This year, Sudhish Kamath picks five films that have redefined Tamil cinema

Though there were a host of entertaining Tamil comedies that were made this year (Vanakkam Chennai, Sonna Puriyathu, Raja Rani, Theeya Velai Seiyyanum Kumaru), a bunch of sleekly executed, well-packaged, leave-your-brains-behind action entertainers (Biriyani, Thalaivaa, Arrambam, Singam 2), an equal number of half-decent, realistic above average films (Pandia Nadu, Aadhalal Kaadhal Seiveer, Paradesi, Thagararu) and emerging, new, exciting talent (Neram, Pizza 2, Idharkuthane Aasaipattai Balakumara and a couple of other plagiarised but well-executed films), it makes no sense to rank them because they are almost as good as the others in their respective space. Hence, for this year’s list, we decided to pick five films that have actually redefined Tamil cinema. They aren’t all perfect, but were certainly the most creative, standout Tamil films of the year. Films you must watch and can recommend to people who haven’t watched Tamil films and not be embarrassed.

Soodhu Kavvum

This film is a joy to watch, full of laughs and unpredictable situations with great wit, dark humour and satire. Think Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron done as a ‘kednap’ caper. The masterstroke is not that all characters are bad, but in the fact that the villain is the only good guy in the film. This is our society today where evil always wins. Barring one terrible visual effect shot of a car crash, this is a film so wicked that it has you rooting for the bad guys and makes you hate the good! Writer-director Nalan Kumarasamy, the winner of the first season of Nalaya Iyakkunar, is one of the most exciting filmmakers of our times with his ability to turn a cliché on the head. It can be safely said that this dark comedy is a rarely explored genre in Tamil cinema.

Kalyana Samayal Saadham

Often called Tamil cinema’s Vicky Donor for taking sexual content to the families, this is a surprisingly subtle and truly modern Tamil romantic comedy by writer-director R.S. Prasanna, which, like Soodhu Kavvum, has pushed the boundaries of the unexplored characters and situations further. While Vicky Donor tried making as many sperm jokes as possible and thrived on the humour, here the jokes work because of the choice of words and visuals that make for family-friendly sexual humour. The director says that they didn’t even want to use the word sex in the film because the rest of the subject matter and the plot revolved around an unusual problem. We are so amused by the storytelling that we don’t really realise how the filmmaker has sneaked in the possibility of premarital sex even in arranged marriage.

Onaayum Aattukkuttiyum

Is there a more interestingly composed film this year? Mysskin hits peak form as a storyteller with the most evolved sense of visual grammar in this part of the world. Telling us a story about a hunter and the hunted where the tables turn soon, Mysskin constructs this dark, gritty, moody, atmospherical, bizarre modern day fable by borrowing elements of experimental theatre and mime to create surreal imagery of human metaphors — where characters physically borrow traits of the animals they represent. The lines (barring one monologue towards the end that substitute the mandatory flashback) barely matter because Mysskin is more interested in the drama. But for overstatement, this is a film that’s mostly brilliant.

Vishwaroopam

This is going to be a controversial choice, but India’s biggest independent filmmaker deserves this mention. Who else has the audacity to spend Rs. 95 crore to make an uncompromising UA film during times when every filmmaker is trying to make a U film to get government tax exemption? And that too as a spy thriller — a genre that’s rarely been presented the way in the scale it deserves, knowing very well that spending Rs. 95 crore means setting yourself up to gross Rs. 250 crore just to break-even. As the film cuts between past and present and sucks you into the thick of action in breakneck speed, what you would have missed out on is the fantastic layering of elements. Vishwaroopam is the most-layered film of the year and with every watch, you will find something that Kamal Haasan has planted in it, waiting to be discovered. The sequel set-up scene at the end is an embarrassment, but the rest is sheer genius.

Thanga Meenkal

This has one of the most fundamentally flawed protagonists who is solely responsible for his alienation, one filled with self-pity, irresponsible enough not to complete his education because of eloping with a girl and then has the cheek to complain about the education and teaching system. But overlook this ridiculous stand, and what you get is a heart-warming story about a father-daughter bond. A film treated with great restraint and understatement, one that rarely lapses into melodrama. It’s never easy to direct and act at the same time, but director Ram manages to extract a fantastic performance from even the child actor Sadhna. But the reason it won me over is the painstaking cinematography. We haven’t seen better use of landscape in storytelling, and the director of photography Arbindhu Saara has literally climbed mountains for seconds of diegetic credibility and exhaustive coverage of ambience and location. World-class visuals.

The Craziest Film To Have Not Released

Rendavathu Padam: Having watched the film, one can safely say that is as mad and zany as it gets in Tamil cinema. Three roommates — best friends — have a secret each they have hidden from each other. Secrets that make them more connected than they know. C.S. Amudhan’s film after his full-fledged spoof Tamizh Padam is going to surprise the film industry with its content and distributors don’t know what to make out of it. So radical that it cannot be categorised as good or bad. Rendavathu Padam is genuinely different, outrageously mad, inconsistent in tone and has every possibility to become a cult film. Best watched without the slighest clue about what to expect. Which is why all trailers that have been released mislead and don’t tell us anything about the plot. Can’t wait for this to hit the screens.