This time, 25 years ago, a young man made his foray into cinema off-screen. His debut film Gentleman had known faces albeit not the top stars most people were used to. However, the film surpassed all that and emerged as one of Tamil cinema’s brilliantly made films in the 90s. Shankar Shanmugham’s entry into cinema is said to have happened by accident. When SA Chandrasekhar accidentally caught a drama stage that was written by Shankar. While he had dreams of becoming an actor, he chose to be behind the lens, a move that fans welcome.
Clocking in 25 years in the industry, making vigilante, patriotic, love-infused, and now technologically high films, Shankar has come a long way and is now regarded as one of the top directors from the industry. Someone whom everybody wants to work with and whose works are eagerly awaited. Like the upcoming Rajinikanth film ‘2.0’.
Here are a few of his films over the years:
If a directorial debut is anything to go by, it felt like director Shankar had arrived even before he started the journey. If one can break down to analyse the 1993 film Gentleman, one is flabbergasted as to how a serious film with patriotic elements and downright slander of politicians was blockbuster of the year. Throw in Rahman’s music and you have a cult classic. The movie also cemented Arjun’s career as well as establishing the trademark directorial style of Shankar – Elements of nationalism, hatred for the loopholes in the justice system, and condemnation of bribe culture.
It’s the first time Shankar tried a romantic-drama and even though it didn’t have patriotism as such, it still had the elements of the powerplay and politicians and the evident divide between them and the public. The plot is about how an underdog falls in love with the governor’s daughter and is put through a lot of trials and tribulations and at the end, love conquers all. It is also about the misuse of power on the governor’s path, with the film also serving tribute to dance since Prabhudeva is the lead. Truly a memorable watch.
The idealistic hero and the villain who is just too proud to acknowledge someone better than him, Mudhalvan was a political thriller that dealt with idealism, patriotism, ego-clashes, and family. The film did so well that it prompted him to make a Hindi version of it, which incidentally also did well.
India released 22 years ago and focused on corruption and angst. Shuttling between modern times and pre-Independent India, Kamal Haasan portrayed two characters – the father Senapathi, a moralistic man and his son, Chandru, who seems to be an antithesis of his father. The film inspired many and has even prompted makers to explore Senapathi’s character again in the upcoming sequel.
Anniyan included Shankar’s usual dose of vigilantism and mixed it with psychology. For once, we had an actor who played multiple roles but not really, wherein his multiple personality disorder became the focal point of his vigilantism, where he’d transform himself from a meek, scared man to a badass in seconds. It’s also a fun movie to watch and revisit.
Sivaji The Boss
There’s romance, and idealism in this Shankar film. And most importantly, there’s Rajinikanth. He hadn’t directed the Superstar before but this film simply paved the way for more collaborations with Rajini. The film was received well and surprisingly earned a lot in the box office too, running in theatres for weeks despite other new releases.