Film Reviews Then and Now in Tamil

Caveat: This is, in a way, meant for senior movie aficionados. In fact, young film lovers also must read. A bit lengthy; otherwise, just leave it.

Today we all have become reviewers of movies through the innumerable social networks. But, in my school days we had only Tamil magazines which used to review the Tamil films especially in ‘Kumudam’ and ‘Anandavikatan’ which invariably carried a lot of value.

I remember reading all those reviews with great interest and it may be surprising to you that I still remember some of the phrases or lines mentioned in those reviews.

Vikatan employed a special way of presenting the reviews. The movie’s content mostly decided the review method. Though I remember some of the popular reviews, my search through the net got me some more information on them.

Vikatan categorized the type of movies and reviewers based on that. For example, if the story is urban, mainly catering to the educated film goers of the cities, the reviews were written as a tête-à-tête between two young men Shekar and Chander. Invariably, Sridhar’s films and some of Shivaji Ganesan’s films fall into this category as the friends use English words and terms in their conversation. If the movie is more sentimental and family oriented the review will be done by a couple Shanmugam Pillai and Meenakshi Ammal. The variety of emotions expressed in the movie would be analyzed by these slightly elderly couples. If the movie belongs to rural milieu and less educated class (those days they called them B-C centers), the reviewers would be Munusami and Manickam. I couldn’t get the originals of these types of interesting reviews, but I accidentally stumbled upon one from a collection of a novel from Vikatan. It was done by Munsami and Manickam for an insipid movie ‘Naan Vanangum Deivam’, a Shivaji-Padmini starrer.

Kumudam had a style of its own, and many times the reviews used to be very caustic also. For example, for a MGR movie ‘Thai Magalukku Kattiya Thali’ the page was left blank and in the end they have put only one line ‘Vetkakkedu!’ (Shame). The other page carried a still from the film. In the two-page coverage, one page will carry a full page film still and the other the review. If my memory is correct, for some time, the still photo was drawn beautifully by their artist Varnam, I still remember especially for the movie ‘Kaththiruntha Kangal’.

The last line will carry the summary of the review. For example, ‘Pasamalar’ it was ‘Kakithamalla’ (not a paper flower), ‘Aalayamani’ it was ‘Virisal kanda manithaan aanal oasi vithyasamaga ketkirathu’ (crack in the bell but the sound is different!). For the film ‘Sri Valli’ the entire page was just filled with ‘Muruga- Muruga’. For ‘Major Chandrakant’ the review carried a line ‘This film is made nor for Paisa but for Passion’. But, one review I read and laughed out like anything; it was for one of KR Vijaya’s horrible movies, is based on the action and reactions of the person sitting next to the reviewer (Pakkaththu seattukkarar who was referred as Pa.See). That fellow sleeps through half of the movie and suddenly gets up at one point and says ‘Ada, ivan vera irukkaana?’ (Is he also there?) and then in another place ‘Kashta kaalam!’(bad time)

In between, Vikatan used a new technique by inviting some selected readers with a small contest to see and review it at their expense. I was (un)lucky to be one to see a movie ‘Ayiram Vasal Idayam’ with my friend Haribabu. We were invited to the Vikatan office and met the Editor who treated us very cordially.

Later, Aananda Vikatan started awarding marks much to the chagrin of the film people, but it also worked. Till today, I heard the maximum marks awarded by Vikatan vimarsana kuzhu is for ’16 Vayadinile’ (62.5/100)! LOL!

I personally feel that less said the better about the present day film reviews as a lot of factors go into them from the star value to the producer or director’s influence. So I neither read them nor give credence to it.

I honestly feel in this case, definitely ‘Old is (Genuine) Gold’.


More by :  G Swaminathan

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