Happy birthday Shankar: Five best films of the filmmaker that were truly ahead of time
In Tamil cinema, the words such as visionary, larger-than-life and path-breaking are most commonly used to describe the work of filmmaker S Shankar, who has always strived to push the envelope when it comes to his films. Dubbed Steven Spielberg of Tamil cinema thanks to his big-budget mega projects and out-of-the-box story ideas, Shankar is regarded as the showman of south Indian cinema.
Over the years, Shankar cinema has become a genre by itself. On the occasion of his 56th birthday, we take a look at five of his films that were truly ahead of time.
In his maiden collaboration with Kamal Haasan in Indian, Shankar imagined a world free of corruption. The story was centred on an ex-freedom fighter turned vigilante bent on rooting out corruption. Haasan plays both the father and son in this vigilante action-drama which also starred Manisha Koirala and Urmila Matondkar. When the father finds out that his own son has been facilitating corrupt practices, he doesn’t even think twice before taking his life. What truly stood out in the film were the series of murders, the action choreography, especially the part where Kamal Haasan uses ‘varma kalai’ to paralyze his victims before killing and the British era flashback. To see all of this in a Tamil film in 1996 made Indian ahead of its time. The work on the sequel has already begun and it can be expected to hit the screens next year.
By now, it was quite evident that Shankar had a penchant for making films about vigilantism, and he didn’t bat an eyelid to make these stories with some of the biggest stars of Tamil cinema. In Anniyan, another vigilante action-drama, Shankar explored the subject of multiple personality disorder for the first time in Tamil cinema. If it was about corruption in Indian, Anniyan was about public negligence and social apathy. The story is centred on Ramanujam Iyengar aka Ambi, a consumer protection advocate. When he can’t bring about a change in the society by raising civic awareness, Ambi’s anger manifests into his alter ego named Anniyan, who goes on a killing spree to teach the wrongdoers a lesson. The film continues to remain as the biggest blockbuster in Vikram’s career even after so many years since its release.
Sivaji marked Shankar’s maiden collaboration with actor Rajinikanth. Cut from the same cloth as his other vigilante action-dramas, Sivaji was centered on an NRI-returned (played by Rajinikanth) and how his ambition to do good for his people and give back to the society is faced with challenges due to corrupt people in power. When Sivaji can’t fight the system the right way, he opts for his own way. Mounted on a massive budget, the film stood out for its overall production values and grandeur it brought to the screen in 2007. The film was another opportunity for Shankar his flex his larger-than-life ambition and with the help of Rajinikanth, one of the biggest stars of Indian cinema, he doesn’t disappoint.
With Rajinikanth’s science-fiction action drama Enthiran, Shankar took the giant leap towards Hollywood in terms of production value. Borrowing concepts from films such as I, Robot and Bicentennial Man; Enthiran was the story of a humanoid robot called Chitti (played by Rajinikanth) developing emotions and going rogue. One of the biggest highlights of the film are the scenes featuring Rajinikanth as the robot which the actor made it so much fun to watch with his histrionics.
The film went on to rake in the moolah big time at the box-office, emerging as one of the biggest grossers of Indian cinema. In terms of production, the film set a big benchmark for Indian cinema and it was not until SS Rajamouli’s Baahubali series did audiences get to see something more path-breaking.
The much anticipated sequel to Enthiran, 2.0 takes a socially relevant environment related problem and gives it a science-fiction twist, which results in an insanely and illogically fun film that gets powered by breathtaking visuals and Rajinikanth in his effervescent self.
Set in a world where birds are facing extinction due to high emission of radiation from mobile towers, an ornithologist (Pakshi Rajan), played by Akshay Kumar, takes it upon himself to fight for the cause as he tries to make everyone understand that the world is not just a place for humans. Given the scale on which it is mounted, 2.0 works magnificently and even the minor flaws are negligible. The climax action sequence that unfolds in a stadium was truly an out of the world experience.
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