Sudha Kongara, Gautham Menon, Suhasini Mani Ratnam, Rajiv Menon, Karthik Subbaraj. Five of the biggest names in contemporary Tamil cinema coming together to create a film on OTT – Probably one of the most solid proofs yet, that OTT is here to stay. And as the trailer suggests, Putham Pudhu Kaalai is a series of unconnected ‘Lockdown Tales’.
The good folks at Amazon Prime Video gave us preview access to the film, that is scheduled to release tomorrow (16th October, 12 AM). This is not really a review of Putham Pudhu Kaalai, and there are no spoilers. I can’t be divulging the surprise aspects of the film yet (though I’m dying to :/). Rather, I thought I’d give y’all a sneak peek of what’s in store. For each short, I’ll put up one question that summarises (to my best abilities) the gist, and follow it up with brief notes of what worked for me and what didn’t.
Ilamai Idho Idho
Director: Sudha Kongara
What happens when a guy gets his girlfriend over to his house for a casual chill sesh, and suddenly the PM comes on air and announces a 21-day lockdown? As the days pass, does their equation change?
- The film is a tribute to Alaipayuthey, that talked about how love is not about the initial magical moments, but rather the small everyday acts that follow. The lustre of love fades over time, and it’s the malleability that matters at the end. (Yeah, science!)
- Jayaram is a delight to watch. He’s full of energy, and when he says “Ente Guruvayoorappa” sitting across Urvashi at the table, you realise that it’s the Panchathanthram couple pairing up after years! Their scenes together, though short in runtime, are dollops of nostu for Malayalis watching the film.
- Kalidas Jayaram and Kalyani Priyadarshan are charming and play their parts with ease.
- Special mention to GV Prakash’s peppy music.
Avarum Naanum/Avalum Naanum
Director: Gautham Vasudev Menon
A girl comes to stay with her maternal grandfather during the lockdown. She doesn’t feel any connect with him, owing to an incident in the past. Can this stay change her perspective towards the man?
- RItu Varma and MS Bhaskar come up with heartwarming performances.
- Within just the first few minutes, GVM manages to set up the conflict that is to follow.
- Also, watch out for a hilarious con call sequence (that I hope none of you relate to xD)!
Director: Suhasini Mani Ratnam
Two daughters fly home to celebrate their comatose mom’s 75th birthday. But as they reach home, they are in for a shock. Can they navigate through this? Also, can they get their estranged younger sister to join the party?
- What stands out is the child-like energy brought onto the screen by Suhasini and Anu Hassan.
- The film gently touches upon a few parenting aspects, for example, the worldview of kids born out of late pregnancy; how they consider themselves a ‘mistake’ and hence, believe that they need not have an attachment towards their parents.
Director: Rajiv Menon
Sadhana’s bike breaks down and she steps into her schoolmate Vikram’s house to look for cabs. They’re clearly not in touch: Sadhana’s now a musician with a happening life, and Vikram, a geeky doctor. However, one thing leads to another and she ends up staying at Vikram’s place for the rest of the lockdown. Now, Sadhana has a few skeletons in her closet. What happens when they tumble out – that too, in front of Vikram and his mom?
- This short holds its own, owing to splendid performances by Andrea Jeremiah, Leela Samson and Sikkhil Gurucharan.
- It takes a very mature approach to a social vice that is mostly sneered upon.
- Also, watch out for some aesthetically pleasing cinematography and set design.
Director: Karthik Subbaraj
Two jobless youngsters spend all day sitting at home, watching a Guruji speak at length about the power of miracles. One day, they get tipped about some laundered money being stashed inside a deserted car in their area. Later that night, they enter the car to steal the money. Will the night change their fortunes forever?
- With a tight screenplay that doesn’t waste any time and dives right into the plot, this one is a cracker that sways away from the rest of the shorts, which focus on human relationships.
- Old Tamil songs playing out of context, a blue Ambassador car, some hilarious twists; this is Karthik Subbaraj, the short film veteran, at his best.
- A lot of the comedy relies on Bobby Simha’s and Muthu Kumar’s timing, and they deliver big time.
Considering that the film was conceived and shot within a few days (as per the Amazon-mandated shooting restrictions), it doesn’t come without its flaws. Some of the shorts start off promisingly and lose steam towards the end. Some of them have issues in pacing. Some cathartic potions feel dated and don’t work as intended. One of them takes up too many topics on its pan and ends up half-baked.
When two or more individuals are stuck in a confined space for days (with nothing but each other’s company), the premise provides scope for a “story of change”. Because what the idea of a lockdown offers is…time. With time, things can change. People can change. Their perspectives and interpersonal relationships can change. And this set of stories celebrates this change. It’s all about new beginnings!
Another commonality I found was the prominence of food (and cooking). From tea and coffee to biryani, every short has one prominent food item. First, I thought it could have been a coincidence. But then I reflected upon what were the things that people indulged in during the lockdown, and food was right up there in the list. In fact, our love for food was one thing that helped keep our sanity during that phase. Amidst a sea of change, it was, ironically, one thing that didn’t change.
To sum it up, Putham Pudhu Kaalai is a nice big step in the right direction towards creating good regional cinema on OTT. It’s a good lineup of stories. They may not be strikingly original, but they do manage to create a handful of little, memorable moments. And sometimes I believe that’s what OTT is best suited for. Do give it a watch and let us know your thoughts in the comments below!