‘Sarkar’ to ‘NGK’: Are Tamil films getting too political?

Kollywood filmmakers are increasingly taking on the system in their star vehicles

The big summer release Suriya’s NGK is hitting screens this Friday. It releases after the formation of a new Government at the centre. NGK, which stands for Nandha Gopalan Kumaran, should have ideally released before Lok Sabha elections. The film is about grass root politics and how a party worker NGK (sounds similar to MGR or NTR?) goes up the political ladder.

In Tamil Nadu, politics and cinema go hand-in-hand, thanks to the Dravidian movement. Unlike any other State in India, Tamil Nadu has produced Chief Ministers in the likes of MG Ramachandran, M Karunanidhi and J Jayalalithaa, who cashed in on the popularity of cinema. It is the same case in Andhra Pradesh, although the tide seems to be changing with the emergence of YS Jaganmohan Reddy as the new Chief Minister of the State. Meanwhile, Tamil stars seem to be content with making message-oriented, political films. Last year’s Sarkar made a strong statement and dealt with political issues faced by the public. Recently, the RJ Balaji political satire LKG became a big hit at the box office. Other recent political films include NOTA, Uriyadi 2 and Annanukku Jey to name a few.

Kamal Haasan’s Indian 2, directed by Shankar, is reported to be a hard-hitting political thriller, which will also reflect the ideologies of the actor’s Makkal Needhi Maiam. However, there’s no update about the film since Kamal’s involvement in active politics. Rajinikanth’s forthcoming entertainer Darbar is reportedly set against a Mumbai backdrop. It is said to revolve around an encounter specialist, who will be taking on a powerful politician, who has underworld connections. Suriya’s next outing Kaappaan, directed by KV Anand, has him playing an SPG officer who has to protect the Prime Minister of India, played by Mohanlal. Venkat Prabhu’s Party is yet to release, but he has already started work on his next film with STR titled Maanaadu. In Vijay Antony’s Kolaigaran, too, there are a lot of political references.

This scenario is quite the same in other Southern States, like Kerala, for instance, where Mohanlal’s political drama Lucifer turned out to be a blockbuster. The film was about power struggle within the ruling party, following the death of its Chief Minister. Telugu superstar Mahesh Babu has successfully found a commercial formula in making films laced with political messages in films like Srimanthudu, Bharat Ane Nenu and his latest Maharshi. These films follow the same template, where an outsider takes a plunge into politics and attempts to clean the existing rotten system — something similar to Shankar’s Mudhalvan.

These days, even smaller filmmakers are resorting to making commercial films, infused with current political issues. We saw that in Uriyadi 2, which addressed issues related to Sterlite. On the other hand, filmmakers like Pa Ranjith and Raju Murugan have also been making political films in their own style. Raju Murugan’s Gypsy is said to be an intense political drama on how politicians use religion as a tool to create communal tensions. Popular Malayalam star Sunny Wayne plays a communist leader in the film.

The buzz today is to make a realistic film within the confines of commercial cinema. And social media has become the biggest tool to gauge the mood of the people, with satirical political videos and memes going viral. Ajith Kumar-starrer Nerkonda Paarvai, a remake of Amitabh Bachchan’s Pink, is another example. The story is about a girl and her friends who get molested by the nephew of a powerful politician. Only a retired lawyer played by Amitabh Bachchan (Ajith will essay the role in Tamil) is willing to take their case. The 2016 film has uncanny similarities to the recent Pollachi assault case. If the trend is anything to go by, it looks like Tamil filmmakers are trying to milk current social issues, in an attempt to make socially-relevant films that are profitable at the box office as well.

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