Real-life crimes leading to mediocre films more problematic: New study

‘Emergence of a Ramkumar can lead to the emergence of a Ram Gopal Varma

Chennai, July 6: Even as there is a strong criticism of glorified depiction of ‘stalkers’ in films and it possibly leading to the emergence of heinous killers like Ramkumar (Swathi murder case),  a new study has rightly warned that real-life criminal acts leading to the emergence even more heinous films (based on those incidents) is more problematic.

“Portrayal in films of certain kind of actions as heroism can be debated. But they directly triggering criminal acts in real life is, at best, a putative postulate. But, on the other hand, many headline-grabbing criminal acts, like the ‘Jayaprakash murder case’ in Tamil Nadu, directly inspiring commercial films is an indisputable fact. And we see that as the bigger problem,’ said a new research undertaken by a group of social scientists attached to the Madras University.

“As social scientists, we had nothing better to do and hence went and watched a slew of movies based on real-life crime incidents. We are sad to say that, almost as a rule, these movies — to use a highly nuanced social scientists term — suck donkey balls”, said R Kulothungan, the director of the study team.

“We want to, well-meaningly, tell the news media not to over-sensationalise criminal acts because the emergence of a Ramkumar carries with it the potent possibility of the emergence of a Ram Gopal Varma,” he said. “Of course, it can be argued that after Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag, he continuing to make films itself is a real-life crime. But that is a subject for another study on another boring day,” Kulothungan added.

Ram Gopal Varma, ‘RGV’ for his friends most of whom are now his enemies, is well-known for making raw and cold-blooded movies based on actual crimes and criminals like Veerappan. It is not RGV alone though. There is Selvamani in Tamil, who has made films like Pulan Visaranai based on the crimes of serial-killer ‘Auto Shankar‘.   The highlight of the film was the role of Vijayakanth, a brave cop who is not afraid to wear a mackintosh raincoat even when it is not raining. In the heat of Chennai that was more dangerous than taking on a heartless killer.

Selvamani also made Captain Prabhakaran, a movie based on the life incidents of Veerappan that somehow involved a busty woman (Ramya Krishnan) cavorting gaily in the deep forests.

And then there was the Tamil film named Maaran, which was made on the tragic ragging story in college ending in the death of a hapless student named Pon Navarasu at the hands his senior John David. It was an open and shut case and John David was handed a life sentence by the lower court. But after the whole story was made into a film, Maaran, the Madras Chennai High Court acquitted John David. Probably with good reason: John David’s crime was lesser in comparison to the makers of the film (that the SC later overturned the acquittal is besides the point).

In the 80s Tamil film Malaiyur Mambuttiyan was based on the life and times of the eponymous Malaiyur Mambuttiyan, a Robin Hood-like criminal character. But it is a incontrovertible fact that this film did lead to the unpardonable crime of a remake several decades later under the same name starring Prashanth.

At Bollywood, the movie No One Killed Jessica was centered on the real-life crime story that is television reporting in India.  An incident involving the murder of Jessica Lal is the backdrop to the film. Recently, there was another movie that should have been titled No One Knows Who Killed Aarushi, but that wouldn’t have brought the viewers to the theatres and hence they went with Talvar.

Kulothungan said: “There have been a plethora of movies on real-life crime. And almost all of them have been bigger disasters than the original crime. In the event, we see no point in the debate whether crude films trigger crude crimes or not when the narrative that has to be framed is the other way round.”

And Kulothungan added direly: “Today there has been Ram Gopal Varma movies. Tomorrow things may get worse. I mean we see the possibility of a Madhur Bhandarkar offering, imaginatively titled, Crime“.

“We are worried because Madhur Bhandarkar movies mostly have less drama than there is in social science books”.