A Tryst with Film Noir

Film Noir is a genre that has a special spot in my heart. When I started watching classics, majority of the films belonged to the Noir genre. Among them, the first I remembered was Maltese Falcon. The movie went on to become one of my favorites.  The combination of John Huston and Humphrey Bogart is another primary reason for the love of the genre. Having said that, Jean Pierre Melville’s gangster trilogy is still the best of the genre.

After watching a considerable number of the Noir films, it is natural for anyone to search for the similar movies in Tamil. To my knowledge there was a decent number of movies which had the elements of noir but cannot be perfectly fitted into the genre. Some of the movies which I felt to be in the genre of noir are either remakes or the adaptations. So my quest to find an original noir film in Tamil is still on. In this post I would like to share some of the movies which can be termed as the noir or the movies containing noir elements.

Film noir is a genre where the mystery in the movie is the key. Along with the mystery the sahdes of the characters and their style plays a major role in the same. You cannot easily trust a character as each character portray different shades, and there is definitely a femme fatale. It was the period where the story is totally carried in the shoulders of these characters.

Andha Naal
Andha Naal

Andha Naal is a movie by S. Balachander. The movie can be termed as the first noir film in Tamil. In fact, director S. Balachander is the person I consider to be most influenced by noir. You can see a lot of noir elements in all of his movies. Andha naal was heavily inspired from a British movie and you can see the brilliance of the director in his adaptation of the same and utilization of the camera techniques to bring the feel of the noir. Of course even before becoming the fan of Rajnikanth’s smoking there was a huge craze for his style of smoking. In few of his movies you can see S. Balachander sporting a classic gangster look with suits and smoking in style with the top hat. He defined the style at that phase. Apart from him there is another person who does this well and I will talk about it later in the post.

Although S. Balachander started of the Noir style films with Sivaji Ganesan, the box office failure decided the fate of the movies. The producer of the Andha naal, AV Meiyappa chettiar never tried similar movies. But that was not the end of the noir inspiration in Tamil cinema. Neelagiri express was a movie revolving around a murder mystery. It was movie written by the famous Cho Ramaswamy which featured Jai Shankar as CID Shankar. This movie’s success led him to do many similar movies with the character CID Shankar. He went on to become the James Bond of south India due to the detective roles. Albeit calling him the James Bond of south India, many of those movies falls under noir genre.

Jai Shankar as CID Shankar

The role of the CID Shankar was fully utilized by the Modern theatres. T.R. Sundaram of Modern theatres did the magic. Sundaram was the person heavily influenced by the western genre and used many of the elements in his movies. Most of his movies are either remakes or heavily inspired from the west. Among them, “CID Shankar” became a raging hit and Jai Shankar got the title of South Indian james bond because of the movies produced and directed by Modern Theatres T.R. Sundaram. CID Shankar (inspired from OSS 117 Mission for a killer), Vallavan oruvan are some of the movies which featured Jai Shankar in the role of CID Shankar.

Among the vallavan series one of the notable films which is still my favorite is Vallavanukku Vallavan (despite not featuring Jai Shankar). Following the noir genre this again a person is wrongly convicted and he runs to prove his innocence. The beauty of this movie is just like any noir movies the character’s portrayal is super awesome with many shades.

*Spoiler Alert*The beauty is that the innocent role is played by S. A. Ashokan who is known to play the villain all the time. He is helped by R. S. Manohar, who is another most famous actor playing villain roles. And the villain in the movie is played by Gemini Ganesan who is known for playing romantic hero. The movie had so many noir elements and can be seen as a tribute to the genre. *Spoiler ends*

Then comes one of my most favorite movies of all time. Puthiya paravai, the movie is a remake of a bengali film Shesh Ankaa, which is actually inspired heavily from the british film Chase a crooked shadow. . The movie features Sivaji Ganesan in the lead. His style and subtle acting in the movie at places are unmatched. His smoking style is the one I mentioned above and it is my all-time favorite. The movie uses the elements of the noir perfectly. It is clearly seen from the mood of the movie, to the background score complementing the mood and the camera angles which elates the movie on the whole. Although the climax has been trolled n number of times for different reasons, this movie stands ahead of many other movies. It is sad to see that there was not many movies to capture the stellar style of Sivaji ganesan.

It is sad to see that for a fan of noir genre there are not much movies in tamil to satify the thirst completely. But these movies can cater to the need of the hour and show the inspirations people had during the period from the west. It was evident that the directors were capable to do great movies which stands the test of time and to the genre, but with the constraints available these are the products they were able to give which satisfied the past and leave a legacy to the future.

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