Guest Post: How Manikandan has revived an ancient art

Posted on December 4, 2016

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Continuing the series of posts written by others (see here), here’s one by Shyam Rahul, on the link between the religious epics and message movies.

Reading Baradwaj Rangan’s take on Aandavan Kattalai, I was struck by this line …. “Entertainment that is about something, that says something – it’s the elusive grail Tamil filmmakers keep chasing. Only Manikandan seems to have found it.” There is truth to this sentence not only for Tamil Film Industry but also to Bollywood as very few have mastered it. That includes Valmiki and Vyasa.

On viewing it from the prism of “Entertainment Entertainment Entertainment” the religious epics of India are perfectly entertaining. The sages also realised that people don’t turn to stories for messages but for the entertainment.

The religious epics cover many themes and messages but they have the lightest of footings. The mantra that Manikandan has discovered in Aandavan Kattalai. The only time he bluntly states the message is in title cards. The only time I felt the message was blunt in the Mahabharat was in that truthful and beautiful moment where Krishna address Arjun before the battle of Kurukshetra.

In most other message movies, these end up like pamphlets where each message is on bold and in grandma font. ” You have to clean the garbage” “Stop corruption”

These directors don’t use the medium of cinema as a medium to entertain but as to state the message. This is like those awareness Whatsapp messages but imagine Surya to tell them on the big screen.

Krishna on key level could be said to be a role of Vishnu and Ram another role of Vishnu. It is precisely due to their presence and that of the sons of gods, The Pandavas, do we read it so much. Message movies too hire big stars in hope of amplifying the messages. Surya in Pasanga 2. Priyanka Chopra in Jai Gangaajal. Saamuthirakani in Appa.

In the end these films fall because of the weight of their messages. The sages made perfectly crafted stories replete with character arcs and poetry. They have entertainment but have touches of message. Now there is 10 ton message but few touches of entertainment.

Of course there are some exceptions. Aandavan Kattalai. Iraivi. Kaaka Muttai. Kutrame Thandanai. Out of this three are Manikandan’s films

In the end, Manikandan I think has revived an ancient art rather than The Holy Grail the filmmakers are looking for. This may perhaps be the change we the cinephiles are looking for. It is a spark. A spark of hope.