Shankar Shanmugam is fondly accredited with the title, ‘Steven Spielberg’ of Indian Cinema and deservedly so. In his 24th year of making films, Shankar stands tall with 12 magnum opuses crowning himself to be the master of high budget cinema which revolutionises the viewer and the industry. With humble beginnings as a quality control executive and a Mechanical engineering diploma, Shankar has created a new wave of technological brilliance in cinema ranging from a white headless Prabhu Deva suit dancing to Aishwarya Rai’s skeletal Bharatanatyam to the first 3D film shooting in India, we have truly been mesmerised.
A scientist with a vision, none like any, Shankar is a landmark name in the history of Indian cinema. He is acclaimed for breaking his own records of directing the most expensive film of that period and the box office is always shaken. His sincere efforts towards targeting a large social issue and its implications are applaudable and worthily two of his films have been sent as India’s Official entry to the Academy Awards.
The Director Who Has Not Given A Single Flop In 25 Years! Let’s Take A Look At Some Of His Films.
The Gentleman (1993)
Shankar’s directorial debut film, Gentleman, became a blockbuster at box office and received positive reviews. The film’s musical score was done by A. R. Rahman. Robinhood-esque protagonist Arjun Sarja, is flawless as an innocent Brahman running an ‘appalam’ business to the vigilante stealing money due to the gruesome backdrop from where he rises. Shankar’s entry was clear that he is going to take on social issues and loudly protest via his lens, ‘Gentleman’ took upon corruption and bribery in the education system, it’s inequality and how even for toppers of a state, the prized medical seat was far away from reach. The climax is incomparable, a ‘heart-wrenching’ act, leaves most in tears.
Humse Hai Muqabala (1994)
Prabhu Deva and Nagma starrer Humse Hai Muqabala was a blockbuster film which received several accolades. The film was critically appreciated for the use of CGI in the songs. Having been the first one to use such a technique in Indian cinema, Shankar was lauded for his daring move. The movie also had late Raghuvaran, Girish Karnad and Vadivelu play pivotal roles. The music of the film was done by A. R. Rahman. The film went on to receive four National Film Awards.
The film Indian starred Kamal Haasan in dual roles along with Manisha Koirala, Urmila Matondkar, Sukanya and Goundamani in pivotal roles. The movie revolves around a 70-year-old vigilante who is on a killing spree. Haasan is outraged by the growing corruption in the country and makes it his motive to kill all the corrupt officials and bring order in the nation.
‘Genes’ or ‘Jeans’,the former encapsulates this extremely stylish film in a fashionable way. The most expensive film made at that time, India’s Official entry to the Academy awards, Jeans stirred a buzz across the nation for it’s newness. With A.R Rahman’s magical music and global visuals captured by Shankar, people were transported to dream lands. The story revolves around twins of two generations and how their love changes through a riot of emotions and confusion. A reviewer writes, the dreamer that Shankar is, has romanticised the world’s most beautiful places in 5 minutes, a life-time goal for millions.
The highly acclaimed film Mudhalvan was directed by S Shankar, with Arjun Sarja, Manisha Koirala and late Raghuvaran in lead roles. With a challenge put in front of a TV Journalist, (played by Arjun Sarja) by the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu (played by Raghuvaran), tables turn in his favour for the spellbinding work Arjun does in a day as a CM. This results in him to face the wraths of original Chief Minister Raghuvaran, who holds a vendetta against Arjun for humiliating him in front of the public and wishes to avenge him. The film was a blockbuster hit and ran in theatres for 200 days and won several State Awards. The film was later remaked as Nayak in 2001 with Anil Kapoor in the main lead.
Shankar’s psychological thriller film, Anniyan, brought a new perception to the problems faced by a common man because of corruption that revolves around him. The film starred Vikram as the law-abiding lawyer who suffers from multiple personality disorder and develops two alter egos, a fashion model and a vigilante serial killer. A psychological thriller that explores the realm of a neurological condition namely ‘Multiple personality disorder’ and anger towards the inhabitants of Indian societies. Shankar explains, his hatred and observations during childhood is closely captured on why India as a country has failed to grow unlike many other smaller nations, and this film is his attempt to inspire and enable people’s thoughts. Tge movie was later remaked as Aparichit.
‘Sivaji-The Boss’ a runaway hit and Shankar’s first with Superstar Rajinikanth, was a blockbuster hit breaking all box office records. ‘Bachelor of Social Service’(BOSS) perfectly describes ‘Sivaji’ in the movie, a computer architect from USA who wishes to provide free education and hospitalization to the poverty ridden, grows enemies and whirls in the existent corrupt system of governance leading to bankruptcy. What happens after is pure Rajinikanth magic, the transformation and performance are a treat for every fan and how he deals with the system and uses ‘Hawaldars’ to tackle black money and win over his arch-enemy ‘Adiseshan’ forms the plot.
Known for his big budget ideas, Shankar’s film Enthiran was stalled for nearly a decade in its development phase. Robot’s animation and VFX exhibited the director’s vision and was the most expensive film at the time of release. In fact, the film still stands as the highest grossing films in Kollywood. Robot also won several awards including two National Film Awards. This big budget science fiction was first of it’s kind in Indian cinema, and Shankar had his magic swaying through the film leaving audiences awestruck with the marvel it was. Rajini’s performance was stellar as Vaseegaran the scientist, innocent as Chitti the android robot and terrific as Chitti with a red chip.
Vikram and Amy Jackson starrer I was one of the most anticipated films of 2015. The movie grossed Rs. 150 crore for its Tamil version. The film featured Vikram in two vastly different roles. The plotline of the film was well-written and even amongst the mixed reviews it received, it went on to be successful at the box office and received a tremendous response from the audience.
(Robot) 2.0 (2018)
Shankar’s 2.0 , the sequel to Enthiran, is larger in scale and ambition from the first film. Shankar delivers his most ambitious project yet without deviating from the theme of the movie—there are no unnecessary songs.