Tamil cinema turning to period films again

March 21st, 2009 - 10:24 am ICT by IANS  

Mani Ratnam By Ayyappa Prasad
Chennai, March 21 (IANS) The success of “Subramaniapuram” has enthused producer Kalpathi Aghoram to make another period film in Tamil titled “Irumbukkottai, Murattu Singam” (Steel fort, untamed lion) - set in the 17th century.

“Irumbukkottai…” also marks the return of the cowboy genre to the Tamil screen after 28 years. The film will be directed by Chimbudevan and stars Suriya, Lakshmi Rai and Padmapriya.

The last cowboy genre venture, featuring the late Jai Shankar in the lead, was released in 1971.

“The new film is set in the 17th century. Other details are a closely guarded secret,” a source said.

Meanwhile, “Subramaniapuram” director Sasi Kumar is producing a movie titled “Pasanga” (Kids) and preparing for a collaborative venture with Mani Ratnam.

“Pasanga” is about how the dreams of a 10-year-old-boy bring a sea change in the aspirations of an entire school and focuses on the future aspirations of children.

Kumar recounts how he painstakingly collected knick knacks to recreate the 1980s look for “Subramaniapuram”.

“The movie needed a lot of research to bring in the feel of the ’80s Madurai - from the streets, fashion, trivia etc. I collected a huge number of memorabilia to embellish the realistic props,” Kumar told IANS.

“Financiers and producers shied away from the period film citing huge costs. I made ‘Subramaniapuram’ myself on a shoestring budget, sans stars and happily it became a hit,” Kumar added.

Well-known critic and cinema historian ‘Film News’ Anandan feels the trend of period films arrived after the resounding success of costume-drama “Imsai Arasan Irubathi Moonraam Pulikeshi” directed by Chimbudevan.

“Though the film starred comedian Vadivelu and had no other major star, it collected a lot of money because it was a satirical spoof on modern-day politics with the backdrop of medieval ages,” Anandan told IANS.

The film was produced by ace director Shankar whose eye for detail for sets is “legendary”, said Anandan.

“Kamal Haasan’s hit ‘Dasavatharam’ brought about the trend,” he added.

Several period projects are in the pipeline.

Besides “Irumbukkottai…”, “Aayirathil Oruvan” (one in a thousand) in the making since 2007 by Selvaraghavan, and “Pokkisham” (treasure) by Cheran are two mega-budget period films that have excited distributors.

Both “Aayirathil Oruvan”, featuring Karthik Siva Kumar and Reema Sen in the lead, and “Pokkisham” (director Cheran in the lead once again) - have the male protagonists searching for their long lost mothers.

Another critically acclaimed period movie awaiting release is multilingual director Priyadarshan’s “Kanchivaram”.

The film takes a critical look at the communist movement in the backdrop of the silk weavers living in the temple town of Kanchipuram during the freedom struggle. It has been critically noticed in at least two film festivals abroad.

Since its inception, the Tamil film industry has always depended on period films for not only hits but also political propaganda.

Late thespian-politicians M.G. Ramachandran and Sivaji Ganeshan and Gemini Ganeshan, DMK patriarch and current Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, former actress and AIADMK boss J. Jayalalitha have contributed to Tamil cinema in a big way.

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