‘Discrimination’ is a word that has become a part of our vocabulary for years now and practised in our society for as long as we know. Paava Kadhaigal that hits Netflix today brings together 4 of the most woke and noteworthy Tamil filmmakers Sudha Kongara, Vignesh Shivan, Gautham Menon and Vetrimaaran to create an anthology that portrays shades of discrimination and what it costs to the people who dream. While Sudha’s Thangam left me shattered, read on to know what I felt about the others.
Director: Sudha Kongara
Cast: Kalidas Jayaram, Shanthnu Bhagyaraj, and Bhavani Sre.
Heads up, this is THE best short in Paava Kadhaigal that is raw and doesn’t require polished edges. Sudha Kongara, for the ones who have seen her work, has a perspective that takes you through the evil and leaves you at a possible redemption. With Thangam, Kongara does not take that route, rather she leaves you in the dystopia that we are living in for ages now. Centre of it all is Sathaar, a trans man (Kalidas Jayaram) living a life subjected to scrutiny in a small town in South of India. He is in love with his childhood best friend, whom he calls Precious and I would want you to remember him like that (watch to know why).
Precious is in love with Sathaar’s sister. This does upset Sathaar, and he even envies her but then his Precious loves her, and he has to unite them. Sudha seems to have researched deep to not fall in the trap of stereotypes. Sadly transmen are only used as comic relief, Kongara in a first gives them a voice. Kalidas is a work of art, I said this in Putham Pudhu Kaalai review too and I stand by it. He plays Sathaar with such honesty and detailing that for not even second it seems to be an out of body experience for him. Thangam is not an easy watch, it is about a gender that has been scrutinised for aeons, you understand this when Sathaar’s mother tells him to end his life or she will have to kill her daughters. Kongara becomes the voice and one that matters.
Love Panna Uttranum
Director: Vignesh Shivan
Cast: Kalki Koechlin & Anjali
Vignesh Sivan in Paava Kadhaigal with his short tries to create a universe that is set in the realm of realism but adds factors that make it bizarre. He creates a landscape where people strive to protect their honour and bloodline over their lives. A father is ready to kill his daughter, and the same man acts like he supports inter-caste marriages. What happens with the couple who dare to marry outside their caste is gut-wrenching.
Love Panna Uttranum suffers a lack of time. This one out of the lot if not a full-fledged film deserved a bit more time to explore Shivan’s minute inputs. Be it the weird cult that they follow, or the representation of the LGBTQ+ community, it deserved some more screen time. Kalki Koechlin and Anjali both get their characters right. Not much goes into creating them as the universe they are set in, takes the centre stage. Shivan’s short turned out to be underwhelming even with an intriguing set up.
Director: Gautham Menon
Cast: Gautham Menon, Simran and ensemble.
Menon with his films always creates a conversation. Be it on the screen or between his viewers. This time around it is the conversation that happens in our heads. The topic is rape. With Vaanmagal in Paava Kadhaigal, Menon does not focus on the revolt or the rebel, he instead decides to focus on what all happens before that, just after the horrific event has occurred. The mother hiding it from the world, father not able to look into his daughter’s eye, brother fuming with rage to burn down the world inching close to an outburst. All of it happens in a house. Some would miss the point of Vaanmagal as it does not give you a conclusion, yes metaphorically the criminal has to pay but at the cost of creating another criminal.
A criminal is also in our minds that think extreme; you will see why I said that. Menon and Simran play their parts with their hearts in the right place. Simran especially brings the emotional struggle effortlessly on screen.
If you want to make the silences speak and eyes emote what they feel, hail the master Vetrimaaran. Politics and the ideology of people the story is set in, have always been Vetrimaaran’s most prominent tools to shape his stories. With Oor Iravu in Paava Kadhaigal, the filmmaker addresses honour killing. Not in a way Love Panna Uttranum does, they do follow a same pattern but the emotions are poles apart.
Prakash Raj and Sai Pallavi are a treat. Both get into their characters and play it with realism. The set design in Vetrimaaran’s films also plays a very huge part and here he creates two stark different households that delve distinct ideologies. The facts that run on in the end hint at this one being a real-life story. If it is I can only imagine the horrors that might have happened in that house the night. Watch this one for the standard Vetrimaaran silences, and the ghost of orthodox living in the mind of a patriarchal father.
Paava Kadhaigal Review: The Last Word