Paava Kadhaigal movie review: Intense and shockingly realistic film on honour killing
Directors: Sudha Kongara, Vignesh Shivn, Vetrimaaran and Gautham Menon
Cast: Kalidas Jayaram, Shanthanu, Anjali, Kalki Koechlin, Prakash Raj, Sai Pallavi, Simran and Gautham Menon
Netflix’s anthology film Paava Kadhaigal, which translates to Tales of Sin, isn’t an easy film to watch, because it lingers on for quite some time even after you’re done with it. Such is the kind of impact it leaves on the viewer and it does so by raising many important questions that’ll lead to some healthy debate on the various topics discussed in the four segments of the anthology. Even though honour killing is the underlying theme across the segments, the film also discusses topics like same-gender love, love involving a transgender character, caste politics, rape and inter-caste marriage. It’s quite an achievement that a film, despite dealing with multiple themes, never gets preachy in its attempt to make its point.
Sudha Kongara’s segment is about equal relationships. It is centred on a transgender (Thangam) and his yearning to be loved like anyone else. Set in the 1980s, the film also deals with themes like inter-faith marriage and transphobia. This segment features Kalidas Jayaram, Shanthanu Bhagyaraj and Bhavani Sre. Kalidas Jayaram is a revelation in the role of Thangam, and he couldn’t have played the character more convincingly. He owns the role – usually considered a taboo in mainstream cinema -- with a rare degree of dignity and maturity. More importantly, you never find his performance dramatic; it’s measured and well essayed. Shanthanu and Bhavani also play their respective parts quite well. Vetrimaaran’s short explores the relationship dynamics between a father and his daughter, who is pregnant from a marriage to a boy of a different caste. The story follows the events after the father, keeping aside all the hatred for his daughter, invites his daughter home for a baby shower ceremony. The story takes an unbelievably hard-hitting turn with the daughter’s arrival. Vetrimaaran doesn’t hesitate to portray the horrors of honour killing. In what’s easily the most hard-hitting segment of the film, it’s amazing how Vetrimaaran doesn’t make this about caste pride but focuses more on the incapability of a guilt-ridden father. Prakash Raj and Sai Pallavi as the father-daughter pair deliver standout performances. It’s their performances that make this short shockingly realistic.
Vignesh Shivn’s short stars Anjali and Kalki Koechlin. It’s about same gender love and caste politics. Known for making quirky stories in mainstream cinema, Vignesh takes a similar route to tell his story. The result is refreshingly amusing and here’s a filmmaker that reminds us that it’s possible to take up a controversial subject and use humour to say it as skillfully as the other filmmakers. The use of subtle humour breathes life into an otherwise grim and dark film. It was quite bold of Anjali, mostly popular for her work in mainstream Tamil cinema, to play a lesbian without any inhibitions. Kalki also gets a meaty part and she plays it confidently.
Gautham Menon’s segment is centred on a beautiful family of five and how one particular incident makes living a nightmare for them. Instead of focusing on the incident, the short follows the aftermath of the incident and its effect on the members of the family. Menon plays the lead role alongside Simran, who makes a solid presence as the wife and mother. The story takes an unexpected turn in the climax and it makes for a very interesting take on the subject of honour killing.
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