Here are the Tamil releases of 2019 we thought were memorable. The list (in no particular order) need not include films that worked big time with audiences.
A lawyer, battling with mental health issues, goes out to help three young women, who were sexually assaulted. It was refreshing to see ‘mass’ hero Ajith shoulder this court drama effortlessly with an arresting performance. Directed by H Vinoth, this remake of Hindi superhit Pink, further, throws light on the male prejudice, patriarchy, sexual violence, besides how society judges single women and most importantly consent (“no means no”). Almost every young working woman will identify with Nerkonda Paarvai. Though the film deals with a sensitive subject, H Vinoth’s narration keeps you engaged throughout.
This Ram directorial revolves around the life of a single father (Amudhavan played by Mammootty) struggling to understand his child with special needs. He slowly comes to terms with the fact that his daughter is no longer the little girl he thought she was. Mammootty is brilliant in this devastatingly beautiful drama, and Sadhana has done a phenomenal job of playing someone with cerebral palsy. Peranbu flows like poetry on screen. At the same time, it hits you like a train in lots of places, without judging people for who they are and their choices. Peranbu normalises the sexual feelings that the differently-abled have. This intense film discusses the taboo around transgender people and masturbation, too. Ram divides his film into several chapters, named after the many moods of nature. Peranbu is a film with a lot of heart as it deals more with the story of Amudhavan’s inner journey as a doting father.
Directed by cinematographer Ra Chezhiyan, To Let tells the story of a young couple who struggle to find a new house when asked to vacate the existing one. I never knew such a simple plot could be effectively stretched and narrated with solid ‘moments’. There’s so much warmth and relatability in the characters as To Let captures the little, seemingly insurmountable odds of a middle-class family extremely well. Truth be told, it is the treatment of the story that helps To Let stand out. Starring Santhosh Sreeram, Sheela Rajkumar, and Dharun in pivotal roles, Chezhiyan gets the many everyday eccentricities of a regular householder spot on. It is a roller coaster ride watching these three actors perform.
Nelson Venkatesan’s storytelling technique is the biggest strength of this SJ Suryah-starrer. Because, when the narration is effective, the rest falls in place. The protagonist Anjanam Azhagiya Pillai is a kindhearted person. When it comes to birds or animals, he always feels things deeply. What happens when a rodent enters his house and refuses to leave forms the rest of the story. What’s more interesting is that the crew had worked with a live rat. Monster worked majorly because of SJ Suryah’s funny encounters with the rodent.
This edge-of-the-seat thriller is about a video game professional Swapna (a brilliant Taapsee Pannu), also a survivor, who battles her inner demons. Game Over doesn’t fall under a specific category but offers some terrific jump-scare moments. Our thrillers are mostly attached to the action, romance or humour, but this is a very focused film. Co-written by Kaavya Ramkumar, Game Over was released in Hindi (dubbed), Tamil and Telugu. Mental health, in general, creates a lot of curiosity and interest, but that doesn’t quite translate on screen. In this case, a big yes. Game Over is one of those rare films that depict mental health issues with lot of care, empathy and sensitivity.
Set against the backdrop of 2015 Chennai floods, this heartwarming yet riveting survival drama centres around the lives of Radha, a housewife, and Vasudevan, a retired army man. The unconditional love between the protagonists has been portrayed beautifully even as the husband character suffers from Alzheimer’s. Of course, it is “an old school romance”, but the climax is moving and will surely leave a lump in your throat. I would say Lakshmy Ramakrishnan is one of the most underrated Tamil filmmakers. There’s honesty in her writing, which I like and admire.
Directed by Rathna Kumar of Meyaadha Maan fame, Aadai tells the story of free-spirited Kamini (Amala Paul), who wakes up to trauma. Not only is she visibly distressed, but also finds herself nude. We may speculate that this was done for cinematic purpose — but we can have no doubt that Rathna Kumar wanted our undivided attention. Aadai works more like a social commentary on freedom as Rathna Kumar takes us closer to the hearts of his characters. The film opened to positive reviews.
Oththa Seruppu Size 7
Written, directed, produced and acted by Parthiepan, Oththa Seruppu is on the lines of popular Hollywood movies, Cast Away and All Is Lost. The film revolves around this middle-aged man, who is taken to jail for interrogation over a murder. Though we “hear” other characters, it is Parthiepan’s one-man show for almost two hours. Only 12 solo act films have been made so far in the world, and this fruitful attempt is one such. Oththa Seruppu Size 7 also found a place in the Asian and Indian Book of Records.
Director Vetrimaaran seemed dissatisfied with the output of this Dhanush-starrer. Speaking at an event, Vetrimaaran had said, “The audience seems to like the film, and it is making money, but I am not happy with how I completed it. I was told Asuran had to release in 40 days when I had 22 days of shoot still left.” Despite this, Asuran managed to be one of the biggest blockbusters of 2019, touching Rs 100 crore mark. Based on writer Poomani’s novel Vekkai, Asuran revolves around the life of farmer Sivasamy (Dhanush) and things that he had to endure to save his land from a group of affluent villagers. Asuran may not be in theaters but will stay with us for a long time to come.
