Readers Write In #130: Looking back on the festival of Pongal through the movies released

Posted on January 15, 2020

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(by Raghav Ravichandran)

Looking back on the festival of Pongal through the movies released

The festival of Pongal is huge, it is a very special festival that brings in lot of joy, happiness and abundance of food and sweets along with it. My most recent memories of the festival include having relatives coming over to our house and all of us enjoying the day by performing a small poojai at home which will be usually be  followed by watching the Pattimandaram program on Sun TV and then getting down to eat the ‘Pongal meals’ prepared by my mother, aunt and grandmother. The taste of the food would remain etched in my mind for days to come.

But personally, that thrill and excitement of the festival of Pongal has reduced drastically in the past few years. A lot of factors come into my mind for this change- one of the fondest memories I have of this festival is spending time with my Chitti who is unfortunately no more. I remember their family being with us and we celebrating Pongal together for the past 6-7 years or maybe even more.

Her absence is felt even more during such festivals. She used to cook some mouth-watering dishes and the conversations we had along with the thrill she had in catching the latest ‘Pongal release’ in theatres was something else . Now the thrill and excitement of festivals in general and Pongal in particular won’t be the same anymore for me.

Although this year’s Pongal is going to be extra special as it’s the first Pongal with my niece! Looking forward to seeing her and being around her in the celebrations. I would be curious to see what attracts her eye in the festivities- the poojai and the lamps, or the food.

But whatever one can say, watching the latest Pongal release in theatres has almost become second nature for us as a family. And with my sister-in-law, being a bigger fan of Tamil movies than me, we end up watching all the releases in cinema halls. Of course, I remember in one of the Pongals in the last few years, we all were in Chennai and didn’t get tickets for any movie!

Here I take you back to some of the memories I have of the Tamil movies released for the festival of Pongal in the past few years:

In 2014, I remember it was the clash of titans- Thala Ajith’s Veeram vs Thalapathy Vijay’s Jilla.  I remember watching both in theatres. I am more of an Ajith fan so personally enjoyed Veeram more. But what still bothers is what followed the gigantic success of this movie- Ajith doing three more movies with director Siva- Vedhalam, Vivegam and Viswasam.

Each of these movies had their moments but would largely be enjoyed and appreciated by Thala fans. Viswasam was a really nice family dram where the father-daughter sentiment worked very well. And Thala Ajith catered to his fans as well with some exhilarating action sequences.

Some scenes from Veeram and Viswasam are still fresh in mind as they were completely mass. Here’s the theme music of Veeram composed by DSP that shows Thala Ajith in all his might! Watching and soaking in the atmosphere in the theatre to this was an experience in itself.

2015 saw three movies releasing for the festival season- I, Darling and Aambala. Vikram was teaming up with Shankar after Anniyan for I. ARR’s soundtrack was enough for all of us to look forward to this big movie.

I came out feeling tired and exhausted and also feeling sad that all that hard work put in by Chiyaan Vikram went in vain as the movie was atrocious. Even the most ardent and loyal fans of Vikram who waited patiently for this movie after ‘Thandavam’ in 2012, were left completely in shock.  He put his body through  a lot for a movie that didn’t deserve this much dedication and toil from its lead actor.

I saw ‘Darling’ and ‘Aambala’ later on in TV and don’t seem to remember anything from both movies. My only remembrance of Aambala is the catchy song composed by Hip Hop Aadhi, ‘Pazhagiklam’ which I listen to now and then even now.

But there was one scene from ‘I’ that has stayed in my mind till now, where the actor in Vikram nailed it. Just hoped that the movie and Shankar’s story and direction could have a little more of this and not what we ended up seeing.

The next year saw as many as five releases for the festival season. Out of which only Siva Karthikeyan or SK as he is fondly called by his fans came out the winner with ‘Rajni Murugan’.  The movie had all the elements for a festival release- a good story, a relevant message, SK and Soori in good form and some hummable tunes from D Imman.  I saw this on an OTT platform and felt I should have watched this in theatres.

I personally saw Vishal’s Kathakali in theatres and it was not that bad a movie. Filled with all the usual tropes you see in a masala; action movie it had some tight and well-choreographed action scenes and I quiet liked the theme music composed by Hip Hop Aadhi.

The next few years haven’t given much for audiences to celebrate. None of the big or huge stars like Rajinikanth, Vijay or Ajith had a release in this period or in the festive season. 2018 saw Suriya’s Thaana SerndhaKootam and Vikram’s Sketch clashing against each other.

Both movies gave me the same feeling- actors capable of far better performances are limiting themselves or are getting limited by external factors. They individually didn’t disappoint that much but the overall package had some flaws that were subject to unwarranted and unexpected levels of criticism on social media and by many film critics too.

Of course, it was good to see Suriya teaming up with a complete bunch of youngsters for TSK especially after Singam 3 which was unnecessarily pushing the brand of DuraiSingam a bit too far.  Director Vignesh Shivn and music sensation Anirudh were the people he teamed up for the first time and that energy and charm which was lacking in Si3 returned to a large extent.

Few of my favourite Anirudh songs till date have come from this album, the energetic and high octane ‘Sodakku’ to the simple, beautiful and laid-back melody ‘Naana Thaana’.  I am a big fan of the impulsive yet mature Anirudh where he produces some really hummable, catchy melodies.

‘Naana Thaana’  was giving back the Suriya I wanted to see on screen after his previous movies like ‘Massu’ and ‘Si3’. Suriya was at ease, looked fresh, younger and he managed to get  back some of the lost family audience that SK has captured. This song video worked really well for me as it was just how to showcase Suriya in a well composed romantic number.

But the epic battle or the BO battle for Pongal supremacy returned after five years in 2019. The biggest positive was that both movies became blockbusters and were equally liked by the masses and critics. A trend I wish continues in the years to come.

The movies in contention were Super Star Rajininkanth’s return to full form with “Petta’’ where under the able hands of Karthik Subbaraj, he delivered a solid, effective movie that got us all Rajnified.

There are many moments that will remain fresh in my mind, but the favourite for me would be the Church fight scene. Everything from the lighting to the staging, performances, stunt choreography and Anirudh’s epic BGM makes this scene a continuous rewatch. There are many more such instances especially in the Rajini-Simran portions. Hope Super Star can get back to this form again in his upcoming movies.

And then there was ‘Thala’ Ajith teaming up with Siva again for Viswasam. I really enjoyed the movie as I had absolutely had zero expectations from this movie. I didn’t see Vivegam or Vedhalam in theatres and after seeing them in an OTT platform, I sort of knew what I was getting into.

Me and my two close friends who are all bigger fans of Thala than me convinced me to watch Viswasam and they succeeded- I saw it FDFS. Yes, that’s right and that experience is still fresh in my mind.

The crowd response to anything Ajith did or when Nayanthara and Ajith are involved in some romantic scenes was something. I wish I could watch a Super Star, Thala or Thalapathy movie FDFS in Chennai sometime. The kind of love the fans pour out through their celebrations shows how much their movies mean to them. This is pretty much part and parcel of the Pongal Thiruvizha.

On this filmy note, I hope all of you have a great Pongal and enjoy the festivities with the near ones. And don’t forget to watch the latest Pongal movie offering. I personally looking forward  to seeing  Dhanush in a dual role in ‘Pattaas’. Hopefully it would be a good time at the movies for me!