The Disruptive Innovations of Venkat Prabhu

An interesting one-liner; a jolly, happening cast involving young guns who have a marked sense of humour; some veteran actors who are made to join the fun; a rock-solid technical crew that is mostly unchanged; a specific template of screenplay involving twists; comedy and action thrown in at seemingly inappropriate places which still clicks with the viewers; an unexpected climactic volte-face.

With these weapons in his armoury, Venkat Prabhu keeps churning engaging films one after the other. He has thus gone on to become a self-assured director and any film producer’s dream signing!

There is a marketing term ‘Disruptive Innovation’ which is attributed to products that are so innovative and receptive that they create for themselves, a market on their own, eroding and eating up on the market for the alternate that was available so far. Think no further than digicams for an example.

When we attempt to extend that term to Tamil cinema to see if anyone has created a genre on their own thereby creating a market for themselves, we get reminded of Venkat Prabhu.

In this article, we take a look at the various disruptive ideas he has brought to the table, how successful they have been in creating a market for themselves and how they have attributed to VP’s success in Tamil cinema.

Chennai 600028

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Disruption: In a period when the focus of films was on action or comedy or love with individual heroes – big or small depending on the film’s budget and technicians, he dared to make a film revolving around all these items (Comedy, Action, Love and even sports) backing his idea with a team of multiple small heroes, all of whom had sensible roles with ample scope for performance.

Reception: We later had a spurt in the number of multi-starrers with small heroes (some of them involving heroes straight out of the Chennai 28’s A-team too!)

Sa Ro Ja

Disruption: A travel thriller with a teenage girl as the pivotal character, but no prominent big heroes. The usage of veteran actors such as Jayaram and Prakash Raj as supporting cast was a smart move in securing the film’s fate at the Box Office.
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Reception: It clicked! The film was a solid success. Backing films of young and not so prominent heroes by casting supporting veteran actors gained prominence after Saroja. However, the concept of an unknown female lead playing pivot in a film hasn’t caught up much yet though there have been occasional films along those lines.

Goa

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Disruption: A fun film with not much to tell set on lazy beaches was something new to Tamil Cinema. The nonsense buddy genre prevalent in Hollywood was attempted and there were also some nudges on the concept of ‘Gay bonding’. The film’s spoof quotient too was a new high for Tamil cinema (‘Thamizh padam’ came a week or so later!). Adding to the delight was the attempt of casting the same guy in various roles (Taking cue from Dr. Strangelove and Kind Hearts and Coronets probably!)

Reception: Not all disruptive stuff work and Goa became a victim of this axiom. Nothing took off from the disruptive ideas attempted in Goa except, maybe, for the casting of foreign national women in films. There were a few cases of that happening post Goa.

Mankatha

Disruption: A hero with a huge market, in his milestone 50th film, being made to accept a role that:

  • Had negative and only negative shades for him;
  • Had a good amount of screen space for multiple other actors;
  • Had no love/sentiment/message/justifying flashback quotient attached to its character

This is as disruptive an innovation as we have seen in Tamil cinema. This was a tight-rope walk which Venkat Prabhu pulled off with aplomb. We have to credit him for having sealed the deal.

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Reception: The film clicked big time and like the director himself had mentioned in an Awards function – Mankatha has pioneered image independent multi-starrers involving big stars. We are already seeing a flurry of multi-starrers which have either released or are in the pipeline.

Biriyani

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Disruption: One could have told a ‘planned murder-pawned scapegoat’ story in n ways and none of them would involve as much chaos and spice as Biriyani does. Here again, Venkat Prabhu continues his brave attempt of breaking the hero stereotype by portraying Sugan as a morally-not-so-good character who succumbs and falls prey to his own adventurous instincts. Though the twist didn’t involve a pivotal character, credit is due to the maker for making us forget that one scene till the moment it comes back at the end to reveal the twist. One can expect the drug-impacted delusions being animated in films to come after the one attempted in this film between Karthi and Premgi in the hotel room.

Reception: The film has had highly positive reviews, but the climax twist hasn’t had as much impact as the ones in Mankatha or Saroja but it emphasises the fact that no scene in Venkat Prabhu’s films will come and go unnecessarily. The audience will have to be on high alert to guess ahead of the twist(s) in his next film with Suriya!

Talking of Venkat Prabhu and disruptive ideas, let us not forget one-liners! EKSI is now a widely popular acronym! The end credits ‘Bloopers’ in his films are the next. The one involving Vaibhav, Mandy and Venkat in Biriyani was a screamer!!

Keep being disruptively receptive VP; don’t trap yourself in the genre that you have created in the process. Good luck for your next! A Venkat Prabhu _______? We are waiting!

2018-05-26T19:26:00+00:00 2013|Perspectives|1 Comment