The many Karthiks of Tamil cinema

Tamil cinema has had its fair share of Karthiks, wrapped in all shades of love, longing and loneliness. Image: Eunice Dhivya

What’s in a name? Well, a lot if it's a Tamil film and the hero goes by the name of Karthik. While Rahul happens to be the textbook hero of millennial romance in Bollywood, Karthik wields the same sway, if not more, over Kollywood filmmakers and their audience.

This perhaps became more pronounced with Mani Rathnam's Alaipayuthey (2000). Since then Tamil cinema has had its fair share of Karthiks -- Unnale Unnale, 2007 (Vinay as Karthik), Mozhi, 2007 (Prithviraj)), Nepali, 2008 (Bharath) Theeratha Vilayattu Pillai, 2010 (Vishal), Chennai 600028 II, 2016 (Shiva) and more -- wrapped in all shades of love, longing and loneliness; bonhomie and betrayal. Sometimes happy and high on life, most times confused, agonised and brooding.

One would ask what does a column on films have to do with a name? Pretty much everything. For, Karthik over the years became more of a metaphor for love and longing, made possible by filmmakers who perhaps never had any such intention behind calling their lead character by that particular name. Yet the name got stuck and Karthik kept on falling in and out of love, sometimes almost giving up. Yet in the end, picking himself up from the throes of disillusionment.

While Karthik continues to pick up the pieces of his broken heart in the world of Tamil movies, the latest filmmaker to bring him back to life on screen is ace director Gautam Menon. Released on YouTube in May, his short film Karthik Dial Seytha Yenn is a sequel to his 2010 hit Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya. For Bollywood fans, the name -- Karthik Dial Seytha Yenn (The number dialled by Karthik, loosely translated in English) -- reminds of Farhan Akhtar- and Deepika Padukone-starrer Kartik Calling Kartik, a psychological thriller with an eerily similar title but completely different plot.

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