Thursday, January 04, 2007

Tamil Cinema in 2006 - A Recap

2006 was definitely the worst year for Tamil movies since I started reviewing movies seriously. The bad feeling I got as I watched one disappointment after another was confirmed when I perused the complete list of movies. As a thumb rule, I would say movies that earned 2 ½ stars or above were movies that earned my recommendation. In 2006, only 10 movies hit that mark. In contrast, 2005 and 2004 both had 16, 2003 had 14, 2002 had 19, 2001 had 14 and 2000, a phenomenal year, had 22 movies that earned 2 ½ stars or above!

Every year, atleast in the recent past, there’s been one trend that has defined Tamil cinema. Several movies, either by sheer coincidence or as a result of attempting to replicate the success of another movie based on the same theme, belonged to one genre. In 2006, that theme was undoubtedly ‘realistic rowdyism’. While we’ve had rowdy movies in past years, they were masala movies that featured a good-hearted rowdy as hero. This time around, things were more raw, gritty, violent and realistic. The line between good and bad was all but erased as our heroes competed with each other on who could be the more heartless.

These ‘rowdy’ movies could be divided into 2 broad categories. On one hand was the more traditional story of a small-time rowdy growing to be a gang leader – the rowdy version of a rags-to-riches story. Films like Mandhiran, Pudhuppettai and Vattaaram fell into this category. The other category of films focused on the lives of small-time rowdies who remained small-time rowdies and dealt with problems they faced in their lives. Films like Aachaarya, Pattiyal, Thalainagaram and Naalai belonged to this sub-genre. Among films in this genre, Kokki was one movie that managed to be a little different since it featured a protagonist who ran away from trouble!

Personally, the biggest disappointment of Tamil cinema in 2006 was the refusal on the part of producers, directors, stars, etc. to take risks. As the glut of ‘rowdy’ films showed, everybody jumped on the same bandwagon, hoping to strike it rich at the BO. Experimentation was not popular and few movies attempted new genres or themes. This was the main reason Imsai Arasan 23aam Pulikesi was such a breath of fresh air. Director Shankar took a big risk by backing a brand-new genre – the historical comedy – and it paid rich dividends. Surprisingly, softer romances like Paarijaatham, Dishyum and Unakkum Enakkum, and movies with strong, emotional storylines, like Chithiram Pesudhadi, Emttan Magan and Veyyil, were successful at the BO. But producers and actors still favored action-oriented, masala movies for the most part.

Another reason why 2006 seemed to be a very dull year was the lack of movies with big stars. While big stars don’t guarantee good movies, they do bring excitement to the movie scene and last year was pretty low-key in that aspect. Rajni and Vikram had no releases while Kamal, Vijay and Surya had only 1 release each (Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu, Aadhi and Sillunu Oru Kaadhal respectively). The year proved quite good for Ajith, who made his umpteenth comeback. While Paramasivan, his comeback vehicle, was only an average hit, and Tirupathi was a flop, the long-delayed Varalaaru is now a superhit and has once again pushed him into the top bracket of heroes. Almost all the younger heroes like Vishal(Thimiru, Sivappadhigaaram), Ravi(Unakkum Enakkum, Idhaya Thirudan), Arya(Pattiyal, Kalaaba Kaadhalan) balanced a hit with a flop, ensuring a keenly-fought race for the top spot. Bharath, with 5 films, and Jeeva were 2 young actors who did well.

One of the few positive aspects of 2006 was the readiness of the young actors to take on different roles and avoid being stereotyped. While actors like Simbhu were still around to take ego-boosting to insane, irritating levels in movies like Vallavan, younger actors like Arya and Jeeva took on characters painted in broad shades of gray. The former, in Vattaaram, was quite selfish and cold-blooded while the latter, in E, sunk pretty low in his single-minded quest for money. The most negative leading man though, would probably be Jeevan in Thiruttu Payale – a man who blackmailed, stole and killed without compunction.

