Directors: Balaji Mohan, Halitha Shamim, Madhumita, Surya Krishna, Richard Antony
Cast: Tejay, Gauri Kishan, Lijomol Jose, Arjun Das, Nadiya Moidhu, Joju George, Sanand, Dileep Subbarayan, Aishwarya Lakshmi
The Tamil anthologies of Amazon Prime Video are like a sandwich. You know the ingredients but you do not know what you are going to bite into. Good movies are always safely confined to passable works. The five-episode Tamil anthology Puthu Puthu Kalai Vidyadha (Will there be a new Pulari Pulari?) Falls into almost the same category.
Good things first. The actors are refreshing and the directors are funny – not the usual familiar names we’ve seen so far except for Halita Shamim, who, of course, were the first to show that an anthology can be a great talking point with the chip.
In 2020, the first pandemic anthology on Amazon Prime Video, the brand new, talked about the initial reactions to the Kovid-induced lockdown. After that we went a lot further, but the sense of isolation and lack of way to grieve grew. Education in the New Age is like a longing for a dawn, a return to what life once was. But can we avoid the losses we have suffered in these two years? Anthology tries to explore it, and succeeds in two parts.
Halita seems to have broken the ontology code. As a person, this director is a keen observer of people. We have seen it in her previous films. She does not get people and their small joys and successes and their sorrows for many. Loners who tell the life of a good and brave man are proof of that. Also, she can guide people well and break down mold. This is the film that Lijomol Jose needs to show what his talent is after Jai Bhim. It is also a film to show us the sensitive side of an actor like Arjun Das, whose arrest voice makes it very difficult to focus on anything else. Two people, two group video calls, made a connection. The film exemplifies what lockdown is for most of us – relationships with utter strangers, relationships built on grief, conversations over the phone, the power to smile again.
My second choice would be Madhumita’s Silent Parva, starring the beautiful Nadia and the very effective Jojo George. After a certain number of years, glances and nonverbal communication effectively convey something like words, especially the silence following a sharp fight. When there are performers like Nadia and Jojo, body language speaks, how. She is Yashoda, a flute player, and her husband Murali Krishnan, who broke her flute after an argument. Noise still rules their lives, though – when she does not want to buy a large bottle of liquor to bring home, the mixer does a number. A middle-aged man wrestling with a bottle cap. She is a cool person who works tirelessly and runs erratically. He is a slope walking with dirty shoes. She’s a wife who says nothing, keeps a mop in his eyes – they talk, OK! An RT PCR test can eventually help break the silence. There are many beautiful moments in this short film, but the moments alone do not provide a healthy experience.
Richard Antony’s Shadow Giving Place (Shadow Relief), played by Aishwarya Lakshmi Shobi, is about a woman who coincides with her father’s demise and burying the ghosts of the past. Some trips are better than traveling alone, and Shobi feels the same way. Until she finally realizes her reality and makes amends, she refuses any help from friendly neighbors. There are impressive moments in the movie, Aishwarya is gorgeous, but it didn’t work for me overall.
Surya Krishna’s The Mask, starring Sanath, Arun Kurian and Dileep Subbarayan, is about the masks we all wear and the reality hidden inside. There is a love story that is not accepted at home, a young couple who is involved in the affairs of the society, a don who loses the love of his life and wonders what the future holds. Occasionally, the character played by Sanand breaks down the fourth wall and speaks to the audience, which does nothing for the film.
Balaji Mohan’s first short film, Mugakavasa Mutham, was one of the first young directors to make successful short films. It is also the weakest in anthology. Balaji’s humor is nice when it goes down well, but here everything looks like a set piece. Two constables on duty – Murugan (Teejay) and Kuyili (Gauri Kishan) share excellent chemistry and her lunch box. They also set out to help another young couple who were waiting to flee. Murugan has not yet been vaccinated and Quili has promised something if he is released. There is also a public service announcement in the form of a dance, all of these elements stand out in solitude, never saying hello to another.
I’m still waiting for a beautiful quartet of Tamil anthologies with Halitha’s Sillu Karuppatti (Netflix), Jack Prabhu and Santosh KK’s first nights (after the festival circuit, waiting for an OTT release) and Vasant Sai’s Shivaranjani and Today. Sila Pengalam (Sony LIV).