Mouse Trap or Elipathayam is a 1981 Malayalam film directed by one of the most acclaimed film directors of Indian cinema – Adoor Gopalakrishnan. This film is considered as a bench mark for art and probably excruciatingly realistic cinema. Films of this genre though, suffered from poor box office response since they could only cater to very narrow niche audience. Consequently, very few film makers in India ventured into this genre.
On the other side of the spectrum are the masala entertainers which of late have come to be known as “Masssss…” films! The word “Mass” as per dictionary means “having an effect on or involving a large number of people”. Meaning, something which reaches a wide range of audience and that which reaches people of many hue. Of late, film makers in their quest to reach to a wide audience have fallen into what I call as this “Masssss… trap”! A trap where they get into knowingly by repeatedly trying to make Masssss… films!
The origin for these Masssss… films could be traced to masala movies of yore. Movies, which were basically aimed at providing simple entertainment with the right mix of elements like the story, acting, comic relief, songs, action sequences and so on. These movies didn’t claim to dish out social messages or create an awakening and were meant to be just entertaining. But, with increasing budgets and more increasing aspirations, film makers started turning masala into Masssss…, I believe! So, we got Masssss… songs, Masssss… sequences, Masssss… stunts, Masssss… dialogues, Masssss… acting and now full-fledged Masssss… films!
In South India and in particular Tamil Nadu, these days the word “Masssss….” is used often in the context of films and day-to-day conversation. “Padam sema Masssss…pa”, for example! A Masssss… film is one which looks great. Which looks stylish. Which has punch dialogues. Which is expensively made. Which has songs shot in Masssss… locations. Which has big stars. So on and so forth. Most directors it appears want to make only Masssss… films and actors want to feature only in Masssss… films! Even there was a film with the name Mass! In short, as a state Tamil Nadu may be in a mess but there is Masssss… galore! (Pun intended)
Ergo, in Tamil Nadu now, the so called star actors with the exception of Kamal Hassan have all firmly fallen into the Masssss… trap! One look at the recently released trailer of Vikram’s film Saamy Square, a sequel of his 2003 hit film Saamy will tell you what all is wrong with this mindless obsession of making Masssss…. films! Vikram, an extremely sincere and talented actor in Tamil has had forgettable last 2/3 films since he acted in Shankar’s “I”. If Saamy Square is his next film, it has everything in it to get into the forgettable list. The camera angles are bizarre, the film is loud, the dialogues in the name of punch dialogues are crappy and has insanity written all over it in the name of Masssss…! It’s ironical that an actor like Vikram who is capable of much better stuff is stuck in this trap!
The other very popular actor in Tamil – Ajith who started his career as an endearing actor is today on a mighty Masssss… trip! His last few films in the series of V – Vedalam and Vivegam suffered from Masssss… over dose! One hopes fervently that his next one – Viswasam comes with some breath of fresh air! Looks doubtful though!
Vijay is another popular actor in Tamil who only features in Masssss… films. Though his last film Mersal was a super duper hit, it became one due to wrong reasons. Otherwise, the film was an ordinary one devoid of any great script.
Same story in probably lesser level with actor Suriya! His Singham series has been absolutely “Masssssy” and with the 3rd part it has actually started yielding negative dividends for Suriya as an actor! Again a super talented actor sort of caught in the Masssss… trap!
Akin to actors, there are these directors and film makers who are firmly embedded in the Masssss… trap in Tamil. Directors like Hari, Siva, Atlee,… are stuck in the Massss… warp!
One can say that it was the Super Star Rajinikanth who started this Masssss… mania in Tamil. Probably so. He was clear that his movies were not meant for the class audience but for the masses. So, his urge while picking up scripts was to take up simple subjects and let the director get all the other mix right. Combined with his star charisma, more often than not – he could get the perfect blend and could reach to the mass audience. He invented the Masssss…. dialogues, Masssss…. manerisms and also made sure there were scenes which were truly Masssss…. like in a Padayappa or Arunachalam or Thalapathy or for that matter Baasha! Those were the good times! In recent times, even Rajinikanth has fallen into the Masssss… trap and struggling to get out of it.
Filmmakers when they sign up Rajini, all the time focus on getting the scenes, lines… correct or rather make them Masssss… instead of focussing on getting the script right. Resulting in flop films like Lingaa where K.S. Ravikumar a once successful director particularly with Rajini, just floundered trying to make his film Masssss… instead of making it good!
Pa. Ranjith, supposedly a talented director (supposedly because I have not watched his 1st two films – Madras and Attakathi) also has walked into this Masssss… trap. He tried to make a Masssss… film with Rajini first with Kabali and now with Kaala and ended up making a hash of both. Ranjith could go back to what he is known to do well perhaps.
Must mention here that as directors, there are a few like Maniratnam, A.R.Murugadoss, Baala,… who have stayed the course so far without falling into the trap! Their films have been successful and when the history of Tamil cinema is written they will occupy a place of pride. By making good movies and not necessarily Masssss… movies!
In all this, if there is one star actor and film maker who has not walked into this trap, it is the super talented Kamal Haasan. He tries new things, is experimental and doesn’t want to get stereotyped into a formula. Some of his recent films might have flopped but that has not propped him to get into making hare-brained Masssss… films!
But, here’s the irony. The excuse actors and filmmakers hurl at us is that Masssss… films make money and hence they don’t mind getting stuck in that trap! So, probably for us film goers, there is a lesson! The next time, a film is projected as a Masssss…., we must give it a royal miss! Hopefully that will liberate some of the talented actors and filmmakers and we could get to see some good cinema.
As of now the “Masssss… trap” is only getting bigger. In Bollywood, I can see Salman well entrenched inside. Race – 3, his next film has all the trappings of the so called Masssss…. film! And Rohit Shetty is a “trapped” film maker.
Incidentally, the other meaning for the word “Mass” as per dictionary is also – the amount of matter in any solid object. Time for film makers to make their movies “Mass” – as in with some amount of solid matter and spare us of this Masssss… obsession!