From unapologetic Pariyerum Perumal, magical realism Seethakaathi, sprawling Vada Chennai, timeless Merku Thodarchi Malai, moment seizing 96 to atmospheric Mercury and relief rom-com Pyaar Prema Kaadhal, the interesting lot of Tamil films catered to treatment irrespective of commercial viability.
VANJAGAR ULAGAM by Manoj Beedha | RAATCHASAN by Ramkumar
SPECIAL MENTION: SILA SAMAYAGALIL by Priyadarshan
This engaging drama almost shot on sole location captures the most aggravating human experiences with tension and irritation. Priyadarshan strongly lays a hand over the climax which keeps lingering more than intention. Win? This is Priyadarshan at his best, although it moves slowly, but the fact here is “it moves”.
10. CHEKKA CHIVANTHA VAANAM by Mani Ratnam
It’s a visual experience mounted with detailing of characters – plot closely works on the lines of The Godfather (1972), but it’s instantly dismissed as shades of characters are simmered. Mani Ratnam’s most straightforward film sets a bar high on the three-act structure while engaging in a semantics approach. It’s a collaborative process – Editor A. Sreekar Prasad helps propel the drama by intercutting a normal sequence which makes it more rhythmic. Chekka Chivantha Vaanam isn’t devoid of flaws; it definitely manifests the prowess of Mani Ratnam.
09. ASURAVADHAM by Maruthupandian
Finest example of a typical masala story treated with creative amendment, Director Maruthupandian’s loud-yet-unique treatment makes Asuravadham stand out amidst mediocrity – supported by skilful Editing by R. Govindaraj, riveting BGM by Govind Menon and captivating Cinematography by SR Kathir. Though with an inconsistent tonality, Asuravadham is packed amidst restlessness, conflict and vengeance – writing escalates suiting the atmospheric as well as character built-up. Asuravadham is a technical finesse, an emotional core is uplifted strongly by atmospheric built-up which sets up a power packed rampage.
08. SEETHAKAATHI by Balaji Tharaneetharan
Seethakaathi is a soulful tribute of a theatre-veteran whose soul becomes the “Father of Cinema”, makes the magical realism hit the ethics of contemporary artistes. Director-Writer Balaji Tharaneetharan’s unique premise comes with ‘magical realism’ structured as an experimental film high on meta-drama and melodrama. Seethakaathi ruthlessly rather exaggeratedly juxtaposes art and business through a satirical narrative, as Ayya takes a soulful plunge into cinema, director Balaji smoothly plunges into a distinctive tone. Only a major drawback is its slow pacing, 2 hours 53 minutes which was cut down in the following week of release.
07. KAALA by Pa. Ranjith
Kaala features a thoughtful, rousing and colourful climax, the recent best. There’s an analogy to the whole film starting from Black-White to Ramayana which defines the class oppression. It’s about the proletariat’s power, Director Pa. Ranjith puts in all cinematic power to the layers of society – hence, the climax puts everything in a thoughtful perspective. Kaala isn’t just a mass Rajini-film, it’s a perfect blend of cinema-politics-socialism which carries menacing charisma of Rajinikanth to conquer the oppression.
06. MERCURY by Karthik Subbaraj
Karthik Subbaraj is a fearless director whose films have distinct narrative and unique features – Mercury rocks silently. The scares are less – what builds up scary and eerily is Karthik’s effective handling of the sensory modalities; deprecating to breathe for a while. The unique conflict between senses vs. sight vs. sound trembles into a thrilling cat-and-mouse game. Cinematographer S. Tirru captures the essence of “effect” with green hue which at times comes off as a toxic, the desolation of forest and the ruins of factory are captured tempestuously.
05. PYAAR PREMA KAADHAL by Elan
Pyaar Prema Kadhal is a refreshing soundful entertainer mastered by Elan who is in full understanding of the interpersonal relationships as well as cinematic offering, a relief from typical rom-coms. A Yuvan Shankar Raja musical fittingly aids the narrative fleshing out a soulful romance; major highlight. Director Elan subverts the gender stereotypes with etched-characters which are downright flawed. Harish Kalyan and Raiza Wilson’s sparkling chemistry whips an interesting yet complicated portrayal without a hiccup.
04. VADA CHENNAI by Vetrimaaran
Vada Chennai isn’t just another gangster film, it’s more like a writing exercise and a masterful director at his craft. Cinematographer R. Velraj capture the tragic and uncertainty mostly with black and grey, at times blue symbolising impoundment of Anbu. Santosh Narayanan’s elevating background rages while being at-low yet underneath chilling the bone. Vada Chennai is best described in a dialogue mouthed by a gangster with MGR’s political stance – “a tiny anchor that holds the massive ship in place”; anchored meticulously by Vetrimaran.
03. MERKU THODARCHI MALAI by Lenin Bharathi
Merku Thodarchi Malai (Western Ghats) is a rare Tamil film which instincts reading and exploring rather than merely viewing. Reminiscent of Satyajit Ray’s depiction of characters and region in Pather Panchali (1955), Lenin Bharathi’s film captures the timelessness of the unexplored region of the Western Ghats. Merku Thodarchi Malai breaths pathos as Lenin Bharathi presents a mirror which reflects an introspection of the development. Simple is fragile and compelling, Lenin Bharathi brings an aesthetic essence to the contemporary storytelling.
02. PARIYERUM PERUMAL by Mari Selvaraj
Director Mari Selvaraj addresses omnipresence of caste through realistic (surreal) vision, as it challenges the mainstream cinema for portrayal of oppressed. While the most intriguing element is a black dog utilised as a metaphorical-motif that delivers on a subtle hitting chord. It’s a thunderous cinematic as well as social effort at peak. [In Pic] Snippet from song “Naan Yaar”, which explodes blue, the color of resistance uplifts the protagonist’s struggling psyche.
01. 96 by C. Prem Kumar
96 isn’t a poetic dissertation, it’s a comprehension and painstaking effort of reliving a (realistic) romance, the unfulfilled one. For someone, who has drifted in shades of love – primarily, the longing and lost would be soaked instantly since the resonance is highly captivating and emotionally shattering. Director C. Prem Kumar has translated the feeling into an analytical and emotional context, “falling into love is a painful joy”, the magical moments of 96 emerge from the specified joy. Presented pragmatically – capturing the momentariness, it literally whips the school nostalgia, unfulfilled romance and momentariness; lightening the quote, “Love is the biggest lonely companion”.
That’s a wrap for 2018.
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