Irandam Ulagaporin Kadaisi Gundu
The second venture of Pa Ranjith’s Neelam Productions, Irandam Ulagaporin Kadaisi Gundu is directed by debutant Athiyan Athirai. It is a half-dark thriller and half inter-caste love story. The film discusses the wage divide between workers, Dalit politics, socialist ideas, besides the aftermath of long-lasting wars. Gundu, inspired by true events from World War II, raises some pertinent questions in the minds of the audience. The film begins with an aerial shot of a scrapyard, which also incidentally provided a living for the director once. Starring Dinesh in the role of a lorry driver and Anandhi as a teacher, Gundu has music by Tenma of The Casteless Collective band.
Directed by Jagadeesan Subu of Sigai fame, Bakrid showcases a man’s endearing bond with a camel. The protagonist, played by Vikranth, is a farmer. Though he is not wealthy, he has a big heart and brings a camel home. Eventually, he decides to sell the animal and what happens when he tries to do so forms the storyline. It is a simple, sweet film, which will put a smile on your face. The camel is not only a part of the story but has symbolic resonance. Animals are pretty useful when it comes to storytelling. I see them as a good way for the filmmaker to lift the cynicism that we have as an audience. Any film based on animals thus makes for an interesting watch. We are used to watching films with the man vs animal conflict as central themes, but Bakrid keeps love as its core theme.
Dilli, a convict, who served a life sentence, gets caught in another issue when he goes to meet his daughter for the first time. Simultaneously, we see police officers confiscating drugs as gangsters seek to avenge them. The entire story takes place in one single night. Directed by Lokesh Kanagaraj, Kaithi, starring Karthi, received rave reviews. Though the film was released for Diwali, alongside Vijay’s Bigil, it was a profitable venture and minted money at the box office. Also, a sequel to Kaithi is underway.
Directed by Santhakumar, the film stars Arya, Indhuja Ravichandran and Mahima Nambiar in lead roles. Most thriller movies begin with a mystery that unravels throughout the story. That way, Magamuni is a character-driven story that has zero boring moments. I love thrillers that take their time and avoid the obvious cliches. With Arya donning a dual role and appearing in three different looks, Magamuni was a soulful film. In an interview with indianexpress.com, Arya had said, “Magamuni isn’t the kind of film that the audience expects from me. It happened like Bala’s Naan Kadavul. You don’t question certain decisions. You simply go with the flow.”
KD Engira Karuppudurai
Directed by Madhumita, the film revolves around the concept of Thalaikoothal, a traditional form of geronticide prevalent in villages. Though the title may sound a tad serious, the film is a lighthearted take on the ancient practice. This 80-year-old Karuppudurai wakes up from a coma and runs away from his house and befriends an orphan. KD is more about their journey. The film also won several awards in the festival circuit.
Gangs of Madras
Directed by CV Kumar, Gangs of Madras is headlined by an impressive Sai Priyanka Ruth. The film revolves around this woman who lost her husband in a police encounter and how she takes revenge on a gang. Revenge has been a recurring theme driving generations of successful commercial potboilers. But for the first time, we see a woman who shoulders a gripping revenge saga. Please watch out for the glorious biryani-eating scene. In Gangs of Madras, every major character has a backstory. With so many ideas, it is surprising that the film didn’t collapse under the weight of its ambition. Instead, it rolls out engaging characters, relatable dialogues and realistic action blocks.
Much like Thiagarajan Kumararaja’s previous film Aaranya Kaandam, Super Deluxe tells stories of complex human beings. As a result, we get a delectable hotchpotch of dark comedy, suspense, drama and solid, yet unpredictable fun. With a running time of nearly three hours, the film is insanely interesting, philosophical, moving and introspective, all at once. An anthology that has stories by Thiagarajan Kumararaja, Mysskin, Nalan Kumarasamy, Neelan K Sekar, Super Deluxe won the “Equality in Cinema Award” at the 2019 Indian Film Festival of Melbourne. Consisting of multiple stories running parallely with a little link between each other, the film features an ensemble cast comprising Vijay Sethupathi, Ramya Krishnan, Fahadh Faasil, Samantha Akkineni and Mysskin among others. Also, Super Deluxe gave us a revelation – Rasukutty played by Ashwanth Ashokkumar!
An anthology written, edited and directed by Halitha Shameem, Sillu Karupatti shows how strangers find a connection even in some of the most unlikely places like a dump yard. Halitha decided to make the film as an anthology because she felt her stories were ‘short and sweet’ like sillu karupattis (the broken pieces of palm sugar). The film has music by Pradeep Kumar, besides four cinematographers – Yamini Yagnamurthy, Manoj Paramahamsa, Abhinandan Ramanujam and Vijay Karthik Kannan. The ensemble cast includes Samuthirakani, Sunainaa, Leela Samson, Krav Maga Sreeram, Sara Arjun, Manikandan, Nivedithaa and Rahul. The camaraderie of all characters is infectious as Halitha captures their journey, which is far from smooth. Sillu Karupatti works because its characters are real, vulnerable and human.
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