Catching up with my old friend, Tamil cinema

You would think I might be embarrassed to tell you what I’ve been watching recently, but I don’t feel the slightest bit of shame—though I do worry if contributors to my film magazine might think poorly of my choices and decide to not contribute. We’ll figure that out later. I watch all kinds of Tamil movies, even as I criticize them and complain about them and look on in disbelief at the levels of absurdity they aspire to. But I cannot seem to stop. I’m happy to write about a few of these films, so you may choose to watch them. Or not.

Mohini

Trisha is Chef Vaishnavi: she runs a popular YouTube channel and bakes cakes with ‘healthy’ ingredients. Trisha is also Mohini, a woman who was murdered while trying to stop children from being used as sacrificial offerings by a successful businessman. Friendly and smiling Vaishnavi, vengeful and growling Mohini: Trisha gets to flex acting muscles she didn’t know she had. This movie is also a crash course in genetics, epigenetics, Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism—concepts are employed to combat Mohini’s spirit. In addition to this, Vaishnavi also has a love interest (son of a producer looking for an opportunity), and Yogi Babu is made fun of yet again. In one ingenious scene, Vaishnavi’s lover, who is the evil businessman’s good son, is trying to escape Mohini’s wrath. The Buddhist monk advises him to jump into a waterfall, which connects to a river, that connects to a stream with holy water. The entire body of water is therefore holy, and inaccessible to the spirit. If you are still interested, everything I’ve said above takes place in London, and the director makes sure to insert some shots of the Thames River, just in case you weren’t convinced they actually went to London.

Junga

Vijay Sethupathy is Junga, a stingy don. This is a fun idea by itself, a chance for the hero to do outrageous things—getting his associates to charge his phone at the house of someone they are about to kill (saving on electricity bills), sneaking snacks from the airplane into his suitcase (reduce expenditure in a foreign city)—Junga is an excellent at extending his resources. These are the best bits, but then the director has Junga go to Paris and kidnap his rival’s daughter, so that he can get back the cinema theatre his father and grandfather managed (never mind). In Paris, we meet Yazhini, the aforementioned daughter (Sayyeshaa, whose continued presence in Tamil cinema is quite baffling). She is sophisticated and glamorous. While on her way to the Paris Opera House for her birthday celebrations, she sees a gaana singer on the road. He is performing to a large crowd and white people are enjoying themselves, oblivious to everything else. Surprise! This singer is her absolute favourite. So she puts off the Opera House for later and dances to a gaana song. Junga joins her too. Anyway, many things happen, including a standoff between the French police and the Italian mafia. By then, the end is near.

Nadodi Kanavu

We find out that the irritating boy from erstwhile Pandiarajan movies is now an irritating adult, trying his luck in the movies. This film starts off like your typical village romance, with the male and female leads being coy, and what the director thinks are ethnographic details about a community, but are simply exasperating. In time, we find that the head of the village, Viduthalai, has his own story. He has worked hard to uplift this group of itinerants, who are discriminated against. The village, in a show of hypocrisy, turns against the young lovers, who are driven to poverty and madness. Everyone eventually realises their mistakes. The movie informs you that it’s based on a true story, which would have been interesting to read. Maybe the real lesson here is that ideas that are good on paper must remain where they belong.

Kadikara Manithargal

Kishore plays the role of a middle class man, with middle class dreams. He wants to rent a house, but homeowners always find ways make his life hell. They increase the rent inconsiderately, they ask you to vacate without any notice. Valid problems, and very real problems too. But all the world’s middle class problems find their way to this man. He doesn’t earn much, his landlord is evil, he has to hide one of his children because the house is only available to a family with two children. He smuggles this child in and out of the house inside a cardboard box placed on his bicycle. It is all very sad. There is some well-meaning comedy that falls flat, and attempts to enliven the proceedings with a needless love story, which is just the director distracting us with colourful characters that make up this living space. There is a bicycle race in the end that Kishore wins, only to die from a concussion. Winner gets a house though, so at least that dream was fulfilled. We might actually be sympathetic, if only we weren’t held at gunpoint to feel sorry for these characters.

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