It’s this thing with Tamil cinema. It seems to revel in its unpredictability. Not long ago – a few weeks back, to be precise – we were raving about the fascinating variety that was splashing off the theatre-screens in a single month. And now, seeing the recent slew of releases, ‘refreshing’ would be perhaps the last word in our dictionary to describe the dismal state of affairs. Now not a fortnight passes, without someone gravely assaulting our brains and senses with this entity called the horror comedy. With shoddily dressed ghosts springing up in all possible avatars, acting out the saddest of screenplays involving the creepiest of characters, week after week, I can’t think of another genre that has been so resolutely and mercilessly molested by the industry in the name of entertainment.

Six releases under this tag this year, and none of them even turning out to be remotely watchable, says something about the makers of these films, who are nevertheless in no mood to stop! Made on a shoe-string budget with lesser known actors, all that these films seem to want is to make a quick buck by luring in the occasional, poorly informed viewer. Before word passes about the inconsumable nature of the film, the damage had been done and the producer had got his returns. A few smart souls had converted the harrowing experience to an opportunity to respond to pending whatsapp chats. A few more unlucky ones had vowed never to visit the theatre, again. But at least, they have an option. What about people like us, whose profession doesn’t allow that luxury!

Has Tamil cinema gone to the ghosts?

Now that we know why such films get made, the question is why don’t the makers aspire for a certain level of mandatory quality? Why not spend a few extra months, hire a script doctor and address the giant crater-sized loopholes? Why not take the minimal effort to at least re-imagine the genre clichés like absurd jokes, jump scares and haunted house proceedings so that the viewer is not bored to death. Why let the comedy come across as crude and distasteful? Why keep bombarding us with the stalest of back stories? Why keep underestimating the sensibilities of the audience?  If you are not capable of visualizing the disaster in preproduction, why not screen the fiasco to friends and well-wishers first and see if anything could be salvaged at all?

Is it because a couple of horror comedies earlier clicked? The Aranmanai and Kanchana franchises could have made money, thanks to star power, but were they successful as horror comedies in a cinematic sense? Hell, no! What then could I base my arguments on? I found Deekay’s 2014 film Yaamiruka Bayamey and Sam Anton’s 2015 remake Darling as decent horror comedies, which entertained without shooting at the brains. No, I am not saying they were perfect films, but at least they got the basic framework right, saving us all the cringing and excruciating headaches. Both had predictable, stretched out and wafer-thin story-lines, but the genre staples – the scares and the laughs – were not always overlapping. The horror elements were played out with some degree of conviction. The humour, for the most parts, was fresh, sensible and stood its ground, outside of the horror motivations.

Has Tamil cinema gone to the ghosts?

On the other hand, this distinction is nowhere to be seen in many of the recent films. Almost all horror is comical, stretched to the limits of indifference and all humour is horrific to say the least.  By not attempting to celebrate genre clichés, leave alone subverting them, these wannabe films don’t give us the excuse to laugh at our own fears. What they instead choose to dish out is endless baloney in the name of horror and comedy. Given the fabric of the genre, logical reasoning and political correctness are the last things, we as an audience, are looking for in these films. But if you are going to operate in absurd territory, why not make the absurdity at least watchable, if not interesting?