Following films such as Nerkonda Paarvai (2019) and Valimai (2022), H Vinoth reunited with Ajith Kumar for the third time with his recent action film Thunivu. Having made three films with a star like Ajith, the director tells us why audiences look forward to big-star films and why such films are centred around larger-than-life characters. He asks, “If they are people like you and me, then why would we celebrate them as stars?”
The Thunivu director says, “A star’s nature cannot be integrated into reality in films. They have special qualities that make them a star. When we pray to God, we assign certain qualities to the Almighty: he is good, powerful and has several weapons. Similarly, for people to celebrate someone as a star, they would need to behave as supermen in their films. Be it flying or fighting, it’s the larger-than-life quality that attracts people. That’s how the people here have perceived them.” But what if we integrate reality into big hero films? H Vinoth thinks there are chances that the film won’t work.
“I strongly believe that people have a fear of confronting reality and truth. Good films throw harsh realities right on people’s faces and it’s that reality that people are always scared of.” He adds that the viewers are fundamentally driven to watch films with their families and do not want those films to either negatively influence them or invoke fear in them. And big star films fulfil these criteria. “Everyone can watch a big-star film together. There won’t be any major conflict. It will be a mixture of drama, fights, dances and some comedic elements. So, I think the public views big-star films as a minimum guarantee.”
Today, most discourses among fans tend to lean towards directors and are not just limited to the star actors in the films. While H Vinoth partly agrees with this, he points out that these expectations about a particular director’s films are limited to fewer audiences. “All such talks about the director, content and others are only a 10% game and this set of audience exists across eras. For instance, there was a set of audience members who talked a lot about films made by Bharathiraja and K Balachander. Since we have social media today, the concept of people understanding directors and their work seems to have become largely significant, but it is limited to only 10% of films. The rest 90% of commercial cinema is based on stars. Either there will be star heroes like in Kollywood or superheroes like Spiderman and Superman. Only rarely do we get star directors like James Cameron and Rajamouli.”
H Vinoth has worked with Ajith in three films now. What goes behind their conversations in between shoots? “Professionally, Ajith sir never interferes with the story,” the director says. But there is one question that he keeps asking at the time of filming: Whether the scene has come out correctly. “To this question, most technicians would say yes. However, I would say that I don’t know how it has come out.”
In Tamil cinema today, directors are increasingly trolled if their films turn out to be unsuccessful, especially if these are big-star films. However, H Vinoth doesn’t want to discuss whether this troll culture is right or wrong. Instead, he says it is something that cannot be stopped. “I am sure the trolling will only increase because of the attention it generates. If a meme that trolls a director ends up getting over one lakh views and ten thousand likes, it is only natural that more people want to emulate that. The public has the right to criticise something that they feel is wrong. So, at the end of the day, what the public celebrates will keep getting produced,” the director concludes.