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Can we put an end to predictable family dramas?

Last Updated : 20 January 2023, 19:22 IST
Last Updated : 20 January 2023, 19:22 IST

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Success doesn’t have a formula, but a family drama surely has one. ‘Varisu,’ headlined by Vijay, follows a route that’s almost been jam-packed for a few decades now. Of course, it has some highs and laughs; however, they are few and far between. What do you do when you go to a restaurant that you have never been to before? You’d like to try their bestseller, right? Every film, that way, is a new restaurant and it has to religiously challenge our taste buds.

Good filmmakers can shoot their family dramas towards the sky with their impeccable storytelling. These movies can have their regular share of tears and confrontations, too. ‘Seethamma Vakitlo Sirimalle Chettu’ (2013) and ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’ (2015) wonderfully did that in Telugu and Hindi, respectively. Even within the boundaries they operate, the women and men yell at each other, dance to happy songs, and fall in love. ‘Varisu,’ unfortunately, doesn’t have any layer that’s worth dissecting.

The central problem with ‘Varisu’ is its nature of predictable blandness. You will be able to figure out the structure of the story even before stepping into the theatre. Vijay, who goes by the name Vijay in the movie, walks out of the fortune built by his father in order to work on his own project and goes back to his home as soon as he discovers that the latter has been diagnosed with cancer. As much as he likes to celebrate his financial independence, he depends on his folks for emotional support. It’s not a bad thing really. We all do that because we thrive in social settings rather than in solitude.

But it is packed to the brim with silliness. Vijay’s older siblings, who are equally qualified to run the company, are selfish and, hence, thrown out of the competition by their father. In Mani Ratnam’s ‘Chekka Chivantha Vaanam’ (2018), too, three cantankerous siblings fight for the crown. But it’s just one of several examples in which the brothers don’t hesitate to indulge in dirty games to come out on top. Family dramas come in various shapes and colors. If you think hard and long about the multiple Emmy winning series ‘Game of Thrones,’ the familiar tropes of betrayal and denial show up there as well.

Dysfunctional families, like the Christmas rom-coms in Hollywood, are a favourite in Indian cinema. And the families in question are usually big since it gives the moviemakers more space to navigate between the differing points of view. ‘Piku’ (2015), starring Amitabh Bachchan and Deepika Padukone, is refreshingly different. It’s a drama about a parent-child relationship even though its primary members do not go beyond the number of two.

Nevertheless, the supporting characters, too, throw their hats in the ring from time to time. The father and daughter may not necessarily be at loggerheads with each other, but they regularly direct their aggression towards other people since they are incapable of ever having a peaceful conversation.

In Tamil and Telugu cinema, A-list stars generally feature in actioners. If they switch to an experimental genre and stumble at the altar of box office success, they’ll return to their comfort zone immediately.

When ‘1: Nenokkadine’ (2014) didn’t attract enough eyeballs, Mahesh Babu closed the door on psychological thrillers. Similarly, when ‘Leader’ (2010) didn’t make much noise, Sekhar Kammula made ‘Life Is Beautiful’ (2012) which more or less had the same texture as ‘Happy Days’ (2007). Filmmaking, at the end of the day, remains a business, as it relies on recovering its investment. Sometimes, ‘masala’ movies may be more ludicrous than horror or sci-fi thrillers, but many producers wouldn’t be willing to take the leap.

Why would anybody want to roll out the red carpet for another ‘Puli’ (2015) or ‘Anaganaga O Dheerudu’ (2011)? However, ‘Jagadeka Veerudu Athiloka Sundari’ (1990) and ‘Aditya 369’ (1991), can still be revisited with the same amount of fervour. We need all kinds of movies, not just formulas that are tested at subpar laboratories.

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Published 20 January 2023, 18:56 IST

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