Thiagarajan Kumararaja’s first film, Aaranya Kaandam, takes place over a day in the lives of the six characters (played by Jackie Shroff, Ravi Krishna, Sampath Raj, Yasmin Ponnappa, Guru Somasundaram and Master Vasanth). It was widely acknowledged as the first neo-noir gangster flick in Tamil cinema, with Jackie Shroff debuting in Tamil films as the ageing gang lord, Singam Perumal.
Aaranya Kaandam is named after the ‘jungle chapter’ of the Ramayana. Kumaraja’s inspiration behind making a gangster film was revealed to be The Godfather. He said that Aaranya Kaandam was not a biography or history of a gangster but rather “a page out of the life of a gangster”.
Made on a budget of Rs. 5.25 crore, the film was first screened at the South Asian International Film Festival in New York City in 2010, where it won the Grand Jury prize for Best Film. Closer to release, the film garnered objections from the regional censor board over its mature content, profanity and excessive violence. It was released in 2011 with an ‘A’ rating to critical acclaim, and won many regional awards and two National Film Awards (Best Editing, Best First Film of a Director).