Paava Kathaikal: Spoiler-free Segment Breakdown

We just watched the latest lockdown offering from Netflix: a Tamil anthology by the name Paava Kathaikal (translates to “Stories of Sin”). The USP of the project has been the big names that have helmed it: Sudha Kongara (who’s on a roll this year!), Gautham Menon (who has clearly had a productive year with forays into acting as well), Vetri Maaran (who has become the face of intense commercial cinema down South) and Vignesh Shivn (his inclusion to the mix was the most intriguing, considering the lighter genre films he’s done before). 

To know if the hype was worth it, go ahead and read our thoughts from the 4 segments!

Thangam

Director: Sudha Kongara 

Paava Kathaikal Kalidas

Sattar cheerfully navigates through all the social ostracism with help from her childhood friend Saravanan, whom she secretly loves. When Saravanan seeks her help to woo a mutual acquaintance, Sattar is torn apart. Meanwhile, Society enters the chat.

Pros: 

  • The relationship between Sattar and Saravanan has been etched out beautifully. 
  • The segment also has some of the best frames in the film, courtesy nammude swantham Jomon T John. 
  • Features a poignant hug scene that will go down in the hug history books.  

Cons: 

  • The film takes the beaten path, be it the treatment of the transgender character or the treatment of inter-religion marriage. 
  • Kalidas Jayaram delivers an earnest performance as Sattar. But we wonder why cis actors need to be cast in these roles when there could be potentially good trans actors.

Love Panna Uttranum

Director: Vignesh Shivn

Paava Kathaikal Kalki

Urban girl Jothilakshmi hears that her casteist monster of a father has changed his old ways, and agreed to her sister’s inter-caste marriage. She comes to her hometown with her “special friend”. Surprises await both parties…

Pros:

  • Props to Vignesh Shivn for attempting dark humour while dealing with a topic as sensitive as this.
  • The jokes come at you when you least expect it. 

Cons:

  • Anjali and Kalki are amazing actors, but we hardly get to see their brilliance at play here.  The script doesn’t demand intense performances. 
  • The light take on the subject almost seems to trivialise the crime. 

You might also like: Putham Pudhu Kaalai Review: Fine Lockdown Tales From The Finest Storytellers

Vaanmagal

Director: Gautham Vasudev Menon

Gautham Menon

We are introduced to a middle-class family of five. When tragedy strikes in the most unprecedented of ways, how does the family cope with it? Should they inform the police about the crime committed, or just let it go in the fear of societal judgement? 

Pros: 

  • A well-crafted family drama which keeps you on your toes till the end.
  • Gautham Menon and Simran deliver wonderfully nuanced performances. 
  • The film closes with the trademark Gautham Menon voiceover. Unlike his recent ventures with the narrative tool, here it deftly lends closure to the viewer.

Cons: 

The ‘twist’ doesn’t add much value to the overall viewing experience. In fact, an open-ended last shot would have really rattled the audience’s brains! 

The subplot involving Aditya Bhaskar (as Gautham Menon’s son) feels out of place. 

Ooru Iravu 

Director: Vetri Maaran

Sai Pallavi and Prakash Raj

A pregnant Sumathi is pleasantly surprised by the arrival of her estranged father, who wishes to hold a grand baby shower for her. Years have passed since her elopement, and when she comes back home, she notices that her decision has affected her family in more ways than she’d imagined. 

Pros:

  • This segment has the best acting and the best dialogues. Sai Pallavi and Prakash Raj are equally brilliant.
  • Towards the climax, dialogues go in unexpected directions (with respect to the situation), and they make the scenes chillingly original and hard-hitting. 

Cons: 

  • The rest of the ensemble cast are eclipsed by the two lead performances. Standalone scenes featuring the family members do not leave a memorable mark in the viewer’s mind.

Themes

All the shorts in Paava Kathaikal are centred on the common theme of honour: how some families take extreme steps to defend their honour in the Society.

Each film tackles this using multiple layers. While Thangam deals with inter-religion love and trans-sexuality, Love Panna… deals with caste and class discrimination. Vaanmagal talks about how the maintenance of a woman’s purity is essential to familial honour, while Oor Iravu features a family that lives in fear of female empowerment. 

Some shorts in Paava Kathaikal have completely dead ends (pun not intended). Some shorts end with characters redeeming themselves, at a cost. Nevertheless, every short makes you contemplate how the families are often aware of the grave steps they take – their conscience biting into their souls – and yet carry on, fearing societal pressure;  how imaginary social constructs such as caste and religion become the deal breakers of our real physical lives. 

You might also like: C/O Kancharapalem: A Telugu Movie That Is “Quietly Revolutionary”

If you’ve watched the film as well, do comment your thoughts and let’s discuss! 

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