurant while the female lead wants to fly to Australia. But their fathers are not keen on supporting their aspirations. The hero is also notorious for his laziness.

Oh Manapenne! discusses how these two meet at a matchmaking event and end up supporting each other’s aspirations. After numerous hurdles, the pair establish a food truck business and unite in family life.The simple storyline was well received and earned a lot of praise.

Unfortunately in Tamil cinema, entrepreneurial success was dismissed in a few minutes in the past. We saw Sarath Kumar becoming a transport owner or Rajinikanth becoming milk baron in a matter of a song in Suryavamsam and Annamalai.

Unfortunately in Tamil cinema, entrepreneurial success was dismissed in a few minutes in the past. We saw Sarath Kumar becoming a transport owner or Rajinikanth becoming milk baron in a matter of a song in Suryavamsam and Annamalai.

In Sudha Kongara’s Soorarai Potru, the protagonist played by Suriya was based on Air Deccan founder G R Gopinath. As much as it talked about Nedumaaran Rajangam alias Maara who dreamt of starting a low-cost carrier, the movie talked about female lead Bommi’s startup venture of a bakery as well.

The average Tamil youth of today is thinking of monetizing his YouTube channel but Tamil cinema has not kept up. Youth themes are still rare in a world where romance still dominates. Young people are visible in politics, arts, literature and so on but Tamil cinema is not really alive to their concerns.

But not too far back sensitive filmmakers successfully made youth films. Sridhar made Ilamai Oonjaladugirathu, K Balachander made Varumaiyin Niram Sivappu and Bharathiraja made a rather avant-garde Nizhalgal. Kamal returned to the theme of jobs in Sathya that talked about young, underemployed youth being misused by politicians.

Shankar and Mani Ratnam took up youth themes a bit differently. Shankar’s Gentleman talked about reservation albeit without looking at the central idea that reservation seeks to provide a level playing field and is not a freebie. Boys was a rather bold youth movie for its time and it probably made Shankar beat a retreat from exploring such themes.

For Mani Ratnam, romance was the primary concern of young people. From Idhaya Kovil through Alaipayuthe, romance dominated his youth films although there were exceptions like Ayudha Ezhuthu or even Guru. Ok Kanmani was another later youth film of Mani Ratnam but the film showed he was already behind the curve in portraying the concerns of young people.

Vikraman’s Puthu Vasantham talked about the friendship of four young men and a young woman. His political film, Pudhiya Mannargal, bombed, however.

Selvaraghavan was a refreshing change although he stuck to the timeworn themes of romance, lust and politics. While Thulluvatho Ilamai, Kadhal Kondein and 7G Rainbow Colony dealt with love and lust Pudupettai was a political film. Mayakkamenna broke new ground in portraying the story of a talented photographer who is redeemed by love.

Gautham Menon’s youth movies were largely romance-based, so were Bala’s. For Tamil cinema, our young people have no other concerns.

Pa Ranjith’s debut movie Attakathi was about romance. He then moved on to Dalit politics in subsequent films. Marri Selvaraj too stuck to this line in his films.

Vetrimaran’s Polladhavan captured youth life quite successfully. Their love of bikes was the driving theme of the movie. Balaji Sakthivel too used the Scooty as a prop to describe a young woman’s life in Madurai. In the past, women rode bicycles or two-wheelers for work. In Kadhal, however, the Scooty becomes a vehicle to describe a young woman’s zest for life and love.

Subramaniyapuram was another standout movie. Friendship, camaraderie and betrayal were its quintessentially youthful themes. Vasantha Balan’s movie talked about rural youth moving to cities for jobs in sweat shops.

Today’s youth have OTT and international quality web series at the click of a mouse. If Tamil cinema wants to retain their viewership, it may have to buck up.

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