Petta to Peranbu: Here are 10 best Tamil films of 2019 where innovative storytelling was the big winner
As 2019 comes to a close, we take a look at Tamil films that made an impact, went beyond entertaining audiences and managed to appeal to a large section of the viewers without requiring the backing of a star. From Rajinikanth’s Petta to Mammootty’s Peranbu, here are 10 best Tamil films of the year in no particular order.
In what could be best described as a major throwback to 1990s, Petta is Karthik Subbaraj’s love letter to Rajinikanth and he portrays him in the most crowd-pleasing fashion in a really long time. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Petta is Rajinikanth’s best film since Enthiran, and it marks his return to form with trademark style and he does so by gracefully playing his age.
If there’s one thing Karthik Subbaraj’s Petta really succeeds in achieving, is that it lets superstar Rajinikanth be himself and have fun on screen. From a happy hop to an impromptu dance step and slow-motion walk to the flip of his hair with his own hands with panache; we see Rajinikanth in his element after a long time and boy it’s a joy to watch him do what he’s best at.
Thiagarajan Kumararaja’s Super Deluxe is both the gutsiest and wackiest Tamil film of the year. A terrific social commentary on life, sex, gender, science, religion, alien invasion, spirituality, marriage and faith; this is Tamil cinema’s boldest attempt in recent years. Backed by very strong performances from its ensemble cast, Super Deluxe presented each of its actors – from Vijay Sethupathi to Samantha and Ramya Krishnan – to play characters they wouldn’t have dreamt to play ever in their careers.
Chezhiyan’s national award-winning film To-Let is a story about urban housing problems. It’s also a story that focuses on middle-class dreams and reality. If there’s one aspect that really stands out in the film, is how it stays away from the norms of commercial cinema – which includes all the tropes that usually define mainstream Tamil cinema — and still manages to make something so captivating and praise-worthy. It’s for this aspect alone; the film truly deserves to be celebrated. This is, without a doubt, Tamil cinema’s first big step towards realistic cinema. Chezhiyan treats To-Let as realistically as possible. The world cinema influence is quite evident in his treatment and rich tributes are paid to the masters like Mrinal Sen and Akira Kurosawa among others.
Ashwin Saravanan’s Game Over is a spine-chilling tale of fighting one’s worst fears. It’s a tense invasion thriller fueled by a strong emotional core. Unlike most invasion thrillers, it’s isn’t generic, and that’s what makes it one of the best genre films. It’s layered and has more offer than one can imagine. The film marked Taapsee Pannu’s return to Tamil cinema in one of her most challenging roles and she couldn’t have played it any better. More than a thriller, Game Over presents itself more as a psychological thriller that’s both fun and torturous, extracting unimaginably good performance from Taapsee.
After making his solid debut with Maanagaram a few years ago, Lokesh returns strongly with Kaithi, a relentless, punchy action film that has its heart in the right place. On paper, it’s is a story that spans across a single night and it follows events that happen in a span of four hours. The film is set in a world where Kamal Haasan’s Virumaandi meets Die Hard meets Assault on Precinct 13. No Tamil action film in recent years has worked as wholesomely as Kaithi, and it’s unimaginably riveting from start to finish. This is a pure genre film and even though it panders to the masses with the way it has treated action, it’s still a refreshing departure from the doldrums of crowd-pleasing commercial cinema.
With House Owner, filmmaker Lakshmy Ramakrishnan – one of the promising female directors of this decade - weaves a heartfelt ode to unconditional love and it’s devastatingly beautiful. No other mainstream Tamil filmmaker – at least in recent years - has handled love as beautifully as Lakshmy in House Owner which unfolds against the backdrop of 2015 Chennai floods. The idea of staying united gets magnificently conveyed in House Owner, which makes us realize the importance in the institute of marriage at a time when it is losing its significance.
KD, which has been written and directed by Madhumita, is a charming little film that beautifully explores life and its imperfections through the bond between an 8-year-old and an 80-year-old man. It’s one of the heartwarming films that hit all the sweet spots and makes you well up on a few occasions. As a film, it relies heavily on the camaraderie between the lead characters and the lead characters are a delight to watch on screen, especially when it comes to the humour.
Tamil cinema has had its share of father-daughter based films but it’s going to be extremely difficult to find a film as affecting as well disturbing as Mammootty starrer Peranbu, and all credit goes to its director Ram for taking a road less travelled and giving us a film for years to remember and celebrate. In what can be described as a departure from his style of filmmaking, Peranbu is Ram’s quietest and most meditative and most rewarding film in years and it’s going to be really tough to replace it. The film takes a deep dive into the psyche of a helpless father who has just taken custody of his teenage daughter who has cerebral palsy. This is both a coming of age drama and a hard-hitting tale of survival in a world where everyone’s quick to judge.
Nelson Venkatesan’s Monster is one of the most innovative films to have come from Tamil cinema this year. Cut from the same cloth as Mouse Hunt, the film is centred on the battle between a man (played by a terrific SJ Suryah) and a house rat. It’s a creature feature done well and it hits all the right emotional notes to leave one moved by the end of the film. It’s an innovative film because no other filmmaker has dared to experiment with a house rat as the central character in mainstream cinema.
Halitha Shameem’s sophomore film Sillu Karuppatti – an anthology of stories on love, relationship, class-divide and companionship - tugs at heartstrings. It’s a film that’ll leave you smiling for a long time. It handles several sensitive topics in the most mature and humors fashion. It’s powered by amazing writing and questions several stereotypes without making the attempt seem preachy.
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