TALKING FILMS

Ahead of ‘Avengers: Infinity War’, a Tamil film served up a multi-starring feast

Directed by a record 15 filmmakers, the 1999 film ‘Suyamvaram’ has over 25 actors.

Tickets are selling out fast for the latest Avengers movie, which promises a grand union of all the vigilantes in the Marvel universe. Anthony and Joe Russo’s Avengers: Infinity War, which will be out April 27, features Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man, Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther, Chris Evans’s Captain America, Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange, Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, Mark Ruffalo’s The Hulk and Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, to name a few.

The film sees the squad join hands with the intergalactic superhero team from Guardians of the Galaxy to thwart Thanos (Josh Brolin), who seeks to obtain the powerful six Infinity Stones and destroy life throughout the galaxy. The makers even went on to call the film the “most ambitious crossover event in history”, which became fodder for hilarity on Twitter.

What they are calling a crossover is really one of the biggest multi-starrers in Hollywood history. Indian cinema has been there and done that. The examples include Yash Chopra’s Waqt (1965), CV Rajendran’s Galatta Kalyanam (1968), Ramesh Sippy’s Sholay (1975), Manmohan Desai’s Naseeb (1981), and Sooraj Barjatya’s Hum Saath Saath Hain (1999).

Perhaps no other production has attempted to pack as many actors into a single frame as Suyamvaram. The 1999 Tamil production has 25 lead actors, including Prabhu, Karthik, K Bhagyaraj, Sathyaraj, Abbas, Prabhu Deva, Roja, Urvashi, Rambha, Vijayakumar, Napoleon, Parthiban and Arjun. Suyamvaram was shot, edited and completed within just about 24 hours, winning it a place in the Guinness Book of Records for being the quickest made film with the most number of stars.

Suyamvaram was assembled by producer and distributor Giridharilal Nagpal. He signed up 15 filmmakers, including KS Ravikumar, Sundar C and P Vasu, 19 cinematographers, four editors and music composers. Despite months of planning and scheduling, the final film was a product of improvisation, Nagpal told The Wall Street Journal in an interview.

The presence of numerous directors with different styles makes the 155-minute comedy cluttered and choppy for the most part, but it has its moments.

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Suyamvaram (1999).

Kuselan (Vijayakumar) is a wealthy businessman with a heart ailment. He has three sons (Prabhu, Sathyaraj and Abbas) and six daughters (Rambha, Roja, Kasthuri, Maheswari, Suvalakshmi and Preetha Vijayakumar). He wants all his children to be married, and with the help of his doctor (Napoleon), sets up a modern-day swayamvaram.

Kuselan advertises for brides and grooms, and offers an incentive, or a “bumper prize,” as a character calls it. The chosen ones are promised Rs one crore in cash and a brand new house. Kuselan’s palatial home is brimming with suitors the next second. The ever bickering K Bhagyaraj and Urvashi interview the potential brides and grooms, with hilarious results.

Unbeknownst to them, some of the children have already fallen in love. The lovers include a bathroom cleaner (Aishwarya), a horse stall worker (Pandiarajan) and a pickpocket (Prabhu Deva). The film’s most relatable actors are Heera Rajagopal, playing an angry feminist, and Karthik as an absent-minded doctor.

Like in any multistarrer, the movie lines up a villain, but the one who does the rescuing is a character straight out of the Avengers movies. “Action King” Arjun, playing assistant commissioner of police Sanjay, appears out of nowhere in the climax. Sanjay doubles as a bomb diffuser and also gives his blessings at the massive marriage in the final scene.

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Suyamvaram (1999).
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