One of the positive things about 2006 being a bad year is that things can only go up from here. 2007 has quite a few biggies lined up, both in terms of stars and in terms of directors. While all the top stars, including Rajni, will have high-profile releases coming up, movies from directors like Bala and Cheran will also hit theaters. So its time to sit back, relax and enjoy the show. Here’s to a much better 2007…

38 Comments:

At 11:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, someone with an honest and truthful judgement.

Based on all the online sites and newspapers stating "another wonderful year for Tamil films", I was wondering if there was something wrong with me!:-)

Really, I am happy that I chose to see good films in Telugu/Malayalam rather than Tamil films this year.

I have little hope on Cheran's film, mainly because it looks like his ego trip to be youthful(God man, there are 100s of wannabe actors with talent out there), but have great expectations for Rajini and Bala's film.

-kajan

 
At 12:09 AM, Blogger srivatsan said...

Lets see what Rajni and Kamal have to deliver this year..

 
At 12:38 AM, Anonymous venkat said...

i am waiting for kireedam.

 
At 12:51 AM, Anonymous venkat said...

except for thala i hate all other kollywood actors.well among your favourites im excited abt DASAVATHARAM not becoz of kamal or KSR but for the TEN different roles.

 
At 1:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is redeeming to see someone calling it like it is...that 2006 is not a great year for Tamil movies, at best , just about mildly average.

Except for a small handful of hits & mostly misses, 2006 is forgettable. VV and the likes of a few, may have been small sparks in a rather dull & darkened Kollywood. Not sure if the cash tills were ringing as much as expected but from a movie-lover perspective, one just did not feel adequately satisfied.

Let's see what 2007 will deliver with the monumental expectations on Rajni & Kamal...

 
At 5:09 AM, Anonymous sakti said...

What a pity, Tamil cinema this year has gone to such pitfalls that even an unbiased good review/recap by balaji hasn't picked up even one single actress's performance in this year's movies. sad...real sad for tamil cinema.
sakti

 
At 5:34 AM, Blogger Raju said...

I agree with you completely. Probably the worst year in the past decade or even more.. The realistic rowdy movies were beaten to death, and I really hope we have seen the last of it. One thing I would like to add is the role of female actors in the movies. It was a forgettable year in that front too, with only a handful of powerful performances (as in Uyir, Paarijatham and Chithiram Pesudhadi), a few so-so type (like Pudhupettai, Dishyum, VV and Emtan magan) and mostly pickle-type miniscule ones..

 
At 5:37 AM, Blogger srivatsan said...

last best actress performance - Padmapriya (Thavamai..) can't think of anything after that :-)

Sharanya did well in a few roles too.

 
At 6:53 AM, Anonymous Prin said...

I agree Balaji but edit the text to include...

Maddy (2 hits)
Prashanth (1 flop), (2 averages)

Thanks, because i do think of Madhavan as one of the better actors of the industry.

 
At 7:33 AM, Blogger Prin said...

http://printhots.blogspot.com/

Dudez, that are fans of me, blog here.

 
At 8:07 AM, Blogger Me too said...

This post seems like a deja vu of last year's post on the same topic!! But that bad movies are given a whipping at the BO seems a good sign to me. Also with Shankar productions encouraging good ventures, Actors like Bharath, Jeeva even Pasupathi(is offered!) continue to do challenging roles make me more optimistic!

 
At 8:40 AM, Blogger Bart said...

Balaji, that was a good roundup. Quality of movies wise, you are right as ever - a very bad year. But commercially even some dumb movies made money thanks to CM's non-taxing genorosity.
There were a few ppl who tried comebacks in the previous year- successfully n unsuccessfully. The most successful was probably Bhagyaraj as a director and later as actor. Balachander seems to be a high-profile failure towards the end of the year (commercially).
Waiting eagerly for 2007. Hope it surpasses 2000...

 
At 9:17 AM, Blogger Filbert said...

