Tamil cinema in a year of tumult

Unusual protagonists, scathing social commentary, a departure from star-centric cinema… Though the year 2020 was asphyxiating and unkind to cinema, Tamil films still found a way to survive

When the opening weeks of this year were punctuated by the release of films featuring the likes of Rajinikanth and Dhanush, films that were designed for the community-watching experience of a theatre, it seemed unthinkable that we would spend the remainder of the year glued to televisions, and remaining awake at dawn, catching the midnight OTT premieres of many a film that had to settle for a TV release. Films like DarbarPsycho and Pattas now feel like they came out in another year, a time when we travelled in groups… wait, a time when we travelled. It’s in taking stock of the year’s releases that one is reminded that the opening three months—before the pandemic well and truly claimed this year—belong to 2020 too. How long this year has been, and how short its filmography. Tamil films came out in a trickle this year—largely those that were either made for OTT platforms or those that couldn’t afford to wait for theatres to be opened again—and yet, there were still some good films, some useful patterns… And prominent among the trends this year is the…

Searing social commentary

Kavalthurai Ungal Nanban

There were quite a few films unafraid about taking on the system, with many turning out to be enjoyable cinema too. The first prominent entry was Raju Murugan’s Gypsy, which attacks a telephone directory of issues in the country, including right-wing extremism, suppression of women, religious fundamentalism, hate politics, caste oppression, patriarchy… Even if it bites way more than can be chewed in a single story, the film is notable for never backing down from throwing punches. Arun Karthick’s Nasir does quite a bit of this, but in a less obvious, more silent way. The film captures the life of a Muslim man almost with documentary precision, so that when a cruel fate befalls him, you don’t ignore him as a statistic and instead recognise him for being a real person—and not as the ‘other’ as the system would rather we did. Towards the end of the year, we got two more strong entries: Ka Pae Ranasingam and Kavalthurai Ungal Nanban. While the former documents the struggles of a woman desperate to bring her husband’s corpse back from another country—and the systemic corruption and political manipulation that hampers her at every step—the latter is a takedown of police brutality and the impunity with which the department’s authority is often exercised. Coming as it does in the same year as the Jayaraj-Fenix murders, the message is particularly relevant. Many of these films are also notable for their…

For the remainder of this column (and there’s a lot more left, I assure you), visit Tamil cinema in a year of tumult- Cinema express

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Who Am I? says:

    I just chanced upon the GVM interview regarding Minnale and then went and watched the interview regarding Kaakha Kaakha as well.

    A few questions:

    1. I did not understand the line of questioning around stalking in Minnale. Is the concern that the Rajesh (character played by Madhavan) stalked Reena and it was picturised with mildly comic undertones? Was it also that this behavior goes unpunished and he ends up with the girl?

    Aren’t movies a work of fiction? Why should the movies reflect what our morality dictates?

    In Kodi, the lyrics go

    பொட்டக்கோழி அழகுல
    என்ன கொத்தி அலையுற விட்டா
    கொஞ்சம் பொழைக்கிறேன் விடுடி

    கோழி itself signifies female, then why say பொட்டக்கோழி? The word பொட்ட has negative connotations…are we going to complain that the lyricist is a misogynist?

    2. Regarding KK, again, that is one cop’s (a fictional cop’s) justification of why he wants to kill the rapist in that fashion given how the system is currently working. Should movies only show that cops arrest the wrong doer and present them in a court of law?

    Or should the movies where there is an encounter shown then proceed in only fashion where the cops becomes disillusioned with his action and the guilt ends up consuming him (like Avner of Munich)?

    Now, if we were to take the example of Kaala, it ended with Nana Patekar’s character getting killed in a riot (it was picturised as a celebration), but it was nevertheless mob justice. So, are we going to ask Pa. Ranjith how can he show that mob justice is acceptable or is mob justice acceptable when it is the common man who is perpetuating it against a man in a position of power?

    Similarly, in Shankar’s Sivaji or numerous other movies.

    3. Finally, in Rangaraj Pandey’s interview, you kept asking why did Pandey ask Chinmayi the reason for the delay. Pandey does agree that victim of sexual harassment can open up about what happened to them at any time (29:32) and yet you persisted and asked Pandey why did you keep repeating that question.

    Wasn’t he asking the question that was on everybody’s mind? I had the question. I then read about #MeToo, had discussions with my friends, colleagues and cousins and changed my opinion. My paatti who is 89 years old had the same question.

    Isn’t part of the journalist job to ask a question that is in the mind of people and get the interviewee to answer it thereby educating the people?

    After Chinmayi talked about the phone call where she was threatened, I and a lot of my friends understood that victims would be shaking in fear every time the phone rings etc.,


  2. IndiaNetzone says:

    The history of Tamil cinema is as old as the history of Indian cinema. Needless to say Tamil films have evolved over the ages. At the beginning mostly mythological films were made. But with time romantic films, comic flicks and parallel cinema came into being.


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