2017 is drawing to an end, and this is a year that has seen some unusual films coming out of Kollywood.
While big star vehicles like Singam 3, Bairavaa, VIP2, Mersal and Vivegam released with much fanfare, smaller films also came into the limelight and won critical acclaim.
This was also an important year for films with women actors in lead roles. Not only did some of them do well commercially, they also led to much discussion on gender and women's rights.
This list has films which won critical acclaim but also includes those that initiated worthwhile conversations and debates. Some of these films may be problematic but they have pushed the envelope in some way, pulled away from convention to give us something new on screen.
8 Thottakal: Directed by Sri Ganesh, the film was released at the same time as Mani Ratnam's Kaatru Veliyidai. However, the thriller with its ensemble cast and tight plot managed to do well at the box office. MS Bhaskar's performance especially came in for appreciation. The revelations in the plot work well and the film maintains suspense throughout.
Aramm: Gopi Nainar's film about a District Collector who is faced with a difficult task – rescuing a small child who falls into a borewell – had Nayanthara playing the lead role. The film, set in Kattur, asked relevant questions about the rural-urban divide and was devoid of the usual trappings of mainstream cinema.
Aruvi: This film, directed by Arun Prabhu, is about a young woman who has AIDS. Apart from its strong storytelling, the film celebrates values that are usually associated with the feminine – of compassion and forgiveness – through an unusual protagonist.
Aval: This horror film, directed by Milind Rau, wasn't really original when it came to plot but it had impressive VFX and sound. It also marked a return to the pure horror genre in Tamil cinema, which has for long been making horror-comedies.
Kurangu Bommai: With an interesting non-linear plot, this film directed by Nithilan Swaminathan is about an honest driver who finds himself in a smuggling web. With great performances, especially from Bharathiraja, the film opened to critical acclaim.
Lens: Shot on a shoestring budget, this film by Jayaprakash Radhakrishnan is a brave attempt to look at the issue of cyber crime. The director, who also plays the lead role, paints a vivid picture of a middle class man obsessed with pornography and cyber sex. The film is not without its flaws, but makes for an engrossing watch nevertheless.
Maanagaram: Lokesh Kanagaraj's film is about a bunch of characters with no names (unlike a village where everyone knows everyone, anonymity is the norm in big cities). The film explores life in a big city and how people react and respond when they're thrown in a spot of trouble. The gripping screenplay made sure that the film became a hit despite having no big names in the cast.
Magalir Mattum: Jyothika teamed up with veteran actors Urvashi, Banu Priya, and Saranya in this film about four women who go on a road trip. Directed by Bramma, the film evoked mixed responses from the audience – while some questioned the idea of women's empowerment that the film carries, many enjoyed the relevant questions that the characters ask through the film. The film also did well at the box-offiice.
Oru Kidayin Karunai Manu: Directed by Suresh Sangaiah, this film is about a goat that's on its way to be sacrificed at a temple. But then, the vehicle with the goat and the people who are taking it, meets with an accident. Now what to do about the 'corpse' they have at hand? Funny and insightful, Oru Kidayin Karunai Manu is an unusual film.
Pa Paandi: Although Dhanush, the director, makes a cameo, the film belongs to Raj Kiran, who plays a retired stunt master. A rare film about an elderly person discovering their dreams and following their heart. Revathi makes a delightful appearance, too.
Rangoon: Rajkumar Periasamy's crime drama with Gautham Karthik in the lead role was a smart, well-executed film about gold smuggling. A good part of the film is set in Rangoon and the plot has enough twists and turns to keep the viewer engaged to the end.
Taramani: Ram's film about a single mother who works in the corporate sector drew mixed responses like Magalir Mattum. The posters and teasers of the film, which showed Andrea, the lead character, swearing and questioning the patriarchal world around her generated quite a bit of buzz. While many disagreed with the film for its idea of women's empowerment, it was also unique in celebrating a woman lead who went against the established traditions in Kollywood.
Theeran Adhigaaram Ondru: Although it has its share of problematic representations, Theeran was a well-made cop film which went into the nitty-gritties of a police investigation. Directed by Vinoth, the film, which is based on real events, went on to become a blockbuster.
Thiruttu Payale 2: Like Lens, this film was about the dangers of the digital world. A sequel to Susi Ganeshan's first film by the same title, the movie had interesting ideas – most notably, a husband who stands by his wife despite knowing another man is in possession of her nude videos. This was refreshingly different from the usual moral landscape in which such films tend to be located.
Vikram-Vedha: Directed by Pushkar and Gayathri, this film about a cop and a criminal, was an interesting take on the Vikram-Vetal myth. Both Madhavan and Vijay Sethupathy turned in wonderful performances, making for a delectable thriller that explored the grey between the worlds of good and bad.