Readers Write In #488: An Open Letter to Gautham Vasudev Menon

Posted on September 16, 2022


By ​Ponnuvelraj C

Dear Gautham,

You are one of the elements that define Tamil Pop culture. Any discussion on Tamil Cinema would hardly pass without mentioning the brilliance you’ve transpired on screen multiple times. I always thought, if Kollywood ever had a Mount Rushmore, then your bust deserved a place. I’ve been such a big fan. One of the many, who took up scribble pads to pen down stories, poems, write-ups and whatnot, after being inspired by you.

It pains me to no end to see a master known for his craft to lose his touch and grasp at straws to keep his existence intact. Vendhu Thanindhadhu Kaadu (VTK), might go on to do well at the box office, or even be lauded by critics. But you Sir, have let down a breed that defined GVM-esque moments to the masses. The ones that spread your word and grew up watching your brilliance. I am speaking for them.

You are, no doubt an auteur. How else do I explain the fact that the last true-blue romantic film in Tamil is Vinnaithadi Varuvaya (the irony is that it is still running in the same theatre that screened VTK. Can VTK ever achieve that feat?) and no one even came close to attempting to make one? Your films have been distinct. Your characters, honest. Whether Surya getting his life together after a heartbreak, or a Karthik trying to solve a mystery that is women, or even a Varun whose idea of love keeps changing, they were confused men, flawed like each of us, trying to discover where the plot of life is trying to lead them.

In VTK (just like in each of your recent films) it feels like, you are clearly out of your depth. If you had always made men of your film, a semblance of you or the people you’ve seen or been with, I hardly doubt if you have even glanced at a Muthuveeran in your life. What started as an interesting character arc loses steam and falls into a trap of clichés and stereotypes.

How many Tamil films have shown a shoddy food joint housing the underworld in recent times? How many coming-of-age gangster movies had the same sequences or montages that you have used to show Muthu’s rise? How many movies have used Jaffer Sadiq as a hitman thinking it would be something different? How many films have used Thalapathy or Nayagan to evoke a thunderous roar from the crowd? (I lost it totally when you, of all people, made that forced Nayagan reference). I can keep on going, but I think you get the point. “Dude, you are my Hero and s***t!”. It’s so hard to take it when half of the movie is re-processed but presented in your style. You are a trendsetter. Not the one that succumbs to trends. You are an OG. Own it, please. Be it “Kannuvenum nu Ketiyame” or “Inga irukku America”, those lines didn’t become a rage because of the actors who delivered them. It was for you. A rare feat in an otherwise hero-worshipping world.

Nobody narrates love as you do. But, all that you could muster for Muthu’s love life was classic playbook stalking. Is it how all men who rise from the bottom go about their relationships? You still haven’t lost it when it comes to music though. But what was it when Paavai and Muthu burst into a Lala land musical resulting in their first kiss? Have you fallen prey to the thinking of having separate love tracks and they can’t be gently woven into the story? And about those villains. The Man who gave this world Pandyas and Amudhan- Ilamarans, has slotted cartoonistic characters with laughable dialogues against a scintillating Simbu ( who is bloody brilliant and carries the film).

This might sound like a rant but trust me it isn’t. It’s an appeal from a true fan to shrug off your newfound love to make films for the masses. Those last few minutes of build-up to the second part were the most unbecoming of GVM. Make films that you love. The ones that you believe in. The ones where the auteur in you stands tall. The masses will follow.

With Hope,

A fan forever