From Kalaignan to Chandramukhi, charting movies released on Vishu and the break in tradition with no releases this year

Nandhu Sundaram

April 15, 2018 18:27:24 IST

We Tamilians don’t make a song and dance about 14 April as much about Deepavali and Pongal, our harvest festival, which falls on 14 January. Ditto the film industry.

However, after we have the home-cooked feast to usher in the Tamil New Year, many of us make our way to a nearby theater. How that tradition began, we no longer remember. And, more often than not, it’s the feast that is better than the movie.

This year, 27 April may be the more preferred date for releasing movies because of the long weekend. This is one reason why Rajinikanth-starrer Kaala, despite (cross your fingers) the film industry shutdown, might be released on 27 April. This also practically prevents any other big movie from seeing a release that day.

A still from Kaala/image from Twitter.

A still from Kaala/image from Twitter.

You may already know that there will no new Tamil film releases on 14 April this year. You may not be hassled because you can always get your entertainment from your preferred device. But people, especially millennials, may only be dimly aware of the said tradition in Kollywood to mark 14 April with at least one colourful movie.

Movies like Veera and Kalaignan released on 14 April were quite successful in 1990s. Singaravelan, also released on Tamil New Year’s day, enjoys an elevated status among Kamal Haasan fans and is often hailed as one of his best comedies.

Still from Kalaignan/Image from YouTube.

Still from Kalaignan/Image from YouTube.

In more recent years, film history is dotted with movies which were released on April 14 and enjoyed commercial and critical success. Given the fact that we don’t get to see a new movie this ‘Puthandu’ (Tamil New Year), it might be a good idea to lift our spirits by remembering movies that did make the cut over the last few years.

Take, for example, Alaipayuthey (2000; Waves Are Flowing), which was directed by Mani Ratnam at the peak of his powers. That movie, widely regarded one of the best modern romantic movies made in Tamil, was released on 14 April of that year. With a melodic, stunning soundtrack from AR Rahman, the film captured the imagination of the youth in ways never achieved before.

Or take Ghilli (April 17, 2004), which had Vijay as the fearless Sarvanavelu, who saves a girl (Trisha) from the nefarious Muthupandi (Prakash Raj). That blockbuster directed by Dharani cemented Prakash Raj’s position as a villain and revived the action genre in Tamil.

Just like me, you may have fond nostalgic memories of catching these movies in a theater near you. However, if you were to go to the movies only on the occasion of Tamil New Year, it would be hard to charter its course over the years. The unprecedented grip of the New Wave Tamil cinema and its influence would hardly register a blip.

Taken together, there are at least a dozen noteworthy movies released on Tamil New Year’s day or on that week since 2000. Last year, actor Dhanush’s debut directorial venture, Pa Pandi (Power Pandi), starring Rajkiran, Prasanna and Revathi, was released on Tamil New Year’s day to positive reviews from critics.

In 2016, it was the turn of Vijay-starrer Theri to thrill audiences worldwide. Directed by Atlee, the film starred Vijay who gives up his violent ways after the death of his wife played by Samantha. That fast paced thriller went on to become a blockbuster and the scenes between Vijay and his kindergarten going child were much treasured.

A favourite comedy of mine from recent years, Oru Kal, Oru Kannadi (A Stone, A Mirror; 2012), was released just a day ahead of New Year’s day. Featuring Udhayanidhi Stalin in his debut role as actor, OKOK, was a gag-a-minute feature directed by the inimitable M Rajesh. Actor Santhanam, who was the hero’s sidekick in the movie, was given one of his chunkiest roles. The comedy was sparkling fresh and many memorable scenes from the movies of the 1980s and 1990s were spoofed.

But take the case of the epic blockbuster Chandramukhi starring Rajinikanth, Nayanthara, Prabhu and Jyothika. That movie, more than any other, has had the most visible influence on Tamil cinema over the last decade. The horror movie genre is seen to received a boost that lasts to this day. Pizza, Pisaasu, Demonte Colony, Yamirukke Bayamen, Yavarum Nalam and Eeram all owe their existence to Chandramukhi.

Chandramukhi/Image from YouTube.

Chandramukhi/Image from YouTube.

A day after Chandramukhi hitting theatres, Kamal Haasan released a comedy with a unique feel called Mumbai Xpress. However, despite a strong performance from Pasupathi, the movie sank.

Pure masala also finds a place in our illustrious scroll. Gemini, starring Vikram, Kiran and Kalabhavan Mani, was the highest grossing Tamil film of 2002. Though some critics had reservations about the movie, it sailed through, thanks to the huge popularity of the song, ‘O Podu’, which for a while back then became a catchphrase.

Unnale Unnale, directed by the late director Jeeva, had a certain urbane sensibility that audiences identified with. Though this critic did not favour the movie, it cannot be denied that the film reaped it rich at the hustings.

On Deepavali and Pongal, many people get bonuses and increments, which gives them enough disposable income to make a visit to a theater. This trend continues to be in place especially among the lower middle class in Tamil Nadu.

In recent years, it takes a lot to bring a person or a family to the theater. The dominance of television has meant that most people can watch the movie on the small screen not long after its release in the theater. We have come a long way from the era when a movie released on a festival day can do a lot better than a picture released on any normal Friday.

Happy Tamil New Year!

Updated Date: Apr 15, 2018 18:27 PM