Putham Puthu Kaalai is an anthology of five short films helmed by some of the biggest names in Tamil filmdom who have used the rather quiet time during the lock down to good effect. The five stories are linked through few common threads – Lockdown, Estranged relationships, Strolley bags and of course new beginnings as the theme suggests with the exception of the last story by Karthik Subbaraj which is an outlier.
The film opens with ‘Ilamai itho itho’ by Sudha Kongara, a story about past relationships and missed opportunities. It has an interesting narrative whereby the elderly couple played by Jayaram and Urvashi (with their Panchathanthiram chemistry intact) become their younger versions played by Kalidas Jayaram and Kalyani Priyadarshan. As the film Alai Paayuthe plays in the background, the couple getting together after a long time go through their own “Alai Paayuthe” moments! Urvashi, Kalidas and Kalyani turn up with fine performances while Jayaram indulges in over acting a bit.
The second one – ‘Avarum Naanum – Avalum Naanum’ by Gautham Menon is easily my favourite. The title is probably inspired by ‘Abhiyum Naanum’. The story is about a granddaughter coming to live with her thatha with whom she has an axe to grind, to help him during the lock down. It’s a ‘Poove Poochuda Vaa’ redux with the paati being replaced by thatha. This short has some of the best performances and also some great writing (Reshma Ghatala). M.S. Bhasker as the grandfather and Ritu Varma as the granddaughter are brilliant throughout. I could relate to stuff like the grandfather fixing the router by trial and error while the millennial granddaughter working in an IT company gives up when the router doesn’t work. The direction is so un-GVM like but on point for the theme.
Next comes – ‘Coffee, anyone?’ directed by Suhasini Maniratnam. She shares the writing credits with Maniratnam. The title is a misnomer with the coffee reference seeming very contrived. The Haasan parivaar is almost in full attendance including the mother of the director. This is a story which is close to reality in many ways though the characters get over the top in many scenes. The impressive cast includes Suhasini, Anu Haasan, Shruti Haasan and Kathadi Ramamurthy of which Shruti stands out. There are moments to watch for here – like when Shruti puts on a bindi when she is on a video call with her bed ridden mom!
“Reunion” by Rajiv Menon is the fourth and is the weakest link of all though, in terms of filming and production values, it stands out. The cast of Andrea Jeremiah, Leela Samson and a surprise of surprise Carnatic singer Sikkil Gurucharan are just fantastic. They are let down by a very unreal and weak script. The writers probably wanted to handle the subject they took (drugs) a bit sensitively, it appears which in the bargain doesn’t work for me. Even the predictable happy ending.
As I mentioned in the beginning, the last one – ‘Miracle’ by Karthik Subbaraj is different and is a true “short”. The setting is different. Unlike the upper class milieu the other stories are set, this is set in the Karthik Subbaraj universe if you get what I mean. This is not a lockdown story. This is a story of strugglers where the lock down is weaved into to be consistent with the theme of the anthology. It is quirky, dark and the writing, staging, the end and everything bears the KS stamp.
A word about the background score. Govind Vasantha in GVM’s short is in his element. Are houses in Chennai like the ones featured in this film are so nice?
The entire film brings in a feel good weather in these times of lockdown and is a good watch. I must add that for the names behind the project and the hype, the expectation was higher and it doesn’t match up to it. But Amazon Prime does a good job of bringing an ensemble talent together.