cinema cinema:english cinema:tamil Essay



Well, almost the same. An essay.

“The mind sees what it wants to see”

The Da Vinci Code, 2006

The choice of opening quote from the Da Vinci Code might put you into a lot of worry, I know, but I simply love that movie. Nevertheless the movie has this brilliant quote which is so close to what I am trying to do here.

When you keep seeing a lot of movies, ok let me refine that, when you keep seeing a lot of movies, a lot of times; things just strike you, you begin to see things that you wouldn’t have cared about during your first viewing, you start to make assumptions based on thin connections, this article is a voice of all that goes into a head which makes these connections.

It could be frivolous to many who have reached this page, and this is what that gives me the nervousness.

Nevertheless, I begin.

Sometime after Inception was released, there was a Disney comic that was doing the rounds, written of course years and years ago which had the exact structure as that of Inception (A dream within a dream within a dream), we can hardly accuse Christopher Nolan of theft, but the interesting point here is the similarities in structure and how some things are quite universal.

Let’s now get to the wonderful police film Kuruthipunal, released in 1995 is actually based on a Govind Nihlani film Drohkaal which was released the previous year.

Then why doesn’t your article cite Drohkaal? You are bound to ask, I’ll come to that in a bit.

The starting point is of these kind of these connections are of course the interrogation scenes from Kuruthipunal.



The above subtitle would have been a better title for this whole piece, because that is what these two movies are essentially about. Two men; one with an ideology (Badri-Nasser) and another seemingly without (The Joker- Heath Ledger) make up the main antagonists, so critical to both the films

While the joker constantly plays on the subject fear and loss, not only on the main characters of the film, but also on the inhabitants of the city; similarly do Badri and his gang unleash terror on the common public and the honest police officers.

Interestingly both movies begin with an incident involving a school bus.

Well, all this too generic to see, every terrorist group will aim to do just that.

But Wait.

In the Dark Knight, the token of Harvey Dent is a coin, he keeps referring it to as chance- the fairest of all things in the world, but just look at it from here, a flip of a coin can indicate many things and among them is the change of sides.


The Joker keeps referring to himself and the Batman are one and the same, just on different sides, he also strangely says that he is able to understand the freakiness that is the Batman character and that Batman would do better on his side.

This is again exactly what Badri says to Adi (Kamal Haasan), but here it is not the freakiness that is in question, but honesty.

Both films have characters that have been lured by the tricks of the antagonist and cross over to the other side, Harvey Dent even asks “why me?”, but it was the Joker’s trick with everyone, only Harvey was not as strong as he seemed to be, similarly the case with Adi who accepts to become a terrorist informer for the sake of his family and friends.

Shake your belief to an extent that you topple and fall from grace, the death of Harvey Dent had far reaching consequences including a major cover up, similarly in Kuruthipunal, Kamal makes a last ditch attempt at honour even when fully realising that he can live no more without his honesty.

Thematically these movies are so similar because of the below: fear and faith, and most of the conversations in Kuruthipunal are about the same, while only the scale of events are different.

In the Dark Knight, as with most Batman lore is about the city, while Kuruthipunal is interestingly anonymous about the whole setting of the movie, there are few references to other places in the country, but invariably the setting seems anonymous, to imply what I believe is the universality of terror.

The terror groups in the film also represent the threat of the times in the south, although that could be reading into it too deeply.

Something which Kamal again touches upon in Unnai Pol Oruvan (again a remake, improved if I might add)


The Dark Knight has three pivot characters around which the Joker operates, the Batman: The Dark Knight who as we know has many issues including one childhood girlfriend, Harvey Dent: The White Knight who also has girlfriend issue and then there is Commissioner Gordon who fears for the life of his family.

Ok, Kuruthipunal too has three central characters whose life is turned upside down by Badri, DCPs Adi and Abbas and Commissioner Sreenivasan (Director K Vishwanath). The transformations that these characters undergo because of the activities of the antagonist are what I think the most common element amongst them.

There can be no private life of a public protector

The Dark Knight however has this advantage of having a symbol that is incorruptible and hope giving, while Kuruthipunal and Drohkaal manage to bring the same story out with real life characters as opposed to comic book heroes.

