Featuring big star vehicles with explosions, gun fights, and ‘mass’ entry songs, as well as smaller films that won the hearts of critics and audiences alike, the year 2023 was a mixed bag for Kollywood. Even as bigger stars such as Rajinikanth, Vijay, and Ajith stuck to safer and formulaic films, relatively smaller stars like Siddharth produced and starred in films like Chittha, which ventured into unfamiliar territory for Tamil cinema. As the year comes to a close, here are some of TNM’s favourite films from 2023.
Viduthalai Part 1: Although criticised by some for its depictions of brute violence against marginalised communities, this Vetrimaaran film earned critical and commercial success. The film revolves around Kumaresan (Soori), a newly recruited constable in the operation to hunt down Vaathiyar Perumal (Vijay Sethupathi), the leader of an extremist group. Through Kumaresan, the audience see the police brutality meted out to people in the hilltop villages, especially women, under the suspicion of harbouring Perumal and his aides. Soori, who has mostly acted in comedic roles, was praised for the portrayal of a constable caught between his inferior rank and trying to do good in defiance of his superiors.
Farhana: This movie follows the life of Farhana (Aishwarya Rajesh), a working class married woman from a conservative family who works in a ‘friendship’ chat centre. Soon, she is at the receiving end of lewd and sexually inappropriate messages at her workplace and is on the verge of quitting, but strikes up a friendship with a male caller. What follows are tumultuous events that wreak havoc in Farhana’s life. This Nelson Venkatesan film was critically acclaimed for shedding light into the lives of working class women, their desires, and ambitions.
Good Night: Vinayak Chandrashekar’s debut film follows the life of a young couple, Mohan (Manikandan) and Anu (Meetha Ragunath), and their struggles triggered by Mohan’s snoring problem. A comical romantic drama, Good Night features an array of characters who add to the trivial entanglements that make the film entertaining. The film is a moving journey of a young couple who find their way back to each other despite the strain caused by trivial obstacles beyond their control.
Por Thozhil: Por Thozhil is a taut thriller revolving around the hunt for a serial killer, starring Ashok Selvan, Sarath Kumar, Nizhalgal Ravi, and Sarath Babu, among others. Vignesh Raja’s directorial debut follows the story of Prakash (Ashok Selvan), a DSP trainee whom SP Loganathan (Sarath Kumar) reluctantly takes under his wing. Soon, Prakash, Loganathan, and Veena (Nikhila Vimal), a technical assistant, embark on an investigation to nab a serial killer who targets women. In the course of the investigation, the trio unravel various aspects of the case. As the case gets murkier, it takes them across the country in pursuit of the killer. The film received praise for being subtle while still managing to keep the audience on the edge of their seats.
Maaveeran: Madonne Ashwin’s Maaveeran was a commercial hit and critically acclaimed for shedding light on the plight of slum dwellers and the poor quality of rehousing projects. The film follows Sathya (Sivakarthikeyan), the artist behind a popular comic strip named ‘Maaveeran’, a man of great courage and valour. Ironically, in real life, Sathya is a non-confrontational man who would rather avoid conflict, as he is scared to question authority. After an ugly spat with his mother over his cowardice, Sathya attempts suicide and fails. But he then begins hearing the voices resembling the main character from his comic strip – Maaveeran. What follows are hilarious and thought provoking sequences featuring a reluctant superhero who is forced to question incompetent authorities.
Chittha: This SU Arunkumar film follows a heartwarming relationship between Eswaran (Siddharth) and his niece Sundari (Sahasra Shree), which quickly turns awry after Sundari is abducted. The movie was critically acclaimed for the way it dealt with sensitive subjects such as child sexual assault, the association of ‘honour’ with women’s bodies, and the rehabilitation of sexual assault survivors. The performances of Siddharth, Sahasra Shree, and Nimisha Sajayan in Chittha were stirring and added to the richness of the film.
Parking: This Ramkumar Balakrishnan film is everything an understated thriller should be. What starts off as a disagreement between two neighbours, Eshwar (Harish Kalyan) and Ilamparuthi (MS Bhaskar), over a parking space, quickly escalates into a heated conflict with unexpected twists. One would assume a conflict over a parking space could hardly be the setting for a thriller, but that is precisely what makes the movie all the more enjoyable.