How to choose your Friday film

With more than half a dozen films releasing this Friday, how do you choose?

A day has only 24 hours. Something as basic as this becomes never more apparent than on a week when you have more than half-a-dozen Tamil releases. How does a person, especially one whose job demands that they watch at least a film or two on any given Friday, decide which ones to take on, and which ones to shrug off? How do you not end up watching a dud, and missing out on a masterpiece? Well, for starters, it helps to face the truth that you can never truly be sure about the quality of a film, regardless of how much of its promotional material you have been exposed to. What guidelines do you then follow to try and make the exercise a less miserable affair?

Do you go by Saran’s stature as a filmmaker — even if his last few films have been wholly forgettable — and see if there’s any merit to his long-pending Aayirathil Iruvar? Do you instead want to repose your faith in the latest to join the horror bandwagon, Bayama Irukku? It does have Rajendran and Kovai Sarala, who have generally been reliable sources of laughter in such films. Or perhaps like me, you have really had enough of Tamil horror films, and instead want to check out something new and promising… something like Kalavu Thozhirchalai, a film about idol smuggling which seems indicative of decent production values.

The other films are no mugs either. Anu Haasan stars in the gritty-looking Valladesam. A film like Pichuvakathi could well emerge as a dark horse. And as for Konjam Konjam — admittedly the weakest-looking of the lot — who can tell if its ‘sister sentiment’ won’t be a recipe for a sleeper hit? And there are at least two other films too. So, yes, what do you do?

A general, not idiot-proof, guideline is to go by the stature of the director/actor, as unfair as it may seem to more inexperienced directors. Going by this, Vinay-starrer Aayirathil Iruvar would get the nod, even if not a vigorous one, given the sombre recent track record of director Saran and the likelihood that the long-pending film could well just be a crafty attempt at piggybacking on the success of Thupparivaalan, which featured Vinay. If you are taking this guideline too seriously though, remember to observe a moment of silence for every person who chose Sundar C and watched his Azhagarsamy during the second weekend of December 1999, and in doing so, passed on a film by a certain debutant director called Bala. The film, of course, is Sethu.

There is, however, a safer method in today’s digital era: go by a film’s trailer. Sure, this is prone to weaknesses too. The film’s faults may have been cleverly masked in the trailer, but nevertheless, at least this helps you see if certain basics are in place. Is the music awful? Do the shots make the film look like a play? Are the dialogues too cheesy? Is the make-up too much? Do the scenes look unbearable? Every week, you usually have at least one or two Tamil films that look like a few people accidentally stumbled on a camera and began recording.

Rather heartwarmingly though, quite a few of this week’s films look quite decent upon first glance. For long, many of us have wondered why Bollywood’s bad films at least look presentable while ours don’t. Perhaps this week is an indication that we are slowly evolving.

I’ll likely go with Aayirathil Iruvar and Kalavu Thozhirchalai, with a concerned backward glance at the films I’ve neglected. Who knows if there won’t be a Sethu among them, but hey, as I said, we do not have infinite time; only limited time in which to make regrettable mistakes.

This column was originally written for The New Indian Express.  All copyrights belong to the organisation. Do link to this page if you’d like to share it.

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