The 2020 jukebox: Strains of a pandemic

We take stock of the music scene in Tamil cinema, this year: the trends, highs, lows, and how the industry survived a pandemic

Taylor Swift once said that while people have not always been there for her, music always has been. If there’s any one year in which this quote assumes special relevance, it has to be this year. A lonely year of forced isolation and uncertainty—not just for the future, but for human touch and connection—2020, to put it mildly, has been tough on everyone. It’s a year that reiterated the significance of artists and creators, whose professions seem to be thought dispensable. Holed up in our homes, almost all of us found solace in music, much more than we have been used to. The melodies and lyrics filled up the void for emotional connection we all longed for.

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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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The Netflix story

The director of Netflix’s International Original Film department, Srishti Behl Arya, talks to us about building the Indian slate for the streaming giant

Authenticity and Diversity. These two words often pop up in conversation with Srishti Behl Arya, the mind behind Netflix’s original slate in India. “We look for passionate creators. If we are enjoying what we make, we hope our audiences will enjoy them too,” says Shristi. “Storytelling barriers are being broken every day. People don’t want to get stuck with one kind of content.”

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