Tamil cinema and its tryst with multi-starrers

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After I caught the first-day present of Captain Miller earlier this yr, a fellow member of the viewers was shocked to know that the Dhanush movie additionally starred actors like Shiva Rajkumar, Sundeep Kishan and Aditi Balan. It made me marvel about two issues; that there are a choose few who’re fortunate sufficient to catch a movie with out watching any of its promotional materials and there appears to be an inflow of multi-starrers from the Tamil movie trade. Even when we don’t think about the Ponniyin Selvan duology, Jailer, Leo or Vikram in latest instances, simply two months into 2024 (aside from the Dhanush movie) we additionally bought Blue Star and Lal Salaam which featured a number of lead actors.

All the foremost Tamil actors are at present doing movies that includes a number of stars. Earlier than we get to what’s going to unfold within the foreseeable future, let’s take a look at how the idea of multi-starrers has developed inside the Tamil movie trade through the years.

Multi-starrers just isn’t an idea that’s new to Tamil cinema. They had been widespread however they had been nearly at all times restricted to movies starring two leads which the trade likes to name ‘double-hero topics’. They had been normally tales involving two pals (Sivaji Ganesan and Gemini Ganesan in Parthal Pasi Theerum, Muthuraman and Ravichandran in Kadhalikka Neramillai), brothers (MGR and Gemini Ganesan in Muharasi, Sivaji and Rajinikanth in Padikkadavan), enemies (Rajini and Kamal Haasan in 16 Vayathinile, Karthik and Prabhu in Agni Natchathiram) or simply strangers launched to one another by destiny (Rajini and Kamal in Apoorva Raagangal, Sivaji and Vijay in As soon as Extra).

Sivaji Ganesan and MG Ramachandran in ‘Koondukkili’
| Photograph Credit score:
Particular Association

The legendary actors of Tamil cinema, MGR and Sivaji, have starred solely in a single movie collectively, Koondukkili (1954) and Vijay and Ajith, thought-about the duumvirate of the present era, have additionally acted collectively in only a single outing, Rajavin Parvaiyile (1995). By the way, each these movies had been common grossers.

The time between these two generations whereby Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth turned from actors to stars noticed each of them collaborating for a slew of movies like Moondru MudichuAvargal and Ninaithale Inikkum. Very hardly ever, there have been movies starring a number of lead actors, like Pazhani (1965) which starred Sivaji alongside S. S. Rajendran and Muthuraman.

And, a discourse on Tamil multi-starrers can’t be full with out Sivaji’s Bharatha Vilas (1973), a movie on spiritual unity, secularism, and brotherhood which, in a meta method, included actors from different industries similar to Akkineni Nageswara Rao (from the Telugu movie trade), Sanjeev Kumar (Hindi), Madhu (Malayalam) and Rajkumar (Kannada).

An extended standing trope

Twin-lead movies have been a long-standing trope in Tamil cinema and it might not be an overstatement to say that it peaked within the 90s when nearly all of the lead actors had been arising with completely different permutations and mixtures to group up collectively for a flick. The buddy-cop style that labored wonders for Hollywood opened a brand new avenue for such dual-hero movies that includes related characters with a typical battle like Kuruthipunal (Kamal and Arjun), Thalapathi (Rajini and Mammootty), Duet (Prabhu and Ramesh Aravind), Sivasakthi (Sathyaraj and Prabhu), Kadhala Kadhala (Kamal and Prabhu Deva) and Kalloori Vaasal (Ajith and Prashanth). Then there was the ‘frenemies’ trope which featured a typical plot involving two innately completely different individuals placing their variations away and coming collectively for a typical objective, similar to Ullasam (Ajith and Vikram) and Nerrukku Ner (Vijay and Surya). Whereas we’re at it, Thevar Magan, starring Kamal Haasan and Sivaji Ganesan got here out in 1992 and what’s going to prime that collaboration?

Kamal Haasan and Sivaji Ganesan in ‘Thevar Magan’

Kamal Haasan and Sivaji Ganesan in ‘Thevar Magan’
| Photograph Credit score:
Particular Association

Then, multi-starrers that includes a number of actors turned from star-lead autos to comparatively small-budget household flicks starring a bunch of major characters as a substitute of the normal “hero”. If the boundaries of this style had been pushed by filmmakers within the black-and-white period like A Bhimsingh, C.V. Sridhar and A.P. Nagarajan and the transitioning period like Ok. Balachander, it was administrators like Visu who took the baton ahead. His movies within the 80s like Dowry KalyanamChidambara Rahasiyam, Samsaram Adhu Minsaram, and Thirumathi Oru Vegumathi featured star-studded casts. Whereas he continued the trope within the 90s as properly, the last decade additionally noticed administrators like V. Sekhar doling out multi-starrers like Varavu Ettana Selavu Pathana, Kaalam Maari Pochu, Pongalo PongalViralukketha Veekkam and Koodi Vazhnthal Kodi Nanmai. The 2000s noticed administrators like Ok.S. Ravikumar (ThenaliSamudhiramPanchathantiram and Manmadhan Ambu) and Sundar. C (Ullam Kollai PoguthaeAnbe SivamKalakalappu and Aranmanai movies) taking the pattern ahead.

It’s additionally when the variety of feminine stars matched that of their male counterparts which later paved the way in which for women-fronted multi-starrers like Three Roses and Snegithiye. If it was Bharatha Vilas for the earlier era, it needs to be Suyamvaram (1999) for the present one. That includes 14 main administrators, 19 cinematographers and over 30 main actors, the movie holds the Guinness World Report for casting essentially the most stars in a movie in addition to being the quickest-ever feature-length movie made, with filming being accomplished in 23 hours and 58 minutes!

