Kabali to Jailer: How New Age Directors Are Rewriting Stardom

Sowmya Rajendran

Insert Any Ferocious Animal Name or Natural Phenomenon

An avid Tamil cinema fan knows the “build-up” scene for a star all too well. The audience is treated to a series of questions and comments that deify the hero before we see him, body part by body part: Do you know who he is? Do you know what he can do?

In Nelson Dilipkumar’s Jailer (2023)

A scene that foreshadows Muthuvel Pandian’s (Rajinikanth) transformation from a mild-mannered pensioner to a supercop refers to the protagonist by a curious name – a dinosaur.

Breaking The ‘Superstar Film’ Formula

Rajinikanth’s hesitation to appear as a greying senior isn’t a simple case of vanity. After all, the actor has always appeared without a wig or makeup in public and for stage shows. But when it came to cinema, Rajinikanth was wary of alienating his audience. 

Alcohol is Not A Sign of Being Macho

Tamil cinema’s relationship with alcohol is more complicated than with smoking, which has largely been used as a style statement. Drinking alcohol has almost always been an indicator of sadness or tragedy (like a failed romance) informing the hero’s life.

Better a Dinosaur That's Alive And Kicking Than a Fossil

The attempts made by these young filmmakers may not always work but they’re necessary to establish a new order. After all, the verdict from the audience is clear – stars need to reinvent themselves if they are to stay relevant.