Thursday, 27 December 2018

Here's 10 unnoticed but critically worthy films of 2018

The pace of evolution of Tamil film industry in making movies that are critically worthy and classic in nature went a level up in 2018. In fact, this year witnessed a lot of socio-political narratives of life-like stories and people on the silverscreen.

Movies like Vada Chennai, Merku Thodarchi Malai, Pariyerum Perumal, Kanaa and Ratsasan triggered debates on social topics like exploitation of cultural identities, communalism, women empowerment and violence against girls in a very sensible way and won critical acclaim. There were also films like 96, Irumbu Thirai, Kolamaavu Kokila and Imaikka Nodigal that had mass appeal.

But, there were some films that should have got a positive reception either critically or by masses or even both. Here’s that list of unnoticed movies of 2018 that were worthy and still had gone with the wind.


In a very subtle way of storytelling, this film by director Kaali Rangaswamy documented the struggles of sanitary workers –  from obstacles in finding an alliance for marriage and to earning respect in the family. However, through his protagonist, Kaali has tried to show the light-hearted, other side of their lives, too. But, in a way somewhere we feel the movie shows all affluent people in a negative shade, which is where it fails. Though the movie was distributed by a big production house like Red Giant Movies, it could not attract the audience to cinema halls.


Starring Ma Ka Pa Anand and Sendraayan in the lead, this movie is of a genre that has always been very rare in Tamil cinema, ‘magical realism’. The movie involves colour-based narration of a tale of emotions shared between its protagonists Appu and Kuppu. The movie literally changes from one colour to another – including yellow, blue, red, white and green. For every colour, the mindset of Appu will be witnessing the change in the mood suiting to that colour – say if it is red, he will be in the peak of aggression. The movie went unsung because of its long delay in hitting the screens.


This should probably be the only extra-terrestrial film of Kollywood in recent times. This movie was unique in terms of every other aspect starting from the story of a village-thug who wishes to travel to outer space, from a remote neighbourhood in Pudukottai district. The movie was so strong in writing that it had one of the best character arcs for a protagonist. In one scene, he even cuts a cake for Neil Armstrong’s birthday. The screenplay runs in a chapter-based narration format with six vinveli payana kurippugal (space trip notes). Directed by Jayaprakash, this movie was not even released in a whole of 30 screens across the State but has been getting recognition in a lot of international film festivals.


This is a comical tale that could have been a commercial success if had better promotion. The movie, starring Kishore, discussed the struggles of the middle-class population in finding a rental house in a metropolitan city like Chennai. The USP of the film was how it dealt with the crux through a quirky comedy narration about a man managing to hide a person from his landlord.


There have been a lot of gangster tales in Tamil in neo-noir format. But, unlike them, Odu Raja Odu opens debate on a number of societal issues. It touches upon polyandry and an unsatisfied married life on the one side and deals with the quarrel between a couple who are actually made for each other. In its subtext, the film says don’t jump to conclusions until you know the whole picture. The women characters of this film, Meera, Mary and Mythili, have different kinds of expectations from their men and the beauty of the film is it is figuratively conveyed in all three cases.


This film, indeed, had some flaws. But, it had even more reasons to be loved by a film-freak. The way the story is narrated and the lead characters show their emotion in this flick are some fine examples of how film language can be applied in non-linear narration. There were a lot of metaphorical experimentations in this film, especially the scenes where ‘time’ plays a prominent position. The reason for the title of the movie given in the climax simply changes the justification of the characters who are seen in negative shades until then.


Had this been given a little push in terms of promotions, this would have turned out to be one of the most important films in K’town. Without a trace of compromise in its making, this film spoke about the pain of the oppressed class who are not allowed to take birth or live, or even die, in peace. Despite its low production value, the film documented some true incidents where the police department aggressively buried a corpse of an elderly man taking it through ‘their path’ in a Tamilnadu village.


Based on a story happening in central Tamilnadu (Madurai, Theni and Dindigul belt), this movie has a purpose which was delivered so well on a strong narration. The entire screenplay of Vanmurai Paguthi is written completely with ‘what-next?’ suspense element. Though the story seems to be cliched, the takeaway for the audience from this movie is not. It starts with a death and ends with a death, figuratively conveying that no story has a beginning or an end. The movie’s end credits roll when the police begin their investigation, and we are not shown that this is going to be an endless loop of events.


The movie was more like a repetition of events on three days, happening for three different sets of people. There are totally three chapters that end up at the same vantage point. The only connecting factor of all these three sections of the storyline is the two-wheeler ‘Duttu’, who itself is profiled as a character. The way Rajesh Balachandiran, as writer and director, tried to deliver the subtexts of the film work, adventure and love made this movie a gem and also a bonanza for film analysts to write a lot about telling a lighter story in a complex film language.


The narrative fashion of this film is filled with many surprise moments. There would have been dialogue or a scene in an earlier part of the screenplay, which would be looking irrelevant at that point in time, but becomes a game-changer later when protagonist Birla, played by Vikram Prabhu, needs to save the day. There were flaws and glitches in the story-telling of Thuppakki Munai. But, what has to be admitted is that performances of artistes and the substance of the plot-points made these shortcomings fade-away.

Santhosh Mathevan,
Chennai, December 27, 2018.

A part or complete version of this article by Santhosh Mathevan has appeared in This note is completely based on the perceptions of Santhosh Mathevan alone. This does not reflect the views of two or more people or a community. Queries and criticism shall be addressed to the writer only.

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