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Japan’s love for Tamil cinema reflects at the Tokyo Film Festival

Tamil cinema was a big hit in Japan, particularly that which had superstar Rajinikanth playing a mind-boggling variety of characters. Happily, the romance continues with R Madhavan starrer Irudhi Suttru.

world cinema Updated: Oct 31, 2017 15:17 IST
Gautaman Bhaskaran
Gautaman Bhaskaran
Hindustan Times, Chennai
R Madhavan,Rajinikanth,Irudhi Suttru
Vikram Vedha stars R Madhavan and Vijay Sethupathi.

Many years ago in the late 1980s and even in the early 1990s, Tamil cinema was a big hit in Japan, particularly that which had superstar Rajinikanth playing a mind-boggling variety of characters. But whatever they were, the Japanese preferred to call them by a single name - Prince. So, Tamil Nadu’s Prince Rajinikanth became a craze in Japan, his antics mesmerising the ticket paying masses - much in the same way Raj Kapoor had in the early years of India’s independence captured the imagination of Russians.

So, it did not come as a surprise to me when the Tokyo International Film Festival chose Tamil versions of Indian movies. Last year, we saw the Madhavan starrer, Irudhi Suttru, helmed by Sudha Kongara playing at the festival - which did not pick the Hindi edition of the film, Saala Khadoos. Madhavan essays a fallen boxer in Irudhi Suttru - who after years of remaining in the shadows, when even his wife walks out on him, is finally asked to coach a women’s boxing team in Chennai. There he finds Madhi (Ritika Singh), a fiery fisherwoman who shows the guts to change the impression associated with women’s boxing in India. Irudhi Suttru was a hit at the festival.

This year, we have another Madhavan starrer, another Tamil work in the festival, Vikram Vedha - and one wonders whether the actor, who grew up in Jamshedpur and worked in some of Mani Ratnam’s films like Kannathil Muthamittal and Alaipayuthey as well as in Tanu Weds Manu, Rang De Basanti and Three Idiots, is the new Prince of Japan.

Also starring another excellent Tamil actor, Vijay Sethupathi, Pushkar-Gayathri’s Vikram Vedha is the story of a cat-and-mouse game played by a ruthless encounter cop (Madhavan) and a hardened-by-circumstance don (Sethupathi). It may not be exactly oven fresh, but the ability of the husband and wife team directing the movie to adapt the age-old, but timeless folklore of King Vikramadityan and Vedhalam (Betal) to the crime and criminality of modern times is what makes Vikram Vedha sparkle.

Apart from Irudhi Suttru, the festival will showcase two more Indian films. Part of the festival’s several world premieres, Bioscopewala in Hindi is a contemporary take on Rabindranath’s Tagore’s immortal classic, Kabuliwala. Narrating the story of a daughter’s (Geetanjali Thapa) search for truth after her celebrated photographer father (Adil Hussain) goes missing on a flight to Kabul, the movie is layered with a subplot about an old Afghan man (Dany Denzongpa) who comes out of jail and evokes nostalgic memories of the girl’s childhood.

The third Indian work is Sanal Sasidharan’s Sexy Durga (now renamed S Durga, after the Central Board of Film Certification in India objected to the title, though the Tokyo festival has retained the original name) - which is a gripping narration of a young couple’s dilemma on a lonely road in the middle of the night.

The movie opens with a woman, Durga (Rajshri Despande), anxiously waiting on a deserted street in the middle of the night -- till Kabeer (Kannan Nair) arrives. We do not know whether they are married, but we are sure that they are eloping from an undisclosed destination to Chennai. They have to reach a train station, and have to thumb a lift to get there.

Unfortunately, the small van that stops by has two men, all sozzled up. And the ride for the couple turns nightmarish, when two more men hop into the vehicle.

(Gautaman Bhaskaran is now covering the Tokyo International Film Festival.)

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First Published: Oct 31, 2017 14:42 IST