Imagine a mix of Three Idiots (or Nanban) and Santhosh Subramaniam, with a dash of Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya? That’s Don for you. It’s a familiar premise. Chakravarthy (Sivakarthikeyan) aka Don is an unambitious college student. He has a controlling father (Samuthirakani) who is fanatical about marks. Whenever Chakravarthy fails, his father shaves his head — as an act of shame. A perennially stifled Chakravarthy tries hard to break the cycle, but like most Indian students end up in an engineering college — where he tries to figure out what he is good at.
Vignesh Shivan‘s Kaathuvaakula Rendu Kaadhal, starring Vijay Sethupathi, Nayanthara, and Samantha, thinks it is making a strong case for polyamory.
We like day and night. We like biryani and curd rice. We like Ajith and Vijay. As humans, we enjoy and thrive in plurality. When that is the case, why is polyamoury taboo, and why is monogamy the rule?
However, the case the film actually makes is for patriarchy and sexism. Sure, one can have multiple partners if everyone involved knows about it, and agrees to be part of it. But in our society, and by extension Kaathuvaakula Rendu Kaadhal, this is just reserved for the man.
KGF 2 has changed the conversation around Indian cinema. Its box-office success (after Pushpa and RRR) has established the Indian cinema fraternity’s new catchphrase: ‘pan-Indian’. The question is, when will Tamil cinema get its own ‘pan-Indian’ project?
With all this talk about pan-Indian films, it’s natural to wonder what this term actually indicates. Does it indicate films made in multiple languages? Nope. KGF, Pushpa, and RRR were all made in one language and dubbed for release in multiple languages. Okay, so, does it mean films being celebrated across demographics? Not really, because then, films like Jai Bhim, Karnan or The Great Indian Kitchen should have made the cut too. Fun fact: The Great Indian Kitchen is currently being remade in Tamil, Telugu, and Hindi. But that’s not what pan-Indian success means. What it essentially boils down to are two things: a big-budget, mass-masala-commercial film and box office success.
‘If only these walls could talk’
It’s a common phrase, often used to speak of unknown stories. In Priya V’s series Anantham, they do. Well, not literally, but in spirit. Anantham is about the eponymously named house, and the various people and their families who have inhabited it over five decades. It’s a bouquet of stories — a mosaic of emotions. There’s a bit of everything — grief, loss, love, romance, fear, discovery, anger, etc. For some, the house heaps fortunes. And for others, disasters. Its inhabitants are mostly people who society raises their eyebrows at — blind people, unemployed debtors, three single women living together, a gay couple… But the cornerstone of Anantham is acceptance.
It is fascinating to see how indispensable fight sequences are to Tamil cinema. That is the case not just with commercial cinema. It seems inconceivable for our creators to have a protagonist and not have him fight, no irrespective of the genre the film belongs to.
After all, can anyone be a hero if they cannot fight? Sarov Shanmugam’s debut film Oh My Dog is the latest addition to the long list of films bogged down by commercial platitudes and predictable writing.
Oh My Dog has quite a simple premise. Professional dog breeder Fernando (Vinay Rai in yet another single-note villain character) asks his men to kill a blind pup from one of his dogs. The pup escapes the killers, and is be spotted by Arjun (Arnav Vijay), who adopts him. He hides the pup, Simba, from his family, which is already reeling under financial pressure. But eventually, the family and their friends rally around the pup, which brings them closer.
What do Deepika Padukone, Samantha Ruth Prabhu, and Neena Gupta have in common? In the past few weeks, they have all spoken against trolls who have harassed them on their sartorial choices. After being ‘criticised’ for a deep neck gown she wore for an awards show, Samantha put up a social media post that read, “Making snap judgements about a person simply based on the clothes they wear is quite literally the easiest thing one can do. Now that we are in the year 2022, can we finally stop judging a woman based on the hemlines and necklines she adorns and focus instead on bettering ourselves?” Neena Gupta shared similar sentiments in a recent video: “I am posting this video only because I feel that women who wear short or skimpy clothes, like the one I am wearing, are thought to be worthless. But let me tell you that I have done an M Phil in Sanskrit. I have many more accomplishments to talk about. One shouldn’t judge a woman by the outfit she wears. The ones who troll should know this.”
The ‘good’ woman, according to ancient Tamil literature, has four characteristics — Achcham, Madam, Naanam, and Payirppu. Loosely translated, Achcham means fear; Naanam means coyness; Madam is modesty bordering on ignorance — even if a woman knows something, she is supposed to pretend otherwise. And finally, Payirppu, which roughly translates to chastity.
This patriarchal notion of who is a good woman has been, for long, romanticised by popular culture. Tamil cinema, in specific, has a long history of enshrining patriarchy. Almost every leading star has, at some point or the other, delivered a sermon on how a woman should behave dress or be.
Why do humans tell stories? There are several ways to look at it. We could say that stories were a means of sharing experiential knowledge, which helped us to survive. In a broader perspective, you can also say stories help us understand the world. With stories, we create perspective from the information the world throws at us — as a means of coping with being a human in this universe.
One of the strongest tenets of patriarchy is to burden the woman with the complete responsibility of sex and lay accusations. If it is pre-marital, then the woman gets called a slut. In a marriage, there are accusations of ‘mundhanai la mudiyarathu’. Even in extramarital affairs, the other woman carries more blame than the man involved. In rape too, the frequent response is sadly still that she probably asked for it. Our cultural system absolves the man of responsibility and holds the woman accountable and judges her for the same.
In the early minutes of Maaran, Swetha (Smruthi Venkat) prays for her brother to land a job. “My brother is very lazy. He thinks he is a genius, but he is a fool. He can get a job only with your intervention,” she says, looking at the deities on the wall. One could say the same about the film. Maaran wants to be an intelligent, engaging thriller but ends up being lazy and trite.
Maaran has Dhanush playing an investigative journalist. He is particular that he will only write the truth; his words should bring about change. Just like his father Sathyamoorthi, who was also an investigative journalist. Sathyamoorthi was killed because of a scoop he published, But the experience has only made Maaran more determined to take the path his father did. All of this is fine, just the fact that no one in this universe actually speaks like a journalist. When Sathyamoorthi comes with a massive scoop, he is stopped by three colleagues who only warn him of the dangers of publishing the scoop. One colleague even asks why he doesn’t shift to writing gossip. Maybe a close friend or associate can suggest something like this, but for every person in a media organisation to speak like this is plain laughable. The biggest problem with Maaran is that the characters spit information in incongruous chunks, with no concern for authenticity or realism.