That brings us to Drohkaal and why Kuruthipunal is more closer to the Dark Knight than its predecessor, on casual viewing you can say that Kuruthipunal is really better made, there are so many things that are added to the Tamil version that is not there in the Nihlani film, like for example extending the role of Abbas (Arjun) and involved action sequence on the platforms of the dimly lit Egmore Station, which still remains as chilling as I saw it the first time, cinematic differences aside which are many and bound to be when a film is being helmed by one Mr PC Sreeram, the structural similarities between the Dark Knight and Kuruthipunal is only heightened because the screenplay and dialogues (John and Kamal Haasan), because only through dialogue character motivations are completely brought out.

Drohkaal on the other hand brings it down to a more corrupt police vs good police generic concept.  But there is no denying what Kuruthipunal owes Drohkaal, the basic story.

While Kuruthipunal makes it a clash of cultures and ideologies as shown through the conversations between Kamal and Nasser, and this is what the Dark Knight tries to achieve by letting off the Joker against the Batman.

Both scenarios end with a sacrifice.


All this analysis is for what? Any movie can be compared to anyone and with a convincing writer, connections can be established.

I am hardly a convincing writer and this is not a post of revelation, it is just a thought that has been doing the rounds for quite some time in my head, to look at the ideas that make these films as one fluid entity and that may be the reason for the similarities, ideas that flow from one person to another. But the explanations might be even simpler for this, a common movie that has inspired these both, putting this entire post to waste bin. But that is a risk I am willing to take.

I have always seen Nolan’s Batman films as police films that comment on terrorism and maybe that is also one of the reasons for this post.

The stories of both progress differently, Kuruthipunal with a strong grounding towards the families of the policemen involved, while it is only a sub-element in the Dark Knight.

The relationship between the three characters in both the movies oscillates between absolute trust and just working relationships which as mentioned before is exploited by the villain.

Did not want to put this up as points and reduce it to a scoop whoop/buzzfeed release, because this is more involved and needs more discussion. Both are great movies even without these similarities: taut and exciting thrillers which deliver one good scene after the other.

Both films are elevated to a different level by their villains, although Heath Ledger has been lauded posthumously, Nasser’s chilling portrayal towering over the leads and that to in a Kamal film has sadly been forgotten, like most of his roles.

Interestingly Ashish Vidyarthi whose role Nasser assumed for the Tamil version won a National Award.

Kuruthipunal and not Drohkaal was India’s official entry to the Oscars in corresponding year, while the Dark Knight was nominated for every other major category except Best Film, which it would have, had it not been a super hero film.

PC Sreeram has just made one film after Kuruthipunal as director; Nolan came to the theatres with yet another terrorist film called the Dark Knight Rises.

It is also interesting to note that Kuruthipunal begins with a phrase that contains the word Kuruthipunal which translates to River of Blood, while the Dark Knight literally ends with the words: the Dark Knight.


The title of this post, if you haven’t figured out is a direct reference to another Kamal film called Anbe Sivam

This post also marks 20 years since the release of Kuruthipunal.


Thank you for reading.

cinema cinema:tamil



Or the birth of a genre called Shankar


Two nights ago they showed Gentleman on TV, yes I watched it like I have always found time whenever the movie was shown; which is almost always. The movie somehow takes me back to a theatre called Udhayam, it is still there, with not even a shadow of its previous glory. It stands unattended, sign boards sagging opposite the colossus of a metro station up and coming, surely to devour the memories of Udhayam being the most favored film destination of people in and around where I live.

Gentleman was not the first film, I saw in the theatres; but is definitely the one I remember the most; that along with Jurassic Park. The umbilical cords that brought me to my love: film. There is this uncontrollable Hyde of emotions in me, whenever I watch a film; there is more of it when I watch something the second time; the uncontrollable burst of words that comes even while those pictures flicker through. Whatever the film might be, I try to write; but even these bursts would have been rubbished; called as an amateur narcissist attempt to be part of something which you can never be, these feelings are however washed away in the following morning and one more count increases in the unfinished word documents folder somewhere in this system. But Gentleman is different; I will risk any internal battle to write about a film that one has seen at different points in life; thus ends the self scribbling. Oh yes, I did really hate my previous post. #selfhate

A thing of honesty is a joy forever.

It is the year 1993, without having to attribute what world events would have influenced the making of a movie; I proceed directly to corruption; Gentleman was definitely not the first film to show  the color of the hands of the politicos and officials were; at least in the films I have seen before, there have been villains who are politicians and they are villains because they rape and plunder, how they don’t keep up promises or completely ignore the people or they have some direct confrontation with the hero. But never has the problems of the working middle class, of how they have to deal with things grudgingly done. It was a terminal shift from the problems of the poor to the problems of the people who neither belonged below nor above.

