The Tamil film industry, affectionately known as Kollywood, has grown exponentially since its humble beginnings in the early 1900s. The first full-length sound film in Tamil was made in 1932. American Ellis R. Duncan, a graduate of the University of Southern California (USC), came to Chennai in 1935 and made Tamil films until the 1950s. He directed many famous Tamil actors including M. G. Ramachandran, the future Chief Minister. D.P. Rajalakshmi is the second female director in India. In 1936, his directorial debut was the Tamil film Miss Kamala. Meyappan of AVM Studios, one of the oldest studios in AV India, is dubbing the 1943 Kannada film Harichandra into Tamil. Since then, dubbing has become a common practice in Indian cinema. The 1948 film Chandralekha was the first popular Tamil film to be released nationwide.
At the turn of the century, Tamil cinema gained a global presence, boosting the film industry in countries such as Sri Lanka and Malaysia. Today, there is no shortage of talented directors and actors who take to the stage to show the rest of the film industry what they are capable of.
Saani Kaayidham (2022)
Few Tamil directors try to focus on form over substance. Now Arun Mateswaran has joined Mishkin, Vethimaaran, B. Ranjit and Marie Selvaraj. Chani Kaitham is Arun’s sophomore. Like his debut Rocky (2021), this is a revenge drama. Building on two brilliant centerpiece performances by Kirti Suresh and Selvaragawan, Chaani Kaitham is set in the late 1980s, with a conflict rooted in deadly caste pride at its core.
The film unfolds with plots describing the monstrous injustice suffered by the protagonist Ponnie. When legal options deny her justice, Bonnie embarks on a journey of revenge with the help of her estranged brother. Saani Kaayidham is not a unique story, but the multi-layered script and captivating visual structure make for a very immersive cinematic experience.
Jai Bhim (2021)
Jai Bheem by DJ Gnanavel is based on several true stories of police brutality against lower caste tribes and communities. It begins with a scene in which the police are selecting recently released low-caste prisoners to re-arrest them on trumped-up charges. Later, we see young people from the tribal community being falsely accused of burglary. The next day, the police reported that he had escaped from custody. But his whereabouts are unknown. A human rights lawyer takes on a case and uncovers horrifying truths about the system.
Jai Bhim is a scary and depressing film. The on-screen depictions of violence are sometimes groundless and repetitive. But it highlights the reality of the Indian justice and law enforcement system. Surya’s thoughtful performance as Vakil Sanduru anchors the story perfectly.
Marie Selvaraj’s second film is a rousing call to action for a system based on injustice. Dhanush plays the role of the savior of the inhabitants of the small village of Kodiangakulam. Mary establishes her role, which gradually leads to a creepy interlude where Karna rebels against power and caste slavery. This is an interesting ending to the story. The bus is not the real enemy, but represents all the discrimination that the villagers have to face. This led to clashes between the villagers and the Kannabran-led police.
Selvaraj continues his fight to tell socially conscious stories alongside Karnan. The show was outstanding from start to end. Like a reluctant hero, Dhanush allows us to feel the emotions of his journey. Lakshmi Priya Chandramuli, Natarajan and Gauri Kishan are doing well in their roles. The uplifting music of Santosh Narayanan helps us wake up from the slumber of ignorance.
Lokesh Kanagaraj delivers on the promise of classic mainstream cinema with his latest release. It’s always hard to make a film with Vijay, one of the biggest stars of Kollywood. It’s the perfect balance between trying to satisfy ardent fans and maintaining your voice as a creator. Lokesh is very close to making this happen. So we get JD, an alcoholic but likeable professor trying to get him into a reform school for juvenile delinquents. The way he tries to change the prisoner becomes a vestige of a conspiracy.
Lokesh joins a formidable opponent in Bhavani, played by the charismatic Vijay Setupati. He tells us the villain’s backstory and shows us how dangerous Bhavani really is. The scene where two stars look at each other is a treat. But despite being instrumental in JT’s awakening, Maravika’s role seems to have been written. The entire varsity section doesn’t really reveal anything new about the characters, it just added an extended period of almost 3 hours. Despite these shortcomings, we recommend the master for Anirudh’s breathtaking background soundtrack and Lokesh’s bold attempt at recreating the Masala movie.