Nothing captivates the imagination of Indians like the movies. People love movies all around the world, but in India it’s a craze overwhelming with passion. They follow actors like a cult. Rajini is akin to “God” in South India. The raucous cheers and whistles when their favorite actors say an action dialogue blow you away. I’ve had a chance to experience it myself, having watched many movies in India, including Kochadiyaan, Vellai Illa Pattathari, Mundasipatti, Jigarthaanda, and Manjapai, all new releases this summer.
It’s not difficult to see why people love the movies here. Other forms of entertainment are limited. Movies also captivate the audience with their story-lines. Many of the stories follow an everyday person who rises to the challenge and overcomes obstacles to become a hero. These kinds of stories give hope to the mass of people that they can rise as well. They get sucked into the movie; it becomes a reality that they believe is possible. And coming away with those good feelings is all they want.
The majority of Tamil movies have all of these elements: hero, villain, love interest, 5 songs, 4 fights, and comedian. And a loose plot, with perhaps side stories, to intertwine all of these elements. The first-half of the movie focuses on hero character development, comedy, and the love interest, with a calamity occurring just before intermission. That’s another interesting thing about Tamil movies: there’s always an interval approximately halfway through the movie. It makes sense, given that these movies are around 2.5 hours long; people use the 5 minute break to hit the bathroom, grab a snack at concessions, or just stretch. What’s amusing is that they even have intervals when they screen American movies. After the interval, the movie picks off from where it left off; the second half of the movie focuses on the hero overcoming the calamity, fighting the villain, and saving the day. Add some songs and fights, and you have a typical Tamil movie.
Now there are plenty of movies that follow this script to produce a great movie, such as Vellai Illa Pattathari (VIP). Acting, direction, cinematography, background music, dialogue, all of these factors are crucial in making a movie memorable, for the right reasons. Watching VIP in theaters was an unbelievable experience. The cheering, the clapping, the raucous celebration every time our hero said something cool; everything put a smile to my face. They danced in front of the screen during songs and whistled when he said a “punch dialogue”. The experience was unreal, something I wouldn’t dream of seeing anywhere in the US, where it’s considered to make a disturbance while watching a movie. My biggest regret? I was in the back row of the theater, so I couldn’t get up there in front of the screen and dance as well.
Vellai Illa Pattathari Movie Poster
With a burgeoning economy, the new generation of Indians is looking for movies with a better storyline. They want more than a “masala” movie that gives them good feelings. They want diverse stories and new, outside-the-box thinking. They want Hollywood. As a result, there have been more movies coming out in a new cult genre, like Soodhu Kavvum and Jigarthaanda. The former is a comedy about a gang who kidnap people for ransom, and the trouble they fall into. The latter is about an aspiring film director who gets stuck with a vicious gang that he had been following to write a script for a gang film. As the movies have progressed, it’s interesting to see how they reflect changes in Indian social life, thinking, economy, etc. Movies that followed social taboos, such as women being reserved characters, now question old ways of thinking.
Jigarthaanda Movie Poster
Personally, I love movies. Especially Tamil movies. Perhaps it was because of a desire to have something to connect with my culture while in college. But they have taught me a lot. In fact, I place a lot of credit on movies for my understanding of Tamil culture, language, and way of life. Now, people I met while in Madurai even thought I was born and raised in India, which was heartening to hear. Who said watching movies was a waste of time?