Loosely translated, Paava Kadhaigal means sin stories. And it is these ‘acts of sin’ that is explored in Netflix’s new anthology Paava Kadhaigal. Four acclaimed filmmakers try to decipher and interpret the loaded word. The point is not whether they have succeeded or failed, but it is about the attempt. We always ask of our directors and actors – ‘What else could they have given us within the format?’ And we come up with so many possibilities. At least in Paava Kadhaigal, the makers are willing to push the envelope in their own small ways, and that has to be commended.
Paava Kadhaigal comprises of four short films — Thangam by Sudha Kongara, Love Panna Uttranum by Vignesh Shivan, Vaanmagal by Gautham Menon and Oor Iravu by Vertimaaran. In two of these stories, we get some resolution. In the other two, we are left facing the horrors people commit in the name of honour.
I liked the treatment of the narrative in Thangam and Oor Iravu better. Vignesh Shivan’s Love Panna Uttranum tried to be clever by employing a ‘lesbian angle’ which didn’t quite fit in. It felt hurried and half-baked. There were constant tonal shifts, so you didn’t know what to feel. While the intention was good, it didn’t seem very honest. Same with Gautham Menon’s Vaanmagal, a cumbersome attempt at reflecting on society’s definition of sexual assault, womanhood and prestige. The highlight was the conflict that the mother (played by Simran) felt about the whole incident and her initial response to it. More than anything else, what shone were the different faces of Simran’s character. Simran as the traditionalist who advises her daughter to not touch anything during her periods because she did not want to keep cleaning the house all the time. And then we get a glimpse of Simran as the mother who just wants the best things in life for her daughter. We all know this parent well — the one who tries to keep up with the changing times, but finds it hard to let go of what they think are their ‘roots’.
Then there is Vetrimaaran’s depiction of honour killing in Oor Iravu. The camera is on the ‘culprit’ most of the time, making us doubt whether the director is glorifying the act by doing so. I would say not. Sudha Kongara’s Thangam ends in violence too – the protagonist dying a terrible death.
The short films are about our basic response to anything that is different. Kalidas Jayaram gives a heartbreaking performance in Thangam, Prakash Raj’s ruthlessness in Oor Iravu feels lived in and too close to reality. The performances are noteworthy. The short films, they try.
Paava Kadhaigal is streaming on Netflix.
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