The characteristic would repeat straight from Shankar’s next film Kadhalan a middle class collegian yearns for the governor’s daughter; in Indian it was the same suffocating middle class that brought Kamal’s Chandru to the city, Mudhalvan’s Pugazhendi a TV reporter who lives in a street as narrow as an old woman’s hair center parting; even  few of the parents are the same in Boys; the exceptions only being Sivaji and Jeans: but those are different films, it is clear from above that these problems are central to the films of Shankar, but Gentleman being the first is the most striking and honest; a mould from which the others were made.

One man vs. the world.

Staying on the topic of classes, Arjun’s Kicha coming from a poor background and in a society which prevents him from becoming a doctor, so then he uses a self supporting industry; one of entrepreneurial spirit and one in keeping with a certain community’s stereotypes to give him a morning alibi; he doesn’t at once wield a revenge sword at his enemies, he waits and does nothing to them.

Instead he becomes a professional thief by night, only to give unto others what was denied to him: education, this according to me is the closest we have gotten to Batman, and there are many similarities as well; Kicha also has his own Alfred.

Also the protagonist would choose the supposedly meekest of communities to make his living, to avoid any kind of suspicion. The Brahmins are known to have distanced themselves from active society, fearing any direct contact with it; it is often perceived as indifference, it is only another representation of fear in an increasingly Dravidian political land. Shankar would develop this one man theory in the rest of his filmography to increasingly dizzying implausible heights, finally in Sivaji the character becomes a sort of Atlas on whom the world rests. It would have lost the angst and the humanism as how Arjun played it in Gentleman.

The Film itself.

The film itself was a resonating success; no first film Tamil director had yet broken into film heaven as how Shankar did; he had in short he created his own genre and it was only later that he got to work with Kamal and Rajinikanth; so his initial success can surely be attributed to the taut storyline.

It is however far from perfect, in real life nothing close to the events of Gentleman can happen, but somehow the film shortly stops our rationality but not entirely dismantling it; that kind of balance would be very tough to maintain, even for Shankar in later days.

The setting itself provides ample opportunities for humor and gross indecency with games like Dikkilona & Jalabulajung the very mention of these names expound nothing but sex, there are also close-ups to body parts which are better not shown when children are watching and a mock rape, but these too are inducted into the scheme of things (if you are one looking for explanations to quench your logical questions, these are there; but just). The film also moralizes the current generation, but not from the angle of a frustrated policeman  shooing off scantily clad girls but in an almost ‘if you do this, this only will happen’ approach.

Like most Tamil movies which couldn’t find solutions for problems it deals with, Gentleman too ends up in court, the end is no good for society but there is some hope for the individual, the do-gooder will survive.

Gentleman created a format for big budget filmmakers to fill it wither juice(or lack of) later on, so many sapling films with the same story or with a different problem cropped up covering the issues it sort to tackle, but essentially the same thing, it gave birth to the mass film with a different meaning, not like the ones made by S P Muthuraman and others in the 80s; but not completely different. It was the perfect launch pad to the starry skies and milk bath cutouts, but not all succeeded as Shankar did. It can be easily said that he is one filmmaker who uses the screen to the fullest, but succumbing under his own persona he can possibly never make a great film, all his movies will be hits, but it can never come to the closeness of being a great film is what strikes me, not even close as how close Gentleman came. His ability to draw in masses and manipulate audience to believe in a dharmic utopia for three hours is still there for people to see, but how long will he be at it? Will he fail when he or his audiences finally wake up to the truth that one man really cannot change everything for others?

The burning body of Manorama wailing running hither thither in her hut providing her son the one last shot at donning the lab coat and listening to the stethoscope, and Vineet or what is left of him is surrounded by fluttering bloody appalam are pictures that would remain with me.

After the film

Shankar continues to make big budget films, his most recent film and perhaps his weakest was the Tamil remake of 3 Idiots, one of the biggest successes of the year. Although he himself has become his archetypical hero, producing films like Veyyil, Kalloori and Eeram. Small films which aim to just to tell a story, something he could never do; something he was probably denied off. Just like the medical aspirant Kicha who steals secretly to build a ten storey hospital

The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act which guarantees education for children between the ages 6 to 14 came into force on April the first, 2010. The problems of higher education discussed in the film are yet to be dealt with.