Putham Pudhu Kaalai review: Warm, but a tad too sweet

The pandemic, and the subsequent lockdown, has several faces. People on the streets without food or shelter, the vulnerable struggling to reclaim the little stability they had — that’s the scary face. The more privileged of us experienced a kinder side. It pushed us to introspect, contemplate on the multiple personas we have; discover and acknowledge the same in other people. Putham Pudhu Kaalai, Amazon Prime Video’s first Tamil anthology, has captured this benign side of the pandemic. (With the intense shooting restrictions, it might have been tougher to explore more dynamic scenarios) It was said that the anthology was about hope, second chances, and new beginnings. But for me, these shorts are also bound together by this introspection: the discovery of faces (both of ourselves and others) we had hidden from the world.

Despite being the closest people in our lives, they are also somehow the farthest from our truth. Four of the five shorts explore this irony in our families and relationships, In the case of Sudha Kongara’s Ilamai Idho Idho, it was about the forgotten individual behind the parent mask. We see another version of this in Gautham Vasudev Menon’s Avarum Naanum/Avalum Naanum. With Reunion (Rajiv Menon), it is about remembering our forgotten younger selves, and Coffee Anyone acknowledges the dynamic nature of human emotions. What we feel today about someone, may morph into something completely different tomorrow. Karthick Subbaraj’s Miracle stands alone in terms of tone and theme, exploring acceptance from a different vantage point, and providing a much-needed change in terms of socio-economic representation.

While all of them deal with interesting premises, Ilamai Idho Idho and Miracle make the best of the restricted time they are given with. To tell a story with nuance in 25 minutes is not particularly easy, but these two shorts do it well without incongruous exposition in terms of writing. In Ilamai Idho Idho (my favourite of the lot), not only does the writing swiftly establish the setting and characters, it creates enough space for organic cute moments between the couple. Despite the adorable chemistry between Kalyani Priyadarshan and Kalidas Jayaraman, I couldn’t help but wonder what the film would have been if it had been Jayaram and Urvashi throughout. I would love to see that thread fleshed out into a feature film. (A special shout out to GV Prakash and Kaber Vasuki for that nostalgic musical tidbits) Miracle, on the other hand, picks a smart premise and tells it with undeniable intrigue. One can sense Karthik Subbaraj’s comfort and experience in the space — as he delivers precisely what is required.

The other three shorts feel a bit rushed, resorting to some amount of exposition to create the nuance in their narratives. Nevertheless, we get some fine performances from the likes of MS Bhaskar and Andrea, who breeze through their roles. One can also feel the restrictions in terms of space, but the shorts manage it well. They look good even if there are more hand-held shots than one bargained for.

Are these short films glossy? Yes. Could they have had more emotional gravitas? Yes. But they work as small, shiny nuggets of warmth. These are also stories you don’t generally find on the big-screen. Thus, It marks an interesting journey of experimentation. With the pandemic, several big-wigs have begun to make content for the digital space, with anthologies becoming the ‘form of the season’. So, I am treating this as the new beginning, a hopeful one, for better narratives in the future.

Suhasini Maniratnam: I cannot think of direction as my day job

The first question I had asked Suhasini Mani Ratnam when meeting her for an interview two years back was, “Why aren’t you directing more?” She had laughed and said it would be a matter of time. And now, two years later, 25 years after her directorial debut, Suhasini has worn the director hat again for Amazon Prime Video’s first Tamil Anthology, Putham Pudhu Kaalai. “I began writing short stories in 2009 after taking a course. These were not published but worthy enough to be so. I have kept them to myself, but perhaps OTT is a good place for them.”

In this freewheeling chat, the actor-director talks about her return to filmmaking and what it’s like to work with her own family.

Continue reading “Suhasini Maniratnam: I cannot think of direction as my day job”

Sid Sriram: I’m simply a vessel in the process of creating music

Sid Sriram, Kollywood’s current singing sensation, began his career with the breathtaking Adiye, composed by AR Rahman for Mani Ratnam’s Kadal (2013). And now, six years later, the young musician is all set to make his composer debut with a Mani Ratnam production, Vaanam Kottatum. It seems Sid’s career has come full circle. “A small circle,” he says, with a quiet laugh. “At the start, I was just excited to be working on this project and about interacting with Mani sir in the capacity that I am now. I later realised the significance of my first song and it really feels like it has all come full circle,” Sid.

Continue reading “Sid Sriram: I’m simply a vessel in the process of creating music”

It’s now time to reap the benefits of my 23-year career: Arun Vijay

It’s been more than two decades since Arun Vijay made his debut with Sundar C’s Murai Mappillai (1995). The actor has now touched the 25-film mark with Mani Ratnam’s Chekka Chivantha Vaanam. Terming the current period as his time in the spotlight, Arun Vijay talks about his career, and how he’s learned from his mistakes.

