When I was about ten years old, somewhere in the late Sixties, my family moved to a small coastal town in South India. Those were days when the idiot Box had not yet hit India. Radios were rare. The phrase Sound Pollution had not yet been coined and pollution as such was yet to cloud the horizon.Although my father was a South Indian and we were living in South India (I was born in the South and there I lived till I was Twenty), we only spoke English and a bit of Hindi at home. The few films we saw were either in English or from Bollywood. If you are not Indian you won’t quite follow what I’m trying to get at.India is huge. India has an awful lot of languages. Each State of India is almost another country if one thinks in terms of language, culture and cuisine. Before moving we lived in Karnataka where Kannada is spoken. Pondicherry was a charming ex-French colony with a mainly Tamil population.Hence it was that in those early years, I rejoiced in the Tamil film songs that floating down to me from roadside tea shops and temples. Alas! In those days I lived cocooned in an Ashram whose population was mainly from the North of India and thus could not decipher the lyrics. More tragic is the fact that I cannot now easily locate those tunes online.It was only in my graduate years when I joined a local college that I got a proper exposure to Tamil films and they had some good ones in those years (late Seventies).From the swash buckling MGR/Sivaji era, Kollywood had graduated to a much more muted mood. Anti-heroes and tragic heroines dominated stories where social issues prevailed over formula offerings. Pathinaru Vayathinile’s village idiot, Chapani (Kamal Haasan) caught the cine goer fancy far more than fancy costumed hero dancing around trees could. Shobha’s heart wrenching innocence was responsible for many a choked sob in the stalls.
I do not know much Tamil but a well made film often speaks for itself. And the cinematic striving of Tamil movies towers over that of other Indian genres. It is world class many a time and yet lies neglected. It is something of a shame that such excellent movies are rarely to be found with English sub-titles.There was a long hiatus in the years that followed as I went North until I came to Malaysia and here I have re-established my relationship with Tamil cinema.In the posts to come I hope to cover ten Tamil films which I have enjoyed recently.