The evolution of the gangster genre in South Indian cinema.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s Hollywood, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas were churning out blockbusters in the name of Star Wars and Jurassic parks. Those were crowd pullers and did make the entire spectrum of the audience revel in their blockbuster extravaganza. In parallel, there were Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino who were making gangster epics like Goodfellas and Pulp Fiction with absolutely gripping screenplays. It seems to be South Indian cinema is finding itself in the 90s era of Hollywood.

What are the ingredients required to make the gangster movie look more promising and interesting to the Indian audience?

We can find many when we look at the scripts of several hits like God Father, Scarface, The Irishman etc. There are several core points of interest in the story like the protagonist striving to achieve business-related goals and political ambitions.

To support that narrative and ambition, movies have few elevation scenes to satiate the hunger of whistles, therefore amplifying the larger-than-life persona of the protagonist, which has become mandatory in this genre. Convolute this with love and family affections, you have served a perfect spicy dish to the audience.

The most common storyline we have come across in recent decades is the saga of a mafia don – depicting the growth of a man’s ascent from rags to riches. The burning desire of a man to become rich or powerful enough to rule the world, taking revenge against the society for making him suffer in his early days.

Maniratnam’s Nayagan is the textbook movie for several Indians who went on to make these kinds of saga movies; Vetrimaaran’s Vada Chennai and Selvaraghavan’s Pudhupettai were hugely successful with their realism, whereas movies like Kabali and Billa 2 failed miserably. There was Basha, a gangster in exile and Thalapathi, a prince in exile serving the gangster. Star heroes always choose the gangster genre at least once during their career.

The recent south Indian movies Pushpa and KGF (1 &2) were not only exceptional but were able to reach the pulse of their respective audience with their spell-bounding movie-making craft. However, I am highly confident in saying that Vada Chennai and Pudhupettai are much classier gangster/mafia stories than Pushpa and KGF, because of the smooth writing to showcase the evolution of the characters. In addition, the former two don’t have punch dialogues and have helped me greatly in avoiding facepalms.

A writer who has this trait can have a great career in South Indian cinema ; The capability to impact the minds of the audience and stir the adrenaline in the blood.

How effectively can we tell a story about a normal human who takes on the most powerful with his bravery and tactics? Why does the audience get involved too much in these adrenaline-pumping emotions.? Because we, the audience, do not have such power in our real lives as that of the one depicted on the screen. How many of us thought of thrashing a person in real life? We can’t do that because of the fear of retaliation from the other side and because of the fear of the law. And that is the exact reason why whistle-worthy screenplays and scenes have become the ingredients of these movies.

There are few plotlines which are impractical at all, yet we enjoy them and fantasize about them. All the fantasy epic stories we heard from our grandparents in childhood, and the stories of adventures and fairy tales impacted our senses deeply in our infant brains. I am afraid this is the reason why adults can enjoy and successfully make movies like Frozen and other Disney fairy tales.

After all these impactful and digested since childhood stories coming in the form of movies, any new variant and genre will be highly cherished and welcomed by hardcore movie lovers like me, like how the world welcomed the scratch-your-head hard stories of Christopher Nolan.

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