As always, good year-end write-up, Balaji. But if you had been slightly lenient & given 2.5 stars to movies like Thiruttupayale and Em Magan (I am sure I would have given), it might not appear as bad as we all think. IMO, a year with Veyil, Pudhupettai & Imsai Arasan, is not all that bad.

 
At 10:08 AM, Anonymous ram said...

oh, how could i forget em magan? I actually liked the movie a lot more than u did, BB...

the movie was simple and charming...one of my favvvvs of 2006...here's my top ten

10. kedi - i loved the tamanna character
9. pattiyal
8. chithiram pesudhadi (was totally put off by that 'twist' that you and sandya raved about. the character in q. just couldnt have gone to the prostitution house. ridiculous decision by the director to bring out what was indeed a shocking twist)
7. kodambaakam
6. pattiyal
5. parijatham
4. vettaiyaadu- in 2000, it would've probably been #10 !!!
3. Em mahan
2. 23rd pulikesi
1. Veiyyil

 
At 11:02 AM, Anonymous Sandya said...

Ram,

Not to justify Director Mishkin's decision or sensibilities or to defend Chithiram Pesudhadi in any way, whatever the principal character in question did, could have very well been a "moment of weakness" issue.

The twist and why it works so well is because we refused to believe that an person of a certain stature and belonging to a certain strata in society is capable to going to a place as a prostitute house. If you take that 'I can't or I won't believe' factor out of your perspective and purely go with the script and the shock factor, I would think what Chithiram Pesudhadi offered was probably one of the finest attempts at refined scripting and narration.

Balaji, a very well-rounded analysis of 2006 films. I hope more than anybody that tamil cinema has actually learnt something about 'thinking out of the box,' especially after the fact that their group mentality hasn't yielded them the results that they were looking for.

The following films I have varying degrees of hope for:
Pokiri
Mozhi
Parattai
Thamirabarani
Paruthi Veeran
Koodal Nagar (I'm actually forward to this a little!)
Maayakkanadi
Vaaranam Aayiram/Bheema(if it ever takes off/if it ever completes!)
Sivaji
Dasavatharam

Despite all the hoopla over "Pachaikili Muthucharam," being a Gautham Menon film and all, I have little to no hope for it.

 
At 11:58 AM, Anonymous vijay said...

2007 HAS to be better because it cant get any worse. Although Pongal releases threaten to prove me wrong :-)

As far as 2006 is concerned, top 10 is difficult to complile. I didnt think even Imsai arasan, despite being a fresh concept and all, was all that hilarious. I could manage a chuckle or two at the most.The satire was also too obvious.

I think maybe Pudhupettai and Veyil/Imsai(to a limited extent) can be credited with attempting something different to further Tamil cinema.

 
At 11:59 AM, Blogger Filbert said...

Enna Ram, looks like you loved Pattiyal so much that you have listed it twice in your top 10 :) Kind of agree with your list, except that one of my favorite movies of the year (I would place it as high as at number 3) - Dishyum - does not even find a place in yours :(

 
At 12:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not expecting any trends to be set in 2007 in kollywood other than thala shaving his head. Maybe they will do a bit of "re-booting" and actually make a movie about some deity (dear God, no!). Anyone looking forward to "Kamaraj" or "Solli Adippen"?

 
At 12:35 PM, Anonymous ram said...

sandya, i agree with u but i couldnt shake off the 'I can't or I won't believe' factor! but yeah, mysskin did score a lot of points for his narrative style...except for those terrible jerks in editing...

filbert, vadivelu baashaila, "sarikkitta daa singaaram, sarikkitta daa!" LOL...didnt realize i'd put pattiyal in the list twice...well, maybe dishyum at #9 then...i liked pattiyal more...it was entertaining...

 
At 1:23 PM, Blogger nivas said...

