From ‘Nerkonda Paarvai’ to ‘Peranbu’: The best of Tamil films from 2019

Some gave us the complete package, others made it to the list for daring to break away from the mainstream.
From ‘Nerkonda Paarvai’ to ‘Peranbu’: The best of Tamil films from 2019
From ‘Nerkonda Paarvai’ to ‘Peranbu’: The best of Tamil films from 2019
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From the completely whack Super Deluxe to the experimental Oththa Seruppu Size 7 and the intricate thriller Jiivi, 2019 was an eventful year for Tamil cinema. Here’s our list for films that stood out. Some made it to the list because they gave us the complete package – of good storytelling, sound politics, and superior technical work. Others have been chosen for daring to break away from the mainstream and giving the audience a reasonably enjoyable experience.

Super Deluxe: Though Thiagarajan Kumaraja’s first film came out in 2011, he took his time before making his second. And though Aaranya Kandam was a box-office disaster, it gained a cult following in the years to come, making Super Deluxe one of the most anticipated films of the year. The film had already earned rave reviews in the festival circuit before it was released in theatres. Starring Vijay Sethupathi, Fahadh Faasil, Samantha, Ramya Krishnan, Gayathrie, Bhagavathy Perumal, Mysskin and others, Super Deluxe was a complex existential drama made with plenty of heart. The child actor Ashwanth, who played Raasukutty, and Vijay Sethupathi who played trans woman Shilpa, were especially applauded for their performances.

Peranbu: Released in theatres in February this year, Ram’s Peranbu was also a festival favourite that had set up expectations among fans of its lead actor Mammootty. The film is about the relationship between a father and his daughter who has cerebral palsy (Sadhana). The film made for a disturbing watch, raising several pertinent questions about parenting, nurture, disability, sexuality and social prejudices. Anjali Ameer, who played a trans woman sex worker, and Anjali, who played a woman who cheats for her own needs, were also very good in their respective roles. 

Game Over: Directed by Ashwin Saravanan, the film was released in June this year in Tamil and Telugu. Starring Taapsee and Vinodhini Vaidyananthan, the layered thriller was about a game developer with PTSD who has to deal with a serial killer. But as the film progresses, you start questioning what you’re watching as it blurs the line between reality and imagination. 

Jiivi: VJ Gopinath’s film hit the screens without much noise in June. Starring Vetri and Karunakaran, the film is about two young men who decide to loot their landlady, and the ethical questions and coincidences that they have to struggle with. The film retains suspense right to the end and showed that a good story doesn’t need big stars to take it through. 

Asuran: Vetrimaaran’s film with Dhanush in the lead released for Dasara, in October. Though it was a hastily put together film, the story managed to hit a chord with the audience. Based on Poomani’s novel VekkaiAsuran tells the story of a Dalit family that’s on the run. In the process, it also speaks about caste atrocities and the illegal grabbing of panchami land. Despite issues with the dubbing and the overdose of violence, Asuran was an engaging and important film.

Kaithi: Lokesh Kanagaraj’s Deepavali release with Karthi in the lead was yet another impressive thriller this year. The film is about an ex-con lorry driver who gets involved with the police and the drug mafia when he’s on his way to see his daughter. George Maryan’s performance as Inspector Napolean was fantastic and the film was a clear winner with the audience.

Nerkonda Paarvai: Ajith starred in the Tamil remake of Pink along with Shraddha Srinath, who reprised Taapsee’s role from the original. Though the remake wasn’t as good as the original, this is probably the first Tamil film where a big mass hero has said loud and clear that the onus is on men to stop sexual assault, and to take an explicit stance against victim blaming.

Gundu: Directed by Athiyan Athirai, the second film from Pa Ranjith’s Neelam Productions was on the pointlessness of war and how the remnants of violence leave a lasting impact. It also spoke of inter-caste love. Starring Dinesh, Anandhi and Munishkanth, the film articulated a politics that breaks away from what is usually celebrated in the mainstream.

Oththa Seruppu Size 7: From direction to production and acting, it’s Parthiban’s show all the way. The experimental film tells the story of a man who’s been arrested for murder but though we can hear the other characters, we only see him all through the film. It’s quite a feat for the actor to have pulled off something like this, managing to keep the audience informed about what’s going on but without allowing fatigue to set in.

Magamuni: Directed by Santhakumar, this thriller with Arya in the lead was about a pair of twins whose lives intersect years after they’re separated. Arya played double roles – as a cab driver who also works as a gangster, and a Good Samaritan farmer. Mixing philosophy with suspense, the film managed to stay unpredictable for the most part.

KD: Madhumitha Vijay’s little film is about an 80-year-old man (Mu Ramasamy) who discovers that his children are planning to kill him, and takes off from his home. He forms a friendship with an 8-year-old boy (Nagavishal) who helps him discover his zest for life. The gentle, unassuming film was a breath of fresh air among the predictable star vehicles that routinely hit the screens.

While Rathna Kumar’s Aadai was quite daring in that it had a woman actor (Amala Paul) naked for most part of the film, the film was hopelessly confused in its politics, landing squarely in victim blaming territory. Other films that were worth a watch this year include House Owner, Bakrid, Mehandi Circus, and Bigil. And oh, 90ML for sheer audacity (also because we know this will annoy a lot of people).

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