The Hyped Movie

I am still reeling under the influence of the hype around the “Kabali” movie and its “super star” that has been impacting the wider world via WhatsApp. There seems to be non-stop coverage on this great movie by the super star and how it has upended all box-office records (for a South Indian film). I wouldn’t be surprised if the world wide takings exceed USD 100M in the next couple of weeks.

I cannot easily be persuaded to see a movie (any movie for that matter), and it takes a lot of persuasion before I would venture out to see a Tamil movie. You may ask why is that, given that Tamil is my mother tongue and it is a mellifluous language with a long history amongst the languages of the world with a great honour of being one of the oldest known languages in the world. I agree on all of that, and I studied Tamil in my primary and secondary schools as an individual subject, and I respect all the great literary works of Tamil poets and authors over the past 5,000 years.

But Tamil movies? No.

Generally the current (and the past decade) of Tamil movies, except a very few, have demonstrated a prolific inclination towards mindless violence and sex, and in case there is less of these two aspects, there is more of mundane village or town love stories which do not stop coming and often repeat old stories to ad nauseum. Very predictable, very ordinary, very colloquial, very violent. There are few award-winning Tamil movies unlike in Malayalam. Hindi is no better than Tamil, having more of the same violence, sex and dance sequences.

I do not believe that Tamil movies will ever make it to the Oscars and get nominated in the “Foreign Films” category if such trends continue with a focus on winning eyeballs, and making movies which are easily forgettable when one walks out of the theatre.

Given my predisposition towards Tamil movies, I am far less inclined to see any star’s movie on taking revenge against a drug lord, and beating up people all around, with lots of blood all over, depicting seemingly impossible scenes of the James Bond variety. Movies which show ordinary man’s life, and deliver some learning towards improving one’s own life, are far more impactful to the people than eulogizing stars and building a cult status.

This is not to denigrate any directors or stars, or those producers who risk big money into producing movies which would sell. I am happy if the Kabali movie makes a big return on investment for its producer. However, we all need a space to respectfully disagree, and I hope we get that space. I get my space on my blog!

What I cannot simply believe is the huge hype surrounding Kabali – I have never seen anything like it – driving people rowards theatres all around the world, and making even corporates to declare holiday last Friday (on the occasion of the movie launch). Airlines like Air Asia (of Malaysia) did the unthinkable – painting a whole plane with the movie star’s picture and running a charter flight between Bangalore and Chennai for fans from Bangalore to see the movie in Chennai. There were many such actions around the launch of the movie in the days leading up to last Friday, some of these have never been done and some were laughable.

I read the reviews of the movie (I am not planning to see it), and these were generally not positive. How many gangster movies we all have seen? I would not again see a Sylvester Stallone or an Arnold Schwarznegger movie, simply because I know what to expect of such movies. But then I was surprised to see even my most educated friends and colleagues rushing to book the movie online, both in India and Singapore. Is there some craziness towards the super star? Is there some psychological factors playing out? Is there an element of fanaticism or cult mentality, even in people who you would not suspect of harbouring such intentions in the normal course?

I do not know. But, let me say this – I continue to enjoy an occasional French or Hollywood movie of the heavier variety, with portrayal of ordinary human emotions in difficult circumstances. Life is indeed difficult for most human beings. Complex challenges face people every day. There is always the argument that ordinary people would therefore like to enjoy an escapist movie filled with impossibilities – I just don’t buy that argument. Movies have got to be realistic. There are exceptions such as when a movie shows the future possibilities of life, or when a movie attempts to portray the view of the world from an artist’s perspective, or when a director depicts what goes on in the corporate world.

In any case, here’s wishing the fans of Kabali and the Super Star a great time watching the movie. Just ensure you are on stable ground and do not attempt any scenes or antics from the movie.


Vijay Srinivasan

24th July 2016


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