I would entirely agree with you regarding the quality of movies this year. In fact i felt 2004 was the best in the last few years.
Interesting to see the numbers from your review collection. In fact just the other day i was seeing whether you have some statistics like the average rating for that year!

 
At 2:42 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

kajan, exactly what i felt when i saw those sites(rediff, for eg.) that called 06 a good year for tamil cinema. wonder which yr they compared it against!

anon, forgettable. good word. that adequately describes tamil cinema in 2006 :)

sakti/raju, yeah there were a couple of good performances from the actresses but none that stood out enough for me mention tham :)

prin, yeah i missed out maddy esp. since his 'thambi' was supposedly a big hit. but never thot of prashanth. poor guy needs some good movies to be in the reckoning again. can't believe that he was neck-and-neck with vijay and ajith at one time...

me too, yeah hope the directors learn their lessons. sad part is that all it needs is 1 masala movie to become a hit for them to fully embrace that genre again!

filbert, 'em magan' would probably be a borderline 2/ 2.5. but for me, thiruttu payale was defly only a 2. i liked the story but not the execution...

ram, i too noticed that u had 'pattiyal' twice. just assumed u had typed 'pattiyal' instead of 'pudhuppettai' at #9. So no PP in top 10?

sandya, thanx. and for being a thala fan, no mention of 'billa' or 'aalwar' in the looking-fwd-to list?

anon, 'kamaraj' was released a while back i think. did u mean 'periyar'??

 
At 3:12 PM, Anonymous ram said...

bb, i didnt watch pudhupettai "properly" - a crap print, watched it in parts n remember having a pretty ok opinion of the movie...so, didnt wanna include it in the list since i wasnt sure how i felt abt it; not coz i didnt like it...

 
At 10:03 PM, Anonymous mythili said...

hey balaji,

can I suggest to you doing all time best romantic moments and all time best musical moments?!

 
At 10:50 PM, Blogger S.Ganesh Kumar said...

Expecting Kireedham for sure.(Since the original was considered a classic in Malayalam cinema.)Wil read reviews before trying Azhwar.And will like to see Billa too.Well that's it;rest are Telugu movies.(Of 'Prince' Mahesh Babu or Venkatesh.)

 
At 12:51 AM, Anonymous Sandya said...

Balaji..

I didn't include any films that haven't started shooting yet with the exception of Vaaranam Aayiram. I don't see Aalwar helping Ajit's career much. After hearing Srikanth Deva's songs, balloon-lerndhu kaaththu went out! :-(

I have some hope for Billa, but it isn't a movie at the top of my mind right now. Let it first take off and let them start shooting. Momentum usually picks up when the first set of movie pics come out. I'd like to wait for that! :-)

I have lots of hope for thala, just not sure that Aalwar is a good start for the year. Maybe I am wrong!

 
At 5:56 AM, Anonymous Prin said...

Speaking of remakes, eg. Billa, Naan avanilli:

I think the next best would/could be

Mouna Raagam

Surya (as Mohan)
Madhavan (as Karthik)
Asin (as Revathi)

Any other suggestions?

 
At 7:43 AM, Anonymous ram said...

prin,
p u h l e e z...mouna raagam and nayagan are movies that are best left untouched...! but yeah if ppl get crazy enuf to remake them, then ur casting choices are awesome...

 
At 11:33 AM, Anonymous Prin said...

Another point is that Bollywood in many cases is moving closer to Hollywood, eg. Dhoom 2, Krrish, Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna....Which directors but Gautham are gonna take risks that way? Many directors suchas Perarsu, Hari will continue the now boring and aged genre of village wars. Its time to grow up.

Forthcoming Films which look slick:

Pachakilli Muthucharam: Sarath Kumar, Jyothika, Milind Soman, Andrea

Billa: Ajith Kumar, Shriya, Nayantara

Dhaam Dhoom: Jayam Ravi, Genelia

Unnale Unnale: Vinay, Sadha, Tanisha Mukherjee

Vaaranam Aayiram: Surya, Andrea, Ramya

Xerox: Arya, Pooja (I judge this one by the creative name)

Arugil: Madhavan, Vidya Balan (directed by Pratap Pothan)

Sivaji: Rajini, Shriya, Nayantara

oh yeh 1 more...

