Review: 'Putham Pudhu Kaalai' Is A Mixed Sweet-Box
The anthology is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
Review: 'Putham Pudhu Kaalai' Is A Mixed Sweet-Box
Anthologies are always a mixed sweet-box. While you relish some with your eyes closed, you also question some of them for finding a place in the box. Puthum Pudhu Kaalai is a unique project wherein the shorts are made by well-known directors around the theme of hope. The title itself is a refreshing one, which tells you that there’s something to look forward to despite the panoramic panic surrounding the pandemic, especially the 21-day lockdown. The fact that a few features and anthologies have already been written, shot, edited, and released since March this year should serve as a positive sign for the industry.
All the five shorts in this omnibus brim with optimism. Perhaps, that’s what Amazon Prime Video wanted – films that feel good at the end of the day and not rattle the viewers’ hearts much.
Ilamai Idho Idho
I was surprised to discover Sudha Kongara’s short right at the opening, and immediately took a liking to it. Jayaram plays a middle-aged guy who’s too excited for some reason. He can’t seem to contain his joy and it shows on his face – it’s the face of a little kid who’s waiting for the guests to leave so that he can dig into the goodies they brought. And you soon learn that he’s getting ready to receive his girlfriend (played by Urvashi). It’s not a big tale of twists or a comedy of errors. Rather it’s a simple story of how love makes people feel young. And there’s another couple, too, in the short, played by Jayaram’s son, Kalidas, and Kalyani Priyadarshan.
All the cast members must have had fun while shooting because it’s evident. The way the characters played by Jayaram and Urvashi bicker about their lifestyle choices is silly and yet hilarious. They have been working together since the '80s and it’s great to watch them bring freshness to the table without banking on the nostalgia factor alone. Kalyani and Kalidas, on the other hand, really complement the older pair and I hope they team up for a full-length romantic comedy in future.
Avarum Naanum - Avalum Naanum
I had no clue as to who had directed this short till I reached the end credits. It’s unlike any Gautham Menon film I have watched so far. There’s a tinge of sombreness in it that I could not empathise with. M. S. Bhaskar slips into the role of a scientist and Ritu Varma casually walks in as his granddaughter to take care of him. It’s March and the country is under lockdown, so the family members believe that there needs to be somebody in the old man’s house.
Again, there’s a new beginning for the characters here. They both appreciate the presence of one another, but the basic problem here is that the short is written (by Reshma Ghatala) in such a way where the history of their strained relationship is put into words and tears. There are places where the grandpa cries at the drop of a hat and it feels manipulative. It’s as though Ghatala couldn’t comprehend the nitty gritties of the short-film format. And, as a result, it left me sighing and grunting a bit.
Nowhere else would you be able to see such a casting coup, for the three cousins from the Hasan / Haasan family come together as sisters – Suhasini Mani Ratnam (as Valli), Anu Hasan (as Saras), and Shruti Haasan (as Ramya). This short also suffers from the same problem as Avarum Naanum - Avalum Naanum. Writers Mani Ratnam and Suhasini stuff too much information into the film. Saras, the middle sister, rambles on about how their mother is going to be in the hospital for her seventy-fifth birthday. And, in the same breath, discusses Ramya’s situation with her older sister, Valli.
Ramya, the youngest of the lost, has cut off ties with her parents. Her indifference towards her folks stems from an unhealed scar and, though, it’s relevant to the plot, it sounds pompous. The info-dump doesn’t just end there since Valli and Saras, too, have their own share of worries and they’re all spoken about in Coffee, Anyone? If Gautham Menon and Suhasini (the director of this short) had stuck to narrating merely the ups and downs of the everyday routine during the first phase of the lockdown and not dived deep into the interior lives of their characters, maybe their films would have shined better.
Reunion, like Ilamai Idho Idho, is another lively short where the pieces fit perfectly. Whether it’s Sadhana (Andrea Jeremiah) singing an A. R. Rahman song, or her friend, Vikram (Gurucharan C.), silently admiring her from afar, there’s mirth in the writing and in the bond that the two school friends share. This is where Rajiv Menon’s film works like a charm. The director focuses on the history of their friendship to build some level of camaraderie in the present. But look at how he balances those aspects – he doesn’t spend too much time on the past equations.
Of course, there’s also Bhairavi Aunty (Leela Samson, as Vikram’s mother) in the house. By the time you come to Reunion, you kind of sense the different directions the short is going to take since all of them are centred on the same topic, but Rajiv Menon keeps pushing the bar. And the actors collectively put their best foot forward as they make their actions believable. You can’t help but smile and wonder about Leela Samson’s prowess when she’s at the height of her powers.
Miracle is the only short that doesn’t deal with the men, or the women, of the upper middle-class. While the other shorts featured luxurious homes and vast empty spaces, this Karthik Subbaraj film takes you to the small house of two small-time thieves (played by Bobby Simha and Sharath Ravi). They’re hungry and unhappy about their circumstances, yet they feel there’s hope around the corner. One character takes inspiration from a television guru who keeps saying miracles happen. So, they’re pretty sure about hitting a jackpot, by hook or by crook.
Miracle is the funniest and the most twisted short and this is exactly what the format is meant for – giving just about a glimpse into the characters’ lives.
Putham Pudhu Kaalai, unlike last year’s Kannada anthology Katha Sangama, isn’t made up of hugely varying narratives. Nevertheless, it’s watchable and pretty enjoyable!
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