Earlier films used to have a rich capitalist as the villain but recent ones take on corporate culture as a whole.

The suit-boot corporate villain of Tamil cinema Will VIP 2 break away from the caricature
Flix Kollywood Thursday, June 29, 2017 - 11:36

The trailer for the Dhanush-Amala Paul starrer VIP 2 tells us that the villain, played by Kajol, is from the corporate sector. As was the case with the first film, this time, too, engineer Raghuvaran will be fighting an exploitative company that doesn't care about people's welfare. 

The corporate villain in Tamil cinema is your rich, suave type who is pitted against a swarthy, "local" hero who puts him in his place. He's typically English-speaking, fair skinned and surrounded by a bevy of women in "sexy" clothes. Most times, he's introduced to us as a "playboy" in a club. Even though films frequently carry brand endorsements, from fairness creams to bikes, the corporate as an evil entity who is out to suck the blood out of ordinary people is a popular idea. 

In earlier films, too, we've seen the rich and arrogant "capitalist" who breaks the back of employees by mistreating them. However, recent Tamil films have moved away from the capitalist as an individual to take on the corporate as a culture, a flawed and selfish way of thinking. 

In Vijay's Kaththi, the issue was illegal land acquisition and exploiting the water resources of rural areas at the cost of farmers. In Kodi, it was mercury poisoning by an MNC which results in birth deformities (no points for guessing the company in question is Unilever although this isn't explicitly mentioned). These are issues that resonate with the state of Tamil Nadu and indeed across the country where companies have time and again got away with breaking rules. 

Irumugan had a villain who manufactured a dangerous drug which could threaten national security (ahem); Kuttram 23 and Vaanam were about the exploitation that happens in hospitals; Si3 was about a company that dumps bio waste and e-waste illegally in the country. The media, too, has been characterized as a TRP hungry corporate in several films. Notably, in Kavan, the media company engineers lies, manufactures news, and goes to any extent to make money. 

While many of these films are fond of dissing corporate culture, they seldom go into intricacies. Thani Oruvan, which is among the few films that gave more importance to the villain's character than the hero's, had a classy corporate villain in Aravind Swami. The film attempted to delve into how much of what happens in society is dictated by economics and money power. 

Unfortunately, though, many of these films are content with turning the corporate into a strawman who can be easily shot down. They leave around important documents in a place where the hero can easily flick it...sometimes even in Gmail drafts! The "evidence" collected by the hero against them is often ludicrous. Even in Thani Oruvan, which is possibly the best scripted of the lot, the prime piece of evidence against Siddharth Abhimanyu (Aravind Swami) is an edited video that wouldn't have stood in court - but the villain, who was built up so carefully thus far, throws his hands up and declares that he's lost.

There's also very little excitement which can be incorporated in the plot if the script reduces the corporate to sheer evil and tars all MNCs with the same brush. It's simply a question of taking the sickle swinging villain of the usual Tamil film to the salon and putting him in a coat-suit.

VIP 2 has a woman villain and a woman director. Hopefully, the film will have more nuance than the usual fare that comes our way every time it's a "pannakaran" the hero is meant to battle.

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