Six years after M Sasikumar’s Subramaniapuram opened, the screenplay he wrote has been translated into English.
M Sasikumar’s 2008 Subramaniapuram created a new genre and trend in Tamil cinema – much like what Sholay did to Hindi film in 1975. Both works introduced a kind of violence not seen before. Sippy’s cop-and-dacoit drama (re-released in 3D some days ago) was sadistic, and so was Subramaniapuram. Often it was gory that got audiences shuddering.
Also, Sasikumar’s location of Madurai had Tamil producers and directors queuing up to use the city as the setting for their brand of brutality. Movies like Goripalayam, Madurai Sambavam, Aadukalam and most recently, Jilla – which followed — had plots which unfolded in the city, and were as bloody as some of Quentin Tarantino films.
This was strange though, because nobody could say with any conviction why one of South India’s most holy cities was being used as a playing field to tell such cruel stories.
There are conjectures. One pertains to the great Tamil epic, Silappthikaram, where a woman wronged by the king of Madurai (who beheads her husband suspecting him to be a thief) burns the city down – a classic mix of justice, revenge and savagery.
The English translation of Sasikumar’s gritty classic was released the other day at the Chennai Book Fair by Pandian, Associate Professor of Anthropology at the John Hopkins University. The book includes essays on the movie and a lengthy interview of the helmer.
In what appeared like a boost of adrenalin for Tamil cinema, Pandiyan said: “People around the world are still not aware of the developments in Tamil films. Many experimental movies that have broken the rules and reflect the life of ordinary people in Tamil Nadu have come out over the past few years. And Subramaniapuram was a courageous film about loyalty, friendship and nostalgia, presented in a new and innovative way. The screenplay is a terrific document…”
Tamil/Hindi director Gautham Vasudev Menon (Vaarnam Aayiram, Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa, Nadunisi Naayagal. Ek Deewana Tha), who launched the book, gave a further shot in the Tamil arm when he compared Subramaniapuram to a Martin Scorsese movie “set in Madurai”.
Sasikumar’s film also had critics raving about its editing. In another first, a large portion of it was done on the set itself – and this helped the auteur to reshoot scenes which did not seem to be up to the mark.
Gautaman Bhaskaran is India Editor of FMT, and Chennai-based author, columnist and movie critic. He may be emailed at [email protected]