Kamal Haasan’s much-awaited, long-in-the-making, sequel to his espionage thriller Vishwaroopam is hitting the screens on August 10. The Vishwaroopam franchise has filled the huge gap that Kollywood cinema has when it comes to the genre of spy films. In fact, Kamal Haasan, in a recent interview, mentions the lack of such memorable films. “The idea is to make the kind of movie I wanted to see as a film buff. It’s the film we keep talking about, wondering why we didn’t make it or why we digress or dilute when we do it. We are always appreciative of fast-paced thrillers, but we never end up making it,” said the actor at a promotional event.
It is not just about a fast-paced thriller, but what Kollywood has always lacked is an agent series such as the James Bond films or the Mission Impossible franchise. The agent who flaunts cutting-edge gizmos and technology — nothing is beyond his capabilities and saves the day without fail. One could argue that our normal commercial heroes do possess a few of the above-mentioned traits, but the fascinating thing about the above-mentioned franchises is that they don’t make the discerning viewer question the logic, or the science involved. However, in Kollywood, it is a different story.
Dialing back a few years, the first introduction to a spy was from the Jaishankar films. Jaishankar quite popularised the cowboy, detective films in his era, the most memorable being 1970 film CID Shankar. Kamal Haasan’s The 1986 film Vikram saw the Ulaganayagan play the eponymous agent Arunkumar Vikram aka Vikram. Quite revolutionary for its time, Vikram sees Kamal flaunt some cool gadgets that were definitely not mainstream back then. Even a mere lock-picking device has a pair of earphones attached to it. Probably the first Tamil film to mention Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, Vikram has a lot of science-fiction writing that an agent deserves thanks to Kamal and writer Sujatha. However, the film suffers from a very Kollywoodian perspective. As filmmakers, there is an urge to satisfy all kinds of audiences, cater to all geographic pockets. We digress as creators in an attempt to pack everything in our stories, so that there is something for everyone. The reason is simple — more the footfall, better the revenue. The objective is to somehow bring the ‘family audience’ in, it still is. Thus, Vikram travels to Salamia where there is forced humour with a transsexual man. There are item numbers too. Kamal, in fact, agrees that he failed with Vikram even though it was a commercial success. “It’s not easy to adapt such ideas to our cinema. Imagine James Bond removing his shoe, so he can enter Kabali temple. I remember Jaishankar’s cowboy films that had buffaloes running in the background. They would have village festivals in place of Mexican festivals. It all looked incongruous and frankly, a bit silly. College kids, I remember, had a ball in the theatre seeing Asokan play a cowboy. Vikram, in a way, turned out to be that,” Kamal said in an interview with the New Indian Express.
With Vishwaroopam, Kamal made a hefty promise of not meandering from the core story. The first installment fulfilled its promise of being an action-packed, fast thriller. Following Vishwaroopam 2, there is also the much-awaited Dhruva Natchathiram in the pipeline which again promises to be a true-to-its genre thriller. With the films reaching more markets across the country and abroad, the culture is apt for our filmmakers to stop trying to whet the tastes of all kinds of audiences. And maybe, that could end us giving up the agent we need and deserve.