When you hear that four directors, who have made movies in their distinctive zones, are making stories in an anthology movie that deals with honor killing, there will be an evident curiosity to know how they will achieve that in their way of storytelling. From someone like Vignesh Sivan, who is known to make fun films, to Vetri Maaran, the most obvious choice in everyone’s mind when it comes to sensitive, realistic topics, the most significant achievement of Paava Kadhaigal, in my opinion, is that it placed the theme in the so-called “popular movie” space. With each story giving us a different perspective about how honor has influenced our system most cruelly, Paava Kadhaigal leaves a lingering pain in everyone’s heart.
Thangam by Sudha Kongara is about this Transgender character named Sathaar, played wonderfully by Kalidas Jayaram. The honor element comes in two layers of the story. The story set in the early ’80s shows us that the public’s perception towards trans people was too heinous. Written by Shan Karuppusamy, the movie gives us a feeling that we will guess the plotline. Even though externally, it looks somewhat similar to what we could have predicted, there is a drastic difference in the emotional space to which it takes us.
Sathaar is a character who went through life long torture for being transgender, his heart got broken, and despite dealing with all those traumas, he was considered a bad presence. Within that half-an-hour, we will feel the life long journey of Sathaar and Kalidas Jayaram’s performance enhances the depth of the story incredibly. The fine line between being gimmicky and real was never crossed. Sudha Kongara did a brilliant job towards the climax part of the movie that moved away from the familiar narrative and exposed the society’s hypocrisy.
The Vignesh Sivan movie Love Panna Uttranum, as you may have guessed, is the most straightforward and fun film in the lot. Interestingly this movie also has these two layers I talked about in Sudha Kongara’s Thangam. A conservative father who can’t accept a man from a different caste for his daughter faces a double whammy when he realizes another issue is coming his way where he will have to deal with a same-sex relationship. Vignesh’s movie is getting no different treatment from his usual ones. The antagonist and his deeds are depicted without losing the sense of horror. And slowly, a humor track shows up in this movie that felt quirky. There is a sine wave-like swing of mood in the narrative of this movie. Ultimately, I would say this movie starring Kalki Koechlin and Anjali manages to make a statement that you can also make appealing commercial movies that can talk against topics like Honor killing.
Vaanmagal from Gautham Vasudev Menon was an emotionally tricky film. The story comes from the idea of having a morality code inside you. But a conflict arises when that morality code plays against someone you love. In an anthology film based on honor, this story somewhat shows us the real victims of this age-old concept. Vaanmagal is about the psyche of those who can’t get out of the “social acceptance” issue. The beauty in filmmaking in that story is how GVM depicts the parents’ complicated emotional space. The father and mother are rattling with this significant issue where they struggle to choose between love and honor. I had my heart in my mouth twice towards the end of the movie, and Vaanmagal shows us the practical, emotional struggle in an honor-driven society. The performance of Simran in this movie was fabulous.
As expected, the most affecting and disturbing movie among the four was from none other than Vetri Maaran. As per the end credits of Oor Iravu, it’s a story based on a real event. This movie is also a tale that shows you how this evil concept of honor can squeeze out the last drop of humanity and empathy from a human being. Vetri Maaran uses a gently paced back and forth narrative to take us into these characters’ world. It is the story of a father and daughter. The daughter, Sumathi, who married Hari, who belonged to a lower caste against her family’s wishes, suddenly gets a surprise visit from her father when he came to know that Sumathi was pregnant. The father proposes conducting a baby shower and what we see in this movie is the events leading up to that baby shower.
Vetri Maaran is someone who is known for depicting socio-political themes bravely in cinema. The way he infuses craft into that narrative is his greatness. Here also, one can see such elements. Sumathi’s house in Bangalore and the visuals around there have this whiteness, and as the narrative shifts to Sumathi’s place in Tamil Nadu, you can sense the grayness. The steadiness in the framing is not there when the narrative shifts to the ancestral home. And there is that less vocal and subtle way of communicating the unrest, making it look all the more real. What enhances the movie’s disturbing quality is the brilliant performances from Prakash Raj and Sai Pallavi. While Prakash Raj was performing in an extremely minimal way, Sai Pallavi’s portrayal had some major transition scenes; her first meeting with her father and the climax. There is a phase in the ending where the camera stays on Mr. Prakash Raj, and what we see on his face conveys the anguish Vetri Maaran wanted to create.
Honor killing is an unfortunate reality that exists in our country. The pseudo morality, caste system, sexual ignorance, and several other discriminating things have made demons out of humans. All the four shorts in this Netflix anthology collectively address that vast pool of issues. With the filmmakers bringing out their crafty best along with the terrific performances, Paava Kadhaigal is a highly recommended piece of art.
With the filmmakers bringing out their crafty best along with the terrific performances, Paava Kadhaigal is a highly recommended piece of art.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended