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Comedy in Tamil Movies - Future, Honorable Mentions

The. Future. Looks. Bleak... there is no other way to put it. A fair way of assessing the current cinema trend and also a pretty good indicator of where the movie industry is heading would be to analyze all movies released for a particular Deepavali or Pongal - between these two occasions, we must have movies that feature all the major stars and directors. The last two years have an abysmal record in delivering quality comedy. If you don't know me, I like slapstick humour, I like humour set in a village, I like vulgar humour and I'll laugh at the hint of a joke - but there's only slapstick and vulgarity and irritation and annoyance sans any humour. Of course there is always unintentional humour, like a Vijayakanth movie, but that's for a different topic. Unless sensible writers and talented actors (from film school / underpaid abused assistant writers-actors / from Mars) land in Kodambakkam and decide to clean up the studio corridors of the formula trash that we're used to, I'm afraid there will be a steep slippage into raw and obtuse comedy in future Tamil movies.

Let me record the humour levels of current/future heroes. A simple test would be listen to their interviews; if any one of them has a comedy nerve in their body, they'll make you laugh. My estimates of comedy quotients: Vijay, probably the most overrated and commercially successful actor after Mohan does his best bommalattam sketch when asked to perform comedy. His comedy sketches in Gilli are as painful as watching 'Schindler's List'. Ajith first needs to learn Tamil from Shalini and then someone else should teach him to enunciate. His auto comedy sketch (with Karunas) from 'Attagasam' is the comedy equivalent of diarrhoea - the cinema hall reeked of watery faeces. Vikram reserves himself for serious roles - it's good that he knows his limitations. Parthiban, I don't know if he's still considered a hero, can be boring sometimes, bearable in most cases and rarely funny. Simbu, with his I-know-it-all tone may become the sharpest blade of the Tamil cinema industry. Madhavan: incompetent. Surya: not funny. Dhanush: zilch. Jayam Ravi: nada. Ravikrishna: sub-zero.

Vivek's resurgence is a much needed tonic for metro-comedy. It doesn't fit to see Vadivelu as Vijay's friend, especially when Vijay plays a sophisticated character. I also have a feeling that Vadivelu is tightly embraced because there are no good alternatives. As mentioned in my earlier post, if Vadivelu tries to may money while his sun shines, he won't make history. Only a handful of his comedies may make it to the next decade. With age, Crazy Mohan's comedy creativity will begin to decline. Because of our rigid framework imposed on a hero's requirements, Kamal may have to quit the race in a few years. Sathyaraj, though blessed with a sense of timing and style, wouldn't play a lesser role and insists on appearing in lousy projects as a hero. As pointed out by Nilu, if actors who have a taste and talent for comedy prostitute their image as a hero for lame movies, they are doing a disservice to the audience. I hope Kamal takes a different view and dons small roles which have scope for comedy.

Writers resort to crudeness - kicks, foulmouths, bad manners, cleavages and all sorts of abuses find place in a comedy sketch. This is a very depressing trend. If you can't watch a funny scene with your mother and your son at the same time then it won't stand the test of time. The hallmark of a classic comedy is it's cleanliness. The Tom & Jerry series (Hanna/Barbara) is a showcase of purity. Parthiban's 'Ullae Veliyae' sure was funny (when I was a teenager) - but I'd watch 'Kadhilikka Neramillai' with my parents and down the line I'd recommend 'Michael Madana Kama Rajan' to my son. More over, crude humour is not funny on subsequent viewings. Established actors heavily rely on their mannerisms instead of the character they play for a comedy sketch to click. It's important they leave the character impregnated on the mind of the viewer than the personality itself. That's why it's easy to mimic a Vadivelu or a Vivek. Logically speaking, if writers and actors want to produce something that will stay with the audience, they should be avoiding all the masala ingredients. I know, I shouldn't have 'Tamil cinema' and 'logic' in the same sentence!!


# Though Crazy Mohan did a lot of cameos, he should be credited very strongly for being the backbone of some of the best comedies. Coming from TV sitcoms and stage plays, he knows to write [a] good humour for a family drama (Aaha) [b] very good humour for slim screenplays (Kadhanayagan) [c] great humour in combination with Kamal. Some of his jokes feel recycled and have a strong Brahmin scent, still they remain enjoyable.
# Thengai Srinivasan is a genuine miss and he rightly belongs in the list of popular comedians. His 'Kasedhan Kaduvalada' and 'Thillu Mullu' are jolly rides.
# Delhi Ganesh is an understated performer best utilized by Kamal Haasan.
# V.K.Ramasami, in his long career supported heroes ranging from Sivaji to Prabhu, funny at times.
# I like V.A.Moorthy and the thing he does with his mouth and eyebrows. Heard of 'Thedinen Vandhadhu'?
# Y.Gee.Mahendran, Suralirajan - rarely funny. Kathadi Ramamoorthy remained a stage artiste.
# Janakaraj has his pieces; Loose Mohan - nothing but Madras baashai and voice.
# Charlie is boring; Santhanam is quite good and brings a lot of 'Lollu Sabha' type with himself.

Links: Prelude, Part I, Part II

10 Responses to “Comedy in Tamil Movies - Future, Honorable Mentions”

  1. # Blogger Zero

    As far as the sense of humour of Tamil heroes goes, I concur with you. But, I don't think it was ever golden or something that now it has gone worse, nor that it's that bleak.
    Surya was very funny (heck, even Laila was!) in Pithamagan. Bala has a fantastic sense of humour, which many seem to miss, and Surya has learnt a lot from him! Madhavan too is good enough, but tries too hard.
    And, Narasimma rocks. Thirupathi Saami treats the heroic genre, and kids with it so often, with such fondness that it's infectious.  

  2. # Blogger Prasad Venkataramana

    Though there isn't a defined Golden Age, there is a steady degeneration in the quality that soon we may be telling our grandkids 'in our golden days when Kamal was...'.

    I saw 'Sethu' and thought that this guy Bala is just overvalued and haven't yet seen another movie of his. I have wanted to check out 'Pithamagan' because of Ilayaraja. If I get a chance, I'll definitely look out for Surya's jokes.  

  3. # Blogger நற்கீரன்

    A good follow up could be 'Comedy in Tamil - Outside Tamil Movies'. Just a suggestion.  

  4. # Anonymous Anonymous

    great piece of analysis....  

  5. # Blogger Prasad Venkataramana

    I would, if I really had the stuff to. As I've mentioned in my mails to you, I'm not familiar with Tamil literature, stage plays, new age art forms, etc. Probably, at a later date, I'll follow up with what I know and those who follow this blog can pitch in.

    Thanks Santhosh.  

  6. # Anonymous dan

    on your comment on Vijay and Ajith i absolutely agree with you. they lack comic sense.

    good analysis hopefuly someone will take over from vadivelu and vivek..  

  7. # Anonymous raj

    Prasad, If you can accept vijay as a sophisticated character, you have to accept Vadivelu as a companion of sophisticated character - your fault doing Item 1, Item2 naturally follows:-)  

  8. # Blogger Prasad Venkataramana

    By 'sophisticated', I actually mean metrosexual. We have seen Vadivelu in 'Kaadhalan' - do you think jeans pants, t-shirts and coolers suit him? That's what I was trying to say.

    Thanks Dan.  

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  10. # Anonymous Rajesh

    A simple test would be listen to their interviews; if any one of them has a comedy nerve in their body, they'll make you laugh.

    I dont agree here Prasad. The 'interview' test does not always give you the right picture. Our film stars (esp heroes) are cursed to maintain a public 'image' and I would assume that rides in the mind whenever they speak to public. You never know what kind of ordeal they may be put into if they utter instinctive words. For ex, take Kamal; most of his interviews that I have seen before have been plain boring, as he tried to be politically correct ! The best I have seen of him was the Kamal's music journey in Jaya TV where he was casual and that was extremely enjoyable. Or take vadivelu, his interviews are very emotional always talking about his early day struggle (from what I have seen). Even the 'interviewers' should take part of the blame, the questions are so dumb that you cant respond humourously ;-)

    Bottomline : you cant decide on the comedy quotient thru this test ! When I had a chance to have a distant view of most of these stars in a few parties, they simply were rocking !  

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