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K Balchander, Bharathiraja, Balu Mahendra, Manirathnam and Shankar are the few directors who have been trendsetters of Tamil filmdom and caught the attention of the filmdom in India. However, that these big names have not been able to win a national award for direction remains a moot point. The first ever Tamilian director to win a National Award is Agathian for his ‘Kaadhal Kottai’.

The box office success of the film and the award, together made Agathian a director who could bridge the gap between commercialism and realistic cinema. ‘Kaadhal Kottai’ heralded once again the era of romantic films in Tamil cinema. The songs by Deva, the cinematography by Thankar Bachan and the locales of Rajasthan offered something new to the viewers.

Agathian a director in his late forties entered films a decade back and struggled as an assistant to various directors. Hailing from an agriculturist family he spent a happy go lucky time in college, and when he decided to pack his bags and come to Chennai to try his luck in films as a director, he lost his family’s support. Struggling with no money, he did odd jobs in film companies and became an assistant to anyone who offered him food and shelter.

Anbalaya Prabhakaran who produces small budget films with new directors gave Agathian his first break as a director with ‘Madhumathi’, a teenage love story with new faces. The film bombed and Agathian was back to where he started but again fate had bigger things in store for him. Sivasakti films Pandian, a film distributor turned producer, produced ‘Vanmathi’ with Ajith and Swathi. The film was a modest hit. Next came ‘Kaadhal Kottai’ from the same banner and Agathian became the toast of the industry. Offers poured in for films.

The next was ‘Gokulathil Seethai’, a rehash of Sivaji starrer ‘Vasantha Maaligai’ which was also a hit but not a mega hit. K Balachander whose prestigious banner Kavithalaya gave Agathian the chance to direct ‘Vidukathai’ with Prakashraj and Neena in the lead since Balchander found in this new director a person who depended on the strength of the script and screenplay. ‘Gokulathil Seethai’ dealt with the hero, a drunkard and a playboy living off his rich father who also leads a wayward life. The values of a disciplined life and upholding morals are taught to the hero by the heroine and he undergoes a change but never tells her of his love for her. The heroine fall’s for him but she too holds back till the climax. In ‘Vidukathai’ he dealt with the theme of an elderly man and a young bubbly girl falling in love and staying together but their outlook in life brings forth a rift but finally they unite as they love each other.

In ‘Kaathal Kavithai’ the recently released film Agathian has tried his earlier formula of the hero and heroine falling in love with each other without realizing their identity even though they know each other. This film has got more brickbats than flowers for the director since he is accused of following his own film and just changing the situations. Agathian in defense has only one thing to say and that it’s the commercial world of cinema that he is surviving in and when ‘Vidukathai’ flopped the producers who gave him money as advance asked for it and he gave it back by signing the Hindi remake of ‘Kaathal Kottai’. Today he is trying hard to bridge the demands of commercial elements with some intellectual stuff.

In ‘Kaathal Kavithai’ the heroine’s father a police officer gives a speech on OSHO. The hero and the heroine keep flowers on the memorial of Princess Diana. The critics who looking it as a Tamil film and speak of Tamil culture are horrified that the young lovers can take Diana as a symbol because she had many lovers in her life and was a woman who had extra marital affairs. In Tamil cinema where films which glorify the mangalsutra(thali) run to full houses, the depiction of Diana is sacrilege. Agathian has a different outlook. He says that Diana is a symbol of love, taking part in various fund raising activities of organizations engaged in charity. The introduction of Osho is for Agathian an attempt to steer slightly from the usual deviated path of the filmy script and dialogues. ‘Kaathal Kavithai’ was appreciated in cities more than in villages.

Personally, he has been targeted by the gossip press of having married a third time, a thing he denies. Apart from bridging the gap between his two wives and a career that is showing signs of decline he has to ward off stories of drunken brawls and womanizing. But this aside one cannot ignore his caliber as a director. In this regard one has to remember the age-old theory of differentiating between the artiste and the man, thus giving him credit for his work.
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