Speed,chase and run, crime and escape, detection and capture,suspense and thrill, sustained tempo,struggle for possession or retrieval and the power of the body and mind towards executing tasks on hand, are the essential ingredients of a specific genre of films, known as Action movies.Action movies were originally more common in English and Hindi. Soon, Telugu and Tamil film producers also learnt to catch up with this trend. Malayalm production houses who stuck to the inextricable root of realism, were subsequently forced to fall in line,to retain audience support and patronage.
Among the old Tamil production units,it was Modern Theatres which cherished the action movie concept closer to its film making agenda. From the days of 'Mandirikumari' speed and action became the top most priority of this film production company.They produced many action hits like 'Alibabvum Naarpadhu Thirudargalum' 'Kaithi Kannayiram' 'Vallavanukku Vallavan' 'Iru Vallavargal' and 'Vallavan Oruvan'. With the restricted reach of trendy technical resources, Gemini Studios intelligently magnified the action formula in their films like 'Chandralekha' and 'Vanjikkottai Vaaliban' to project speed and tempo of an amazing range .The commercial and creative interests of these companies were to keep the audience actively entertained throughout the movie- watching experience.The Devar Films unit was also seriously involved in making many action films with MGR as its most cherished protagonist.
MGR could be called the first great action hero in Tamil. No MGR film could be conceived without stunt scenes because this mass hero firmly believed in the installation of his macho image by excelling in physical feats.His acting space almost exhausted all aspects of the physical show like fencing, boxing and other types of stunts that included fisticuffs. He executed the stunt sequences with utmost speed and time sense, that could be considered difficult during his time. MGR's own production house Sathya Movies put up a brave action show by releasing fast moving films like 'Theivathai' 'Kannipen' 'Kaavalkaaran' Moonru Mugam 'Kaakichattai' 'Thangamagan'
Jai Shankar who joined the fray nearly two decades after MGR began his film career,also fitted perfectly into the action mode in films, that came from the Modern Theatres and Sathya Movies. Though not talented in fencing,Jai Shankar was not lacking in other areas of stunt making. Both MGR and Jai Shankar were chic and smart, as detectives and police officers.
The R.R.PPictures was another action film makers from whose banner,fast movies like 'Naan' 'Periya Idathu Pen' and 'Parakkum Paavai' were released. K.Balaji the uncrowned king of remakes, under his Sujatha Cine Arts and then Suresh Balaji Combines,was well known for his action formula hits like Sivaji Ganesan's 'Raja'[A remake of Hindi Johnny Mera Naam'] and 'En Mahan' [Hindi 'Be Iman'],Kamalahasan's 'Savaal' and 'Sattam' Rajini's 'Billa'.and Viduthalai'' [Hindi 'Qurbani']and Satyaraj's 'Makkal En Pakkam' [Malayalam 'Rajavinda Mon']
The greatest action movie of the late eighties was Kamalahasan's 'Aboorva Sagodharargal' directed by Singeetham Srinivasa Rao,with an astonishing level of speed in narration and a foremost commitment to entertain the audience through a refreshing presentation of a theme of revenge, that film goers would not have experienced earlier. From toddlers to elders, every one enjoyed that movie. Rajinikanth's 'Badsha'.from the deft hands of Suresh Krishna, was another racing action film with an undeterred tempo that kept the audience tied to the screen.But the film contained an over doze of violence.
As technology advanced fast,speed became a cake walk for movie makers.Action magnitudes began to make a stunning impact on the audience.The astounding speed range witnessed in 'Run' a title justifying its relevance to the story,not only made it a prime action film but also projected the director's flawless perception of what an action picture is and how it should be executed. That Lingusamy, could change his genre so soon and make a totally different kind of movie like 'Aanandam' was really incredible.Equally unbelievable was the fact, that he could carry on the action formula unflinchingly in his other movies 'Sandakkozhi' 'Payya' and 'Vettai' Lingusamy could rightly be called the lion among action makers.
P.Vasu,the variety provider among directors adeptly handled his flair for an impressive action show in films like 'Water Vetrivel', 'Vaimaye Vellum' 'Sethupathi IPS' and 'Malabar Police'.Of the four,the first one was his best, delivering dialogue and action with fire and force.The second in the list, interestingly narrated the hero Parthiban's struggles against his cruel and corrupt father in police uniform.While Vijayakanth showed his muscle power as Sethupathi IPS, Sathyaraj once again proved his pep as a spirited police officer in 'Malabar Police' after his mighty show as the impeccable Walter Vetrivel.K.S.Ravikumar,the man with an acumen for the success formula, deviated once, from his pet theme of family drama of the rural vein, to make the block buster action movie 'Villain'
Saran's action world is full of youthful energy with a speed of the unexpected. His themes are mostly related to the struggles for love with a breezy mix of mischief and juvenile thirst for adventure and animation.His films,especially those starring Ajith were bubbling with enthusiasm for a mega action feel.Films like 'Kadal Mannan' and 'Amarkalam' were fast in narration while 'Attakaasam'and 'Asal' moved on with controlled style and speed.The other name known for unstoppable speed and action is Hari who has given us amazing action films like Saami and Singam.
If Arjun could be called the action king among actors,Dharani deserves that title for his speed efficacy in direction.His 'Dil','Dhool' and 'Gilli' as the titles themselves suggest, were admired for the tremendous force and speed in exposition stamping a mark of physical and moral courage.'Gilli' in particular made a sparkling demonstration of street bravery,as a muscular storm, igniting the thrill of the audience, for an unusual experience in jet speed cinematography.
K. Subash has in his kitty films like 'Bramma' 'Abimanyu' and 'Chathriyan' [the last a Manirathnam Production] that speak of his potential for making action movies of enduring stuff. R.K.Selvamani's 'Captain Prabakaran' with that train chase scene in particular, was an exciting action treat, though his other action films like 'Makkal Aatchi' and 'Arasial' needed more speed in narration. Vijayakanth has acted in many action movies,but Thiagarajan's 'Managarakaaval' from the AVM Productions, Maharajan's 'Vallarasu' and K.S Ravi's 'Honest Raj' find a special place among his action films because of the unexpected twists in the first two and the level of emotion generated by betrayal of friendship in the latter.
Pratap Pothan's 'Vetrivizha' [from Sivaji Productions] as well as his 'Jeeva', and Joshi's 'Airport' were wonderful action films.Similarly, Pavithran's 'Sooryan' and Arjun's 'Jai Hind' were grand action shows too.Prabu Deva the electrifying dancer and actor demonstrateded his directorial efficacy by screening an uninterrupted action show in his Telugu remake 'Pokkiri' as K.V Anand generated freshness in the action genre through his latest release' Ko'. M.Raja well known for his expertise in sentiment and family emotion,gave us an all- time family entertainer-cum action bonanza in 'Velayutham'. Murugadoss another variety master proved his skill in making action hits like 'Gajini' 'Ramana' and 'Thuppaakki',though crude violence dominated in the Gajini. Sankar, the technology wizard, made his emphatic entry into the director's domain by his ever talked about first venture 'Gentleman' that was exuberantly action-packed.
From my five decade old movie viewing experience, I have listed the names of most of the Tamil action movie makers who formed part of my memory stretch and I have also included some of the titles of action films, that made me happily masticate their action segment again and again.The action film genre is always the most popular and ever patronized movie type.But it requires a lot of united creative effort, to keep on infusing freshness in presentation so that one action movie is believed to be different from the other in story line and narration.The most important requirement is to keep the momentum intact, by introducing twists in characterization, speed in motion and over all quality, that makes the output, pleasantly watchable and worthy of its name.