Excerpts from the conversation: Continue reading “It’s now time to reap the benefits of my 23-year career: Arun Vijay”

Happy birthday Mani Ratnam: Re-visiting the ace filmmaker’s love for experimentation and the madness of Thiruda Thiruda

When I decided I was going to revisit a Mani Ratnam film and write about it, I was sure I didn’t want to go for the usual suspects. That immediately took Nayagan, Mouna Ragam, Thalapathy, Iruvar, Bombay, Roja, Agni Natchathiram and all the films that easily crop-up in a conversation about Mani Ratnam off my list. The idea was to pick a film that wasn’t celebrated as much and recalibrate my perception of Mani Ratnam’s body of work. So when a cinephile friend suggested Thiruda Thiruda, I was sold. Continue reading “Happy birthday Mani Ratnam: Re-visiting the ace filmmaker’s love for experimentation and the madness of Thiruda Thiruda”

Happy birthday Vikram: A star with an unwavering spirit and determination

If there is a story that deserves an on-screen adaptation, it must be Kenny’s journey to becoming Chiyaan Vikram. It is not new information that Vikram’s biggest break Sethu happened a solid ten years after he entered the industry or that he suffered a serious accident that could have nearly cost him his leg, well before he stepped into tinsel town. But his biopic would be not about these incidents but rather about how he handled them. The movie would showcase his indomitable spirit, impregnable optimism and of course, the insane sacrifices he makes for his characters. Continue reading “Happy birthday Vikram: A star with an unwavering spirit and determination”

Autism in Cinema: Are Indian films getting it right?

When it comes to Autism on the silver screen, the 1988 Hollywood film Rain Man created a watershed moment. The highest grossing film of that year, Rain Man was unanimously celebrated for its autistic lead character, played by Dustin Hoffman, who exhibited what later became the earliest reference point for ‘savant skills’. The term refers to the extraordinary skills that a person on the autism spectrum sometimes portrays — think Thomas Alva Edison, Sir Isaac Newton or Alfred Hitchcock. Continue reading “Autism in Cinema: Are Indian films getting it right?”

Happy birthday AR Rahman: The ‘Isai Puyal’ which still blows strong

The earliest usage of the nickname ‘Mozart of Madras’ I could find was in 2004 — a TIME magazine article titled the same. A rather short piece about AR Rahman’s Bombay Dreams that said ARR’s name stood in unison with “melody, quality, energy, instant hummability — a sound both personal and universal, devouring many older forms and transforming them into something gorgeously new.” The description of Rahman’s brand of music is perfect, except for the phrase ‘instant hummability’. In fact, there is a three-step penance to savouring the legend’s music; the phase of dissatisfactory shock (the what is this phase), the phase of the indulgent listener (I know I don’t like it but let me hit the play button one more time.) and then, epiphanic addiction (Why didn’t I like this before?). The penance has become so customary that we don’t instantly reject a song that has the AR Rahman tag. Take the 2.0 album for instance. The unanimous verdict was ‘Give it time, we will see it’. Continue reading “Happy birthday AR Rahman: The ‘Isai Puyal’ which still blows strong”

Happy birthday Aishwarya Rai Bachchan: Why we would love to see her in a Tamil film again

It’s a well-known fact that Aishwarya Rai started her career with Mani Ratnam in the 1997 film Iruvar. Fresh from her Miss World win, landing a dual role in a Mani Ratnam film was a dream debut for the young artiste. The movie wasn’t a normal project as well: Iruvar was loosely based on the lives of two of Tamil Nadu’s most popular politicos, MG Ramachandran and Karunanidhi. One of Aishwarya’s role was said to be based on Jayalalithaa, another landmark figure in Tamil Nadu politics. The movie also starred Mohanlal, Prakashraj, Gautami and Tabu, apart from the young Aishwarya. As the docile Pushpavalli and the gutsy Kalpana, Aishwarya made a splash proving that she isn’t just another pretty face. Continue reading “Happy birthday Aishwarya Rai Bachchan: Why we would love to see her in a Tamil film again”

All I want is to tell stories irrespective of the format and platform: Lakshmi, Maa fame KM Sarjun

He might have completed his feature film ‘Echarikai idhu manithargal nadamadum idam’ first, but ‘Lakshmi’ was KM Sarjun’s ticket to spotlight. The short film became the cynosure of controversy but Sarjun also garnered attention and accolades for his craft. And with Maa, the verdict was more unanimous. ‘Maa’ also lead him to bag his next film with Lady Superstar Nayanthara. With just two short films, KM Sarjun has already become a name to watch out for. In conversation with indianexpress.com, the director talks about controversies, Echarikai (which he assures me is not even remotely close to ‘Taken’), Mani Ratnam, AR Murugadoss and more. Continue reading “All I want is to tell stories irrespective of the format and platform: Lakshmi, Maa fame KM Sarjun”

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