Putham Pudhu Kaalai Vidiyaadhaa Review: This quintet of Tamil short films captures a range of moods and emotions


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A still image of Putham Pudhu Kaalai Vidiyaadhaa. (courtesy: YouTube)

New Delhi:

Pour: Gouri G Kishan, Teejay Arunasalam, Arjun Das, Lijo Mol Jose, Joju George, Nadia Moidu, Dhilip Subbarayan, Sananth, Nirmal Pillai, Aishwarya Lekshmi

Director: Balaji Mohan, Halitha Shameem, Madhumita, Richard Anthony and Surya Krishna

Evaluation: Three Stars (out of 5)

A sequel to Amazon Prime Video’s 2020 lockdown anthology Putham Pudhu Kalalai, this quintet of Tamil short films captures a range of moods and emotions while collectively focusing on individuals coping with communication breakdowns, bereavement and other crises during the lockdown necessitated by the second wave of Covid-19. “We’re not attention seekers, we’re connection seekers,” says a character in one of the five segments Putham Pudhu Kaalai Vidiyaadhaa (Waiting for a brand new dawn). The statement provides context for the desperation of drifting souls struggling to overcome the toll of loss, grief, guilt and/or an inability to express themselves in times of a pandemic.

Significantly, this is where each story ends with hope and, as the title suggests, points to the light at the end of the tunnel. Illness, death and despair hang over the characters, but one of the segments finds space for dance, another for the splendours of a classical raga played on a flute, and two others for the companionship of a dog as an antidote to depression.

Led by established directors, the first lockdown anthology was about miracles and second chances. Simple stories crafted with sensitivity and imagination, these five films are the work of younger Tamil filmmakers. The stories allude tangentially to the devastation wrought by the pandemic in 2021 – shortages of medical oxygen, the rush for hospital beds, lonely deaths and rushed funerals.

Despite the clean feeling Putham Pudhu Kaalai Vidiyaadhaa has characters that are easy to invest in in trials and tribulations.

A degree of anthology fatigue is inevitable, but the acting and lucid storytelling combine to ensure that these films — each around 30 minutes long — piece together into a moderately appealing composite portrait of people wracked by adversity and fear.

Mugakavasa Mutham (Kiss Over the Mask), written, directed and edited by Balaji Mohan, centers on two young police officers, Kuyili and Murugan, whose suppressed enthusiasm for one another manifests itself in a daring, altruistic rescue mission amid a severely enforced lockdown that has brought the city to a standstill brought.

Filmed by A. Vasanth (the most experienced of the cameramen assembled here), this story is about police officers deployed to keep people off the streets of Chennai and enforcing strict Covid-19 protocols, but the prevailing mood is light , cheerful and romantic. The suggestion is that no matter how daunting an obstacle, life must go on.

The two police officers guard a checkpoint. One of them is sent three blocks down the next day and the other is obviously upset. And then a young man comes by on a two-wheeler and begs the cops to let him pass. He deserves time off, he says, because trouble is brewing in his life and he needs to do something about it.

Mugakavasu Mutham, lively and heartwarming, takes place amidst home dining, friendly banter, dance moves and an imminent wedding. The segment is enlivened by easy-flowing performances by Gouri G. Kishan and TeeJay Arunasalam as the two cops whose inhibitions are like the surgical masks on their faces – they hide their emotions.

In loner, a striking short film written and directed by Halitha Shameen and brilliantly lit and filmed by Raghav Adhithya, the tone becomes distinctly thoughtful. Arjun Das and Lijimol Jose play Dheeran and Nalla, two strangers deeply affected by heartbreak and loneliness, direct consequences of the pandemic. Random online encounters draw them into each other’s orbits.

Nalla is an event manager and photographer faced with lost job opportunities and a failed relationship. Dheeran is an IT professional who has been struck by a personal tragedy. Emotional turmoil unites the two as they try to forge a bond that can serve as an ointment. The two main actors are consistently on the money. Arjun Das uses his raspy baritone to great effect, and Lijimol Jose conveys both vulnerability and resilience without minimal effort.

Mouname Paarvayaai also benefits from two immediately impressive performances. Directed and co-written by Madhumita, the two-handed film follows Joju George and Nadiya Moidu as a couple in a simmering marriage where all communication seems to have broken down. There is complete silence between the two – the segment has no dialogue – even as the deadly virus hits home.

They live under the same roof, but the husband and wife don’t speak to each other, going about their daily business like automatons programmed to adopt assigned gender roles. Given all that seems to separate the pair, the story explores the yawning chasm between how things are in hapless times and what they should be. It shows the inner worlds of the two characters through sounds, gestures and visual compositions (Camera: Preetha Jayaraman) that alternate between precision and ambiguity. The two actors, who work with non-verbal means, harmonize perfectly with the restrained design of the film.

mask, directed by Surya Krishna, tells the story of techie Arjun (Sananth) who is looking for a house in the big city. His quest is no ordinary quest – it involves realizing who he is, a move he shies away from. His conservative father stands in his way. Under increasing emotional and mental pressure, Arjun reconnects with an old schoolmate, Velu (played by action choreographer Dhilip Subbarayan), who also has secrets to hide from his doting son. Their metaphorical masks must fall so the two men can come to terms with themselves and break out of their own prisons.

First off, this story isn’t supposedly rooted in circumstances flowing through the lockdown. But as it unfolds, death surreptitiously strikes, underscoring the point that the virus is a big night owl and disrespects political power, labor and wealth. Realization kindles in Arjun a spirit of self-assertion and defiance.

Nizhal Tharum Idham (Comforting Shadows), directed and co-scripted by Richard Anthony, alternates between the inside of the mind of protagonist Shobi (Aishwarya Lekshmi) and the outside world, represented by a deceased parent with whom she spends little time busy with her work had to communicate with.

Filmed by Vikas Vasudevan on deserted lanes in Pondicherry, at the heroine’s childhood home and elsewhere, this is a gentle exploration of memories collected in solitude. The loneliness that engulfs Shobi in search of solace drives her to seek new connections and cling to old ones. Can she shake off the past, come to terms with the loss of a loved one and move on? The voices in her head and the shadows dancing around her hold the answers.

Putham Pudhu Kaalai Vidiyaadhaa paints five portraits of loneliness and resilience, and delivers flashes of as many fresh, happy Tamil cinematic voices whose promise is unmistakable.

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ज्वाइन करें हमारा टेलीग्राम ग्रुप और उत्तर प्रदेश की ताज़ा खबरों से जुड़े रहें |

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