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Why Balaji Mohan's As I'm Suffering From Kadhal is an important step in Tamil cinema

India Today logo India Today 5 days ago

Long before the audience and critics saw the Tamil film Kadhalil Sodhappuvadhu Yeppadi and raved about it, I had seen the short film of the same, directed by Balaji Mohan. At that time, Kadhalil Sodhappuvadhu Yeppadi was fresh and far from traditional rom-com films, which mostly dealt with a recurring 'guy falls for a girl' concept. I was in my first year of engineering college and was seriously thinking of a future in films. Balaji Mohan, who started his career as a short film director in the television show, Naalaya Iyakunar, has directed several such short films.

As a staunch Tamil cinema follower, it's exciting to see the industry evolve- in terms of content and the platform, with which it tells the story. Let's also admit the harsh reality that the Tamil film industry has shown resistance to change. Balu Mahendra and Kamal Haasan are two names that immediately come to my mind when we talk about adapting to new technologies. Both have tried to break away from the staple and their contribution to the industry is unparalleled. Having said that, it's an open secret that Kollywood, as it's called, doesn't welcome change with open arms.

But here we have a young filmmaker, Balaji Mohan, who has taken the bold initiative to launch his new web-series called As I'm Suffering From Kadhal, a modern, progressive and no-nonsense take on urban relationships. Since Balaji Mohan started his journey with short films, he understands the medium. He knows that one has to be resilient to change for a healthy cinema.

Speaking about the web-series, Balaji Mohan, in an interview with The Hindu, said, "It calls for a different set of skills when it comes to logistics. In a sense, it was like going back to short films in terms of execution, but things are easier because I'm known as a feature director too. I had to work with a much lower budget than a feature; it was very experimental. I would call it something that falls in between short films and features. It called for abilities that I'd picked up in both genres. And, like every project, this also was a learning experience. It made me a better creator and administrator."

It's 2017 and the consumption pattern of the audience has had a drastic effect on the industry itself. Because the filmmakers today are dealing with a more sophisticated audience, who would discuss a Woody Allen's film or a Bong Joon-ho's film over booze. They're aware of world cinema. They know that Game of Thrones and Black Mirror are the pop-culture. They're the same bunch who would have still subscribed to Netflix, Amazon Prime or Hotstar after fighting their initial inhibitions. Plus, the internet has no censorship. Thankfully, Pahlaj Nihalani cannot chop off sensuous scenes on the internet.

Now, the filmmakers have a big responsibility to cater to that audience. They have to come up with something that pleases this significant lot. However, at the same time, the content is invariably the winner no matter what the platform is. In fact, one of Hollywood's finest actors, Brad Pitt, had released his satirical war film, War Machine on Netflix. Despite opening to mixed reviews, War Machine invited the global audience to catch up with the current trend. Ultimately, this initiative by Balaji Mohan would invite a lot of filmmakers to come up with unique and modern ideas. For instance, director Vijay Kumar, who directed the terrific Uriyadi last year, faced the wrath of theatre owners, as the film was removed in a week's time. Unfortunately, the only option we had was to watch the pirated version, which was available on the internet. Releasing films on the internet will kill the rampant issue of piracy. According to a survey of 1,211 households throughout the United States, 54 per cent of the adults have Netflix subscription. And the internet penetration in India is steadily catching up its pace.

Cinema is a mixture of art and economics. For budding filmmakers, the budget has always been a constraint and box-office numbers do matter in the end. To release a film online has a lot of benefits for the filmmakers. Because he/she doesn't have to worry about how much money the film made and so on. A content is available on the internet for consumption and that's it. If the social media responses for As I'm Suffering From Kadhal are to be considered, the series is a hit. Next time, all these non-creative departments wouldn't be an issue for Vijay Kumar, Balaji Mohan, or any other filmmaker. Which is why director Selvaraj Selvamani had released his fantastic drama, Nila, on Netflix.

With As I'm Suffering From Kadhal, it's safe to say that Balaji Mohan is a game changer among his contemporaries and has already sowed the right seeds.

(The writer tweets as @LoneWolf_7126)

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