A fact related with the outstanding cinema being made in the Indian regional languages is that a larger part of our population gets the information about them either through a controversy or when they are selected for a reputed international festival/awards representing India. Otherwise, a big number of worth-watching gems, which are hugely appreciated in their respective regions, go unnoticed and fail to reach a wider audience within the country itself.
Adding to the fact, no doubt the online portals as well as the lockdown has helped in creating a culture of watching regional-language movies with English subtitles, but the choice still mostly depends upon strong recommendations and what is trending in the news and social networking platforms.
That is exactly the reason how and why films like Soorarai Pottru (Tamil), Asuran (Tamil) and Jallikattu (Malayalam) got a new set of audience after entering the Best Foreign Language Films category at the Golden Globes Awards 2021, and Jallikattu also being selected as the official Indian entry for the Oscars.
Directed by Sudha Kongara Prasad, starring Suriya, Aparna Balamurali, Paresh Rawal and Prakash Belawadi in the lead, Soorarai Pottru (meaning Hail The Brave), is inspired from a real-life story of a common man who dared to dream big by launching a low-cost airline offering affordable tickets to the people in the 1990s. Released online in the lockdown months, it’s not exactly a biopic but based on the real-life experiences of Air Deccan founder Captain Gopinath, and partly inspired from his book Simply Fly. A slide in the end-credits also says ‘based on several true stories from low-cost aviation’ alongside the pictures of Captain Gopinath and his friends. An inspiring and uplifting film, it received wide appreciation from both the audiences and the critics, becoming the first major South blockbuster on the OTT portals.
Dhanush’s Asuran (meaning Demon), directed by Vetrimaaran, is an action-oriented emotional drama also featuring Manju Warrier in the lead. Based on the novel Vekkai by Poomani, it revolves around caste-divide and violent exploitation of the poor, which is prevalent in our society since centuries. Set in the ’80s, it narrates the story of a family’s revolt against their oppressors with many explosive sequences winning over the viewers. Released in 2019, the film was a commercial success, also receiving critical appreciation for its thought-provoking theme and an impressive execution.
Jallikattu, the Malayalam film released in 2019, has also been selected as the Indian entry for the Academy Awards. Directed by Lijo Jose Pellissery, it has Antony Varghese, Chemban Vinod Jose, Sabumon Abdusamad and Santhy Balachandran playing the lead roles; but the centre of attraction remains the villagers’ attempts to capture a buffalo that has managed to escape from the slaughterhouse. Based on a symbolic short story Maoist by S. Hareesh, this is the most innovative and an amazingly shot unforgettable cinematic experience of this millennium that should not be missed.
Since at the Golden Globes more than one entry can be sent from a country, these are not the only three Indian movies sent for the Best Foreign Film category. There are seven more films, including The Disciple (Marathi) and Veyil Marangal (Trees Under the Sun/Malayalam), representing Indian Cinema made in the regional languages; but those are not available yet on the online portals. The other five Hindi films are Tanhaji, Ludo, Eeb Allay Ooo!, Harami and Aisey Hi, out of which the last three still awaited on the OTT platforms.
(The writer is a critic-columnist, an explorer of cinema and author of 'Did You Know' series on Hindi films also active at bobbytalkscinema.com)