Dasavatharam: Kamal Haasan, Jayprada, Asin, Mallika Sherawat

I think these forthcoming films have a exciting touch espescially for the NRIs, feeling closer to Hollywood. To change the genre smoothly people such as Messiors Perarasu and T. Rajender should be booted out.

Prin

 
At 6:40 PM, Blogger Suresh Kumar said...

As usual a good write-up on Tamil cinema 2006. I am watching only selected tamil films and i am getting disappointed even with the much appreciated Veyyil. Though i would say that it is the second best movie of the year (first is ofcourse 23m pulikesi) with a very gripping first half, it went totally into formula commercial movie in the second half with too much of melodrama and even the focus totally shifts from Pasupathy... i am very sad about the dearth of good actresses in Tamil who can actually act. Ofcourse i liked Padmapriya in Pattiyal and Sneha in Pudupettai, other than that there was no notable performances...anyway 2007 looks very exciting....let us wait and watch

 
At 10:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

sandya, Aalwar has awed the some VIPs. Don't worry it'll start 2007 in a grand manner.

I don't how you liked(?) pokiri songs over Aalwar? Aalwar has been the pick of neutral people

 
At 1:36 PM, Anonymous Sandya said...

Anonymous, first, VIP views cannot be used as the best scale to judge a film and neither can critics' views. Time and again, hype from VIPs and critics hasn't necessarily translated to good cinema.

And.. I went and read what I wrote about Billa and Aalwar. I don't see anything that I've written indicating I liked Pokiri songs more than Aalwar. (I'll make an exception for Vasantha Mullai; that one song I like a lot! :-).

I only said that Aalwar songs leave a lot to be desired and still stand by that.

 
At 6:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well the one exciting trend of 2006 for me was the number of small budget movies independent movies and their hit rates.Most of last year hits were made with small budgets. This certainly augers well for Tamil movies that want to experiment. I hope Periyar turns out well like the director's previous movies. As per our trend I expect lots more from 1st time directors than established ones, as they are the ones who come out with better movies everytime.

- KP

 
At 8:39 PM, Blogger srivatsan said...

I'm expecting more from younger crop of Bharath, Arya (specially Naan Kadavul, hope Bala changes his dialogue delivery) and Jeeva this year than from the biggies.

Biggies are focussed towards Masalas recently..Kamal sir you too :-)

 
At 10:07 PM, Anonymous ram said...

check out this mimicry clip...absolutely brilliant!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Udh2ddmbK-0

 
At 10:24 PM, Blogger srivatsan said...

Ram, best are Cochin Hanifa and Ravi Krishna...

 
At 10:50 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

mythili, thanx for the suggestions... the 1st one might be a good topic for v-day :)

prin, rightly said. presentation is 1 aspect in which our tamil directors need to improve a lot. style can make even avg movies watchable as dhoom 2 showed :)

KP, good point. u're right in that small budget, non-star movies were the biggest hits in 2006. this was in stark contrast to 2005 where big-budget, star vehicles were the biggest hits. now i wish i'd mentioned this :)

 
At 12:36 PM, Anonymous Prin said...

Yes I do agree with many people.

This year you have been rather harsh on a few films. These films deserve atleast half more stars:

VARALARU
THIRUTTU PAYALE
THAMBI
THIMIRU
VETTAIYAADU VILAYAADU
EM MAGAN
KALABHAK KADHALAN

Last year you gave films such as 'Amudhe' and '6.2', pathetic films 2 and a half, this year to-be-legendary films such as VARALARU and VV got a low rating.

 
At 4:57 PM, Blogger tt_giant said...

VV and 23am pulikesi are the only ones which stayed in my memory!

 

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