Are new-gen directors the answer to our Kollywood stars’ stereotype woes?

‘Pa Ranjith to direct Rajinikanth’s next’ — the headline was quite a surprise when it first came in 2015. They say failure feeds speculation and boy it did. After both Kochadaiyaan and Lingaa turned out to be disasters, Rajinikanth’s career became a topic at the dinner table. Is the Superstar losing his touch? What is he going to do next? It was at this time Rajini announced his next with Pa.Ranjith. A director with substantial political ideologies and craft, the combination was unusually exciting. While Kabali had disappointed, one thing cannot be denied. Rajini had gotten an effective makeover — a one that is closer home. Many thought the project would be a one-off occurrence, but here they are again with Kaala. Ranjith has given yet another version of Rajini that is a whistle-worthy version of the star that is more age-appropriate.

Several stars seem to have taken a similar route to break out of the creative cages that stardom has given them. Collaborate with a younger, relatively newer pool of technicians who seem to have a newer take on stardom. Take Suriya for example. A charismatic actor with a flair and exuberance like no one else, the actor’s body language changed as he started doing more serious and commercial roles. Cut to 2017, where he agrees to a film with Vignesh Shivn, again with just two films in his repertoire. Thaana Serndha Kootam helped Suriya find his youthful charm and easy-going demeanour, thanks to Vignesh’s remarkable sense of humour.

A similar story unfolds in the case of Vijay as well whose collaboration with Atlee was another happy surprise. The duo’s first film Theri was a blockbuster and so was Mersal. The young director smartly played to the star’s strengths giving a mix that would leave Ilayathalapthy’s fans happy. The pattern manifests with female stars as well. Our Lady Superstar Nayanthara’s first solo hit was Ashwin Saravanan’s first film Maya. Aramm, Nayanthara’s biggest hit until now, was helmed by a debutante director. RS Durai Senthilkumar’s third film Kodi gave Trisha a new dimension on screen. Armed with the ethnic traditions of Tamil cinema and with exposure to global cinema, new age directors seem to exactly provide the balance that our stars have been searching for; a new space in cinema that is creatively commercial.

In a watershed moment for this trend, Karthik Subbaraj has bagged Rajini’s next film. A new-gen director who has three acclaimed films to his list, Karthik’s film with Rajini could be his career-defining project. Adding to the momentum, Anirudh Ravichander is composing music for the film. Rumours are rife that Ajith’s 59th project will be with Theeran Adhigaram Ondru fame H Vinoth. In an interview with Film Companion, directors Nithilan Swaminathan (Kurangu Bommai) and Lokesh Kanagaraj (Maanagaram) were asked how do we get a larger audience to see what we call the ‘critical successes’ of Kollywood. Pat comes the reply, ‘we need stars to step into the area’. “Do they want the audience to scream out their name? Do they want goosebumps, whistle-worthy moments for the audiences? We can give that, but it would be in our style. We need stars to give us that space,” they said. And it looks like the stars are listening.

This was first originally published on You can find it here.

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