Sudha Kongara: Thangam made me cry

Netflix began its southern sojourn with Paava Kadhaigal, an anthology based on honour killing. Tackling themes like caste-based violence and atrocities against the LGBTQ+ community, Paava Kadhaigal is directed by some of the biggest names of Tamil cinema — Gautham Menon, Sudha Kongara, Vetri Maaran and Vignesh Shivan.

Here’s Sudha, along with her actors in Thangam — Kalidas Jayaram, Shanthnu Bhagyaraj, Bhavani Sre —  talking to us about their short, the responsibilities of handling sensitive themes, and more.

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Ms Representation: The honour that kills

Paava Kadhaigal (stories of sin in English) is quite the appropriate name for the new Netflix anthology, helmed by Sudha Kongara (Thangam), Vignesh Shivan (Love Panna Uttranum), Gautham Menon (Vaanmagal), and Vetri Maaran (Orr Iravu). In all of them, sin is at the centre, with the characters placing honour above love, family, and humanity. Another similarity here is that the victims are all women or those who identify as women. Honour and honour killings are usually associated with casteism, but I found Paava Kadhaigal to interpret honour in a different, more inclusive manner. It touches upon the complicated relationship women have with ‘honour’, and this goes beyond caste. The patriarchal society has saddled women with the responsibility of ‘honour’ for centuries, censoring their lives and choices. Ironically, Paavam is also an expression of sympathy in Tamil. There’s another layer then to this title, about stories that reflect the unfair universe that our women are bundled into.

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Ms Representation: In search of the normal woman

Mainstream language tells us, ‘Men are generic, women are special.’ Men are thought to be the ‘default form of humanity’, while women are a specific subcategory. Mankind, for example, refers to all of humanity, but womankind is just women. There are several manifestations of this around us, but in cinema, there’s one in particular. It’s how when a character isn’t defined by their gender, by default, the character turns out to be male.

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Vinoth Kishan: I am not in cinema for the applause

The first feature you note about Vinoth Kishan is his eyes—the same eyes that made an impact in Nandha, in which he debuted as a child actor, the same ones that drilled dread into us in Naan Mahaan Alla. It’s an important tool in his arsenal, but what if he could not use them at all? This was the thought that made director Vignarajan approach the actor for his film, Andhagaaram. It is what made Selvam interesting to Vinoth as well. The duo decided that they would retain the look of the eyes, but that Vinoth would adapt to the lifestyle of a blind man. “I learnt their lifestyle. They have a way of doing everything—reading Braille, using laptops, general navigation etc. My character, Selvam, is a confident man.” Sympathy is a cornerstone of Selvam’s persona. “His problem wasn’t his disability, but other issues… Anyone who sees Selvam should feel for him.”

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Krishnakumar: Theatre is often mistaken for being a stepping stone to films

When Krishnakumar was in Class 6, he watched a play that fetched one of the actors a standing ovation. That kindled acting interest in his young mind. More than a decade later now, a film in which he has acted, Soorarai Pottru, has fetched him similar appreciation—so much so that he is now referred to as ‘Che’, the name of his character from SP. He is full of praise for director Sudha Kongara. “Every period has a filmmaker, who changes how the industry looks at cinema. Sudha Kongara is that person.” He says he knew the film would reach people the way it has. “The team is amazing,” he says, and adds that he considers all the love that has come his way to be a gift. “I was very surprised and am truly grateful.”

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B Selvi and Daughters Short Film Review: A well-intentioned, sweet mother-daughter tale

There’s a story about a baby elephant being chained. Introduced to the chain even before it can walk, the young elephant thinks it can only move as far as the chain allows. It gets so accustomed to this, that it refuses to go out of those boundaries, even when there is no chain. It is a good analogy of how conditioning works, how patriarchy works. But, with each generation, we become more confident to push forward, closer to equality. This is visible a lot in mother-daughter relationships. Most mothers don’t want their daughters to face the struggles they had. And daughters, after they grow up, become the strongest supporters of their mothers’ desires and push them to go for it. This understanding comes from having a common enemy, and a shared battle. This is the premise of the short film B Selvi and Daughters, starring Kalaivani and Gayathrie Shankar.

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Stories of women, from women

Why are women-centric films thought to be ‘offbeat’? Why does having a female director/technician/producer always become an extra-talking point? Women directors and producers have been in existence since 1930s, but what about the status quo still makes it so novel? Netflix has become an interesting player in this space, in looking to level the gender field. More than 50 percent of its Indian original films have had female protagonists (Choked: Paisa Bolta Hai, Bulbbul, Guilty, Chopsticks, Soni, Lust Stories, Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl), and have been backed by several women filmmakers and technicians, debutantes and seasoned. What about the digital space makes it conducive for women?

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Ms. Representation: The woman with a voice

I have been thinking a lot about Bommi, since catching Soorarai Pottru on Amazon Prime Video. To be honest, we all have. There’s a lot to appreciate in the final, sure. But the lead woman, Bommi, takes the cake, quite literally. Intelligent and feisty, Bommi aka Sundari is probably one of the best heroines we have seen recently in the Tamil mainstream. It feels heartening to see such a character get as much love. If nothing else, it is a sign that people do appreciate representation that is closer to the truth. There are no more excuses really. (We have never had an acceptable rationale anyway.) A woman of strength and sense can exist anywhere with dignity if we let her. And now, we have another example to show for it.

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Sir Movie Review: Tillotama Shome shines in a poignant film about dreams

They say love is blind. Colour, caste, creed, class… nothing is supposed to matter in the sanctum of love. But how often do we think this way? Even those of us who want to badly believe in the noble notion, still fall prey to biases rooted in stereotypes. Rathna (Tillotama Shome) works as a live-in help at Ashwin’s (Vivek Gomber) house in Mumbai. A widow from the villages, this job is her ticket to her dreams. On the other hand, there is the morose Ashwin carrying the guilt of a broken engagement and lost dreams. And in that safe space of a house, they both nudge each other closer to their dreams, finding an unexpected companion.

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Mookuthi Amman Movie Review: Nayanthara blesses this fairly enjoyable RJ Balaji comedy

As an ardent KTV fan, Amman films hold a lot of personal nostalgic value for me. As a child, I remember those afternoons spent watching the glorious Amman step down from the heavens to save the struggling heroine from the villain. Growing up, my equation with faith transformed, but there still seems to be something comforting about Amman films. It is the ultimate escapist entertainment, right? The world is black and white here, and you know there’s a saviour. Thus, when RJ Balaji announced Mookuthi Amman, I was quite excited. But the big question is, can you sell all those tropes without the cushion of nostalgia?

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