Putham Pudhu Kaalai Vidiyaadhaa Review: Madhumitha Saves Excruciating Anthology
'Putham Pudhu Kaalai Vidiyaadhaa' stars Nadia Moidu, Joju George, Rithika, and Manikandan Mathavan among others.
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Putham Pudhu Kaalai: Vidiyaadha
Putham Pudhu Kaalai Vidiyaadhaa Review: Madhumitha's Film Saves Excruciating Anthology
The best that can be said about the new iteration of pandemic time Tamil anthology from Amazon Prime, titled Putham Pudhu Kaalai: Vidiyaadhaa, is that it does mirror the pandemic—meaning it is more of the same, only another variant. It’s the kind of anthology that we’ve seen from Indian OTTs for years now. Not imaginative, not pushing any boundaries, simply willing to exist and churn out what is now called “content”.
The irony is one of the episodes has the audacity to pass commentary on consumerist culture and films not reflecting life and the world in a Covid ubiquitous world. But here we are, another set of films trying to tell stories set during lockdowns almost making us wish that maybe cinema will reflect the new world if people stopped trying too hard.
Madhumitha’s film—Mouname Paarvayaai—is a loner in this anthology. It is the only one that tries, with the writing and filmmaking going for it, a film that considers pandemic incidental. It’s an interplay between a husband and a wife, Murali (Joju George) and Yashoda (Nadiya), on the brink of a paused marriage and not on talking terms. What we get is a film (written by Madhumita and Sabarivasan Shanmugam) that’s not in talking terms with us.
It’s all clearing of throats, rumpling of bags, knocking on doors and knives piercing through the vegetable and into the cutting board. Yashoda uses a blackboard to list out the items she needs and Murali dutifully obliges. He interprets her instruction to wear a mask as an order to go easy on the alcohol.
The film is both earnest and funny, making us feel something, an era of mandated physical distance and covering mouths and noses ironically helping the couple get social and communicate.
A top-angle shot of Joju George, leaning on the countertop and having the meal he cooked for them with the kitchen and the stovetops in a spectacular mess? That makes for an exquisite image.
While that’s a quality loner, the film otherwise packages a bunch of characters chewed away by the lockdown into a void, nowhere to hide but within themselves. Loners, written and directed by Halitha Shameem, is dry and obvious—zoom weddings and a Covid death of a friend in the hospital—with no real stakes. If the idea is to show a budding friendship, two shoulders finding each other during difficult times, it doesn’t come to pass, the dialogs laboured and artificial, barely registering.
The cause of the hardship is too easy, and the film evokes zero interest no matter how hard Lijomol Jose and Arjun Das try to draw us in. The only notable part of this film is someone translated kambi kattra kathai to coxcombry in the subtitles. Nizhal Tharum Idham by Richard Anthony and starring Aishwarya Lekshmi fares slightly better.
Another film (written along with Praveena Shivram) where the pandemic is not central to its concern; it remains focused on its central character Shobi who has a penchant for pushing people away, afraid to deal with others’ affections as well as her own inhibitions, a quality she shares with her father.
While it is in no way radical, Richard Anthony and Aishwarya Lekshmi try their best, the latter holding a closeup at the end of the film with quiet aplomb.
Surya Krishna’s The Mask, written by S Guhapriya and starring Sananth and Dhilip Subbarayan tries to elaborate how the pandemic isn’t sympathetic even towards the privileged and moneyed. A noble, if tired, thought but it all comes undone when it focuses way too much on Velu’s story instead of Arjun (Sananth), who hasn’t come out to his parents or to the rest of the world while house hunting with his partner Paul.
As much as we’d like to have more of Paul and Arjun, the film erases their story in the interest of Velu’s to take its central theme home. Something rich could have been mined here, a queer couple negotiating public and private space in the pandemic but unfortunately, the film isn’t interested in any of that.
Balaji Mohan comes up with Putham Pudhu Kaalai: Vidiyaadhaa’s worst film. Teejay Arunasalam and Gouri Kishan star in his Mugakavasa Mutham, a film where everyone is on autopilot. It resembles that stage of the pandemic where we shrug and say, well, we must learn to live with this virus now, Balaji coolly ripping off viral sensations like the Kerala police’s Covid awareness video just to add some colour to his otherwise dull film.
Or corona rhyming with Swarna labelled away as funny. We are now in the new normal—terrible anthologies that are made with a lot of money and very little effort. It would be better if people could just go back and write stories that come organically to them instead of being forced to confront the pandemic in their material.
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