To emit: Jayaram, Kalidas Jayaram, Kalyani Priyadarshan, Krishnakumar B, Suhasini, Anu Hasan and Shruti Haasan, Ananya Ramaprasad, Suhasini, Anuradha Hasan, Andrea Jeremiah, Ritu Verma, MS Bhaskar, Bobby Simha and K. Muthu Kumar
Directors: Sudha Kongara, Karthik Subbaraj, Gautham Vasudev Menon, Rajiv Menon, Suhasini Mani Ratnam
Classification: 2.5 stars (out of 5)
The five stories that make up Putham Pudhu Kaalai, Amazon Prime Video’s first Tamil anthology, uses the pandemic and the resulting lockdown as a backdrop. However, they do not directly address the devastating impact of the crisis on the less privileged. Only one of the short films, Karthik Subbaraj’s cunning and comical Miracle, alludes to the economic distress caused by the devastating virus. The others focus instead on wealthy individuals and families dealing with long-standing mental blocks.
These short films are about miracles, second chances and happy endings. The reality of the outside world affects them only tangentially. In one story, a woman brings vegetables and toiletries for her father, who lives alone. In another, a musician is advised not to risk traveling out of town in a crowded bus.
Subbaraj’s segment, which is the last of the quintet, changes the game quite drastically. After four stories set in cocoons of opulence, Miracle ventures into the world of a pair of petty criminals reduced to misery by the pandemic and pushed into a desperate act.
It could be argued that changes and new beginnings are exactly what the doctor ordered for a world hit by the coronavirus and that stories that emphasize hope and redemption must therefore be enthusiastically accepted. These shorts are not hard at all to relate to: the workmanship is flawless, some of the writing is quite inspired, and most of the performances are splendid. While animated in a superficial way, these stories only sporadically participate on a deeper level.
The stories, about 25 minutes each and filled with characters forced inside and forced by prolonged isolation to introspect about what is gone and what is happening, are about love, loss, and frustrated aspirations. . But these are individuals who can sit back and remove obstacles in their way.
Each of the five stories, all set in Chennai and filmed primarily inside houses, bears the director’s hallmark. The various approaches increase the attractiveness of the experiment, although the dividends it pays vary greatly from segment to segment.
The titles of three of the short films: Sudha Kongara’s Ilamai Idho Ido (Youth here we go), Rajiv Menon Meeting and Karthik Subbaraj’s crime flick: They evoke the possibility of a reversal of luck. The remaining two – Gautham Vasudev Menon’s Avarum Naanum / Avalum Naanum (Him and me / her and me) and Suhasini Mani Ratnam’s Coffee, anyone? – they are not aimed directly at a bounce, but are about characters making their way around obstacles.
The key elements of Kongara’s film are sunken love and lost youth. But then what does age have to do with love? The script’s response is intriguing both in terms of substance and enunciation. The first national 21-day lockdown comes in handy when two souls parted ways many, many years ago and are planning a secret meeting.
Jayaram and Urvashi on the one hand and Kalidas Jayaram (Jayaram’s real life son) and Kalyani Priyadarshan on the other capture the present and the past in a continuous flow. They are all perfectly cast in a quirky drama that carries a strong hangover from Alaipayuthey. Domestic quarrels, a resurgence of romance, and a bold decision that stirs up an uproar underpin this largely non-normative love story.
GVM Avarum Naanum / Avalum Naanum explore another broken relationship in a much simpler style. During the confinement, a young girl (Ritu Varma) visits her grandfather (MS Bhaskar), a lonely retired nuclear scientist. Music has disappeared from the latter’s life. He still mourns the loss.
The visitor has to find common ground with the old man. She goes to the extreme of going along with her when the latter not only walks into an online team meeting, but also urges her not to use headphones so that the voices of her teammates can permeate a house where silence reigns. Grandpa is willing to learn a new thing or two. The girl is ready to go the extra mile. But are they both willing to live a long history of misgivings? GVM employs simple and uncluttered methods to draw us into this world and ensure that we are engaged enough not to be put off by the overt sentimentality that creeps towards the end.
In Coffee, anyone?, a long-winded and serious family drama directed by Suhasini Mani Ratnam, three Haasan brothers – Suhasini, Anu Hasan and Shruti Haasan – are joined by Tamil stage actor Kathadi Ramamurthy and the director’s mother, Komalam Charuhasan. The cousins play sisters whose comatose mother is about to turn 75. The eldest (Suhasini) has a son with a learning disorder, the second (Anu) is pregnant for the first time and the third (Shruti), a late child, is also pregnant. emotionally marked to relate to the upcoming celebration. Parts of Coffee, anyone? They are a bit affected, but a couple of sequences, especially one in which the youngest daughter sings to her mother through a video chat, do make an impact.
Screenwriter, director and cinematographer Rajiv Menon’s Meeting It is set in an elegant designer abode of a third generation doctor who lives with his widowed mother. Carnatic musician Sikkil Gurucharan plays the surgeon, while Leela Samson is the mother. His life changes when a forgotten friend from college (Andrea Jeremiah) arrives at his door and ends up staying for an extended period.
The bond of the past is revived, built mainly on music and poetry. The stressed-out girl, bar singer and event manager, needs help stabilizing herself. The promise of a better future for former friends hinges on the prospect of music and poetry returning to their lives.
By Karthik Subbaraj Miracle it’s a completely different pot of fish. Two thugs (Bobby Simha and K. Muthu Kumar) have neither money nor food. One of them, working on an advertisement, devises a plan that could help them get out of the trough. The duo have nothing to lose except their terrible fate. There is also a filmmaker blocked by lack of funds and a man god who speaks smoothly and wants the world to believe in miracles.
Surprises arise from every corner. Aside from being the only one of the five films with some outdoor action, Miracle It’s also packed with low-light shots that reflect the darkness surrounding the two thieves who think their life is about to give them biryani, rather than just tamarind rice, on a platter. The final twist is pure Karthik Subbaraj: he lowers the curtain with a surprising flourish in an otherwise bland anthology.
Putham Pudhu Kaalai It is pleasing to the eye and to the mind, but largely lacks any radical break from tried and tested.