February 25, 2021 11:38:28 am
Gautham Menon is celebrating his 48th birthday today. This year is also special because it marks the completion of his 20 years of journey in the film industry. He made his debut as a director with the romantic film Minnale, which released on February 2, 2001. And it won’t be an exaggeration to say that he has since redefined the way urban love stories are made in Tamil cinema.
Looking back, Minnale was not a path-breaking film in the romantic genre. But, the film infused the stale genre with a lot of freshness and energy. It was composer Harris Jayaraj’s first film and he knocked the ball out of the park. Even two decades later, Vaseegara hasn’t lost its sheen. It still puts you in a trance. The film was filled with good looking people: Madhavan, Abbas and Reema. And Vivek’s clean humour was just the icing on the cake. The film also softly but firmly announced the arrival of a filmmaker with a great visual, musical and aesthetic sense. And at times Gautham may have disappointed as a writer, but he never let his audience down when it came to delivering a visually appealing film, elevated further by an amazing soundtrack.
If there is one film that created an earthquake in the Tamil film industry in the bygone decade, it has to be Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa. The 2010 film about unrequited love was a musical wonder, courtesy AR Rahman. And nobody expected the film as a whole to be that good before its release. It delivered sheer magic on the big screen. A wonder that Gautham failed to recreate with the film’s Hindi remake titled Ekk Deewana Tha (2012). As the saying goes, some classics should never be touched.
In the last five years, Gautham’s career has hit a rough patch. His last bonafide hit was Yennai Arindhaal (2015), which was both a critical and box office blockbuster. Starring Ajith in the lead role, it was the third film in Gautham’s cop film series. The first two were Kaakha Kaakha (2003) and Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu (2006).
However, later, some poor investment choices that Gautham made impacted his career. He was drawn deep into a controversy after a public spat with young director Karthick Naren over the yet-to-be-released movie Naragasooran. And he also gained an unfavourable reputation in the industry over unfinished projects. The prolonged delay in completion and release of Dhanush’s Enai Noki Paayum Thota did not help his case.
When Enai Noki Paayum Thota finally managed to overcome all the challenges and released in theatres in 2019, it received a lukewarm response at the box office. It did not impress the critics either. All the interest that composer Darbuka Siva’s soundtrack had created before its release, could not salvage the film commercially. That said, Enai Noki Paayum Thota is not a bad film entirely. The payoff for the long wait was simply not satisfying. It was an indication that it was about time for Gautham to reassess his skills and restock his arsenal with fresh narrative techniques. It was about time he moved on from making movies from his own life experiences, however vast they may be, and widened his horizon.
And it seems he’s now doing just that. In the last few years, he directed a web series called Queen based on the life and times of late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa. He helmed a couple of anthologies (Amazon’s Putham Pudhu Kaalai and Netflix’s Paava Kadhaigal) with other filmmakers. He is also exploring opportunities as an actor with films like Kannum Kannum Kollaiyadithaal, Trance and recently released Kutty Story.
Now, what he needs is for his colleagues to put their trust back in him and believe in his vision. You may have complaints about his films but that doesn’t undermine the fact that he’s one of the most honest and passionate filmmakers of Tamil cinema we have today. The Tamil film industry needs Gautham Menon more than he needs it.
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