(L-R) Anu Aggarwal, Heera Rajagopal, Anand and Prashanth in a still from ‘Thiruda Thiruda’

(L-R) Anu Aggarwal, Heera Rajagopal, Anand and Prashanth in a nonetheless from ‘Thiruda Thiruda’
| Photograph Credit score:
Particular Association

If there’s one filmmaker who has been making multi-starrers for many years, it’s Mani Ratnam. The veteran made Agni Natchathiram within the 80s, Thalapathi, Thiruda Thiruda and Iruvar within the 90s, Aayutha Ezhuthu within the 2000s, Raavanan, Kadal and Chekka Chivantha Vaanam for the 2010s and the 2 Ponniyin Selvan movies within the 2020s. And did we point out the grand ensemble forged of his upcoming movie Thug Life?

Evolving panorama

The daybreak of the brand new millennium noticed two large multi-starrers. Abilities like Ajith, Mammootty, Tabu and Aishwarya Rai teamed up for the gorgeous Kandukondain Kandukondain. On the opposite finish of the spectrum, arguably Kamal Haasan’s greatest directorial, Hey Ram, starring himself alongside Shah Rukh Khan, Hema Malini, Rani Mukerji, Vasundhara Das, Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri, was launched.

The veteran adopted up on the format with the evergreen comedy Panchatanthiram in 2002.

Akshay Kumar and Rajinikanth in a still from ‘2.0’

Akshay Kumar and Rajinikanth in a nonetheless from ‘2.0’
| Photograph Credit score:
Particular Association

The following twenty years didn’t see a decline in dual-lead-led movies; examples embody Avan Ivan, Mankatha, Aarambam, Thani Oruvan, Vikram Vedha and Grasp. However the true blue multi-starrers noticed a serious drop in these years with only a few movies like Dasavathaaram, Nanban, Mersal, Chekka Chivantha Vaanam and Tremendous Deluxe ending up having an array of stars of their forged record.

It was within the late 2010s that the 2 Baahubali movies modified the panorama of your complete Indian movie trade. Aside from highlighting the saleability of common but rooted tales, what it positively impacted essentially the most was the casting in such movies which included roping in actors from completely different industries to cater to a wider viewers. Right this moment, these movies are collectively categorised underneath an umbrella time period: pan-Indian movies. Although the likes of KGF and Kantara have proved that such an ensemble just isn’t essential for a movie to go pan-Indian, many of the movies tagged as such sport a various assortment of skills from throughout the nation.

Although the Tamil movie trade made a pan-Indian movie again in 1948 within the type of Chandralekha, it’s protected to say that the trade took the new-wave pan-India plunge with Rajini’s 2.0 in 2018 which noticed Akshay Kumar making his Tamil debut. The very subsequent yr, Rajini’s subsequent movie — Petta — discovered a villain in one other Bollywood star, Nawazuddin Siddiqui. 

Going with the pattern

In the end, comparatively smaller movies additionally started tapping into this pattern and examples embody Enemy, Mark Antony, Maamannan, Por Thozhil, Maanaadu and Thiruchitrambalam. The rise of OTT originals and anthologies has additionally made it simpler for writers, filmmakers and stars to group up for a mission and but have their very own distinctive area. Fashionable Love Chennai, Putham Pudhu Kaalai, Mathagam, Suzhal: The Vortex and Vadhandhi: The Fable of Velonie are latest examples.

Coming again to theatrical releases, there’s a slew of biggies slated to be out this yr that are going to have an ensemble forged. Alongside movies like Vikram’s Thangalaan and the long-awaited Dhruva Natchathiram is Mr X starring Arya, Gautham Karthik, Sarath Kumar, Manju Warrier and Anagha, and Dhanush’s second directorial Rayaan which stars him alongside Kalidas Jayaram, Sundeep Kishan, Selvaraghavan and S.J Suryah.

Within the large leagues, now we have Vijay’s The Biggest of All Time which stars Prashanth, Prabhu Deva, Sneha and Laila whereas Ajith’s Vidaa Muyarchi encompasses a forged that features Arjun, Arav and Regina Cassandra aside from Trisha. In the meantime, Rajinikanth’s Vettaiyan has an ensemble forged that features Amitabh Bachchan, Fahadh Faasil, Rana Daggubati, Manju Warrier, Ritika Singh and Dushara Vijayan, whereas Kamal Haasan’s Indian 2 additionally stars S.J. Suryah, Kajal Aggarwal, Siddharth, Rakul Preet Singh and Priya Bhavani Shankar.

A still from ‘Dhruva Natchathiram’

A nonetheless from ‘Dhruva Natchathiram’
| Photograph Credit score:
@SonyMusicSouth/YouTube

Most likely the most important one but needs to be Kamal’s movies with Mani Ratnam’s Thug Life as its forged record consists of Jayam Ravi, Trisha, Dulquer Salmaan, Gautham Karthik, Joju George and Aishwarya Lekshmi.

It’s fascinating to see how the very that means of multi-starrers has modified because the movie trade developed in the previous couple of a long time. From the time period being synonymous with a movie having a number of protagonists with near-equal weightage and display time, it now implies that a movie has an ensemble forged and these actors’ characters and screen-time don’t essentially should be on par with the lead protagonist who is sort of at all times a star. Whether or not the brand new wave of such multi-starrers rightfully deserves that tag is a debate for one more day, however there’s not an iota of doubt that it’s nice to see an array of skills mild up the display; from the seems to be of it, we’re in lots of extra to come back.



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