I sat down to watch ‘Paava Kadhaigal’ because of the eclectic directors that came together for its making. I expected a classy concoction of clever punchline stories like those of O’ Henry. The stories were definitely clever and classy but what I didn’t expect was for the punchline to cut me so deep. It was not an easy watch. ‘Paava Kadhaigal’ (Sinful stories) is Netflix’s new anthology series and the first one in Tamil. It comprises four stories, each centered around a unique social issue. Even though the overarching theme is similar, each story is very different in tone and texture. 

“Thangam” (darling), directed by Sudha k Prasad, deals with the hardships of being a transgender and how privileges like falling in love and leading a decent life evade them. Sathar is a transgender who is just trying to get by life with dignity and love. He is denied dignity. He neither finds acceptance with society nor with his family. But he is gifted with the ability to love, love so unconditionally, that he makes the ultimate sacrifice for it. Although ‘Thangam’ was headed in a predictable direction, the climax is truly Shakespearean in its pathos. The word ‘Thangam” never felt as endearing as it did after watching this story. 

‘Love panna vutturnam” ( Let lovers be), directed by Vignesh Shivan,  is perhaps the lightest story that is sure to ring well with the young audience. It takes the serious topic of forbidden love and depicts it with humour and sensitivity. Themes like intercaste marriage and gay marriages are dealt with without being overly preachy. Although the events start to turn farcical, it manages to stay true to its purpose. The best moment is perhaps the casual but deep rap song at the end which simply says “ We can’t choose who we love, so let lovers be”

“VaanMagal” is perhaps the most poetic and elegant one of the lot. Everything from its title, to characters and their names, screams Gautam Vasudev Menon. The story deals with a simple family of parents, two daughters and a son. They lead a humble life but their dignity and respect are of utmost importance to them. When their elder daughter undergoes puberty, her mother constantly reinforces that her body is her temple, her dignity and that protecting it from all the perils of society is imperative. However, a tragedy befalls the family and each member deals with it in their unique way and this is where Gautam’s genius shines. Each family members’ response to the trauma and their progress through the five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance is brilliantly captured.

Oor Iravu ( “One night” ), directed by Vettrimaaran, is perhaps the one that cuts the deepest. An estranged father approaches his pregnant daughter who had eloped with a man of another caste. In an attempt to revive their relationship, he begs for her forgiveness and arranges a baby shower for her. Even though the plot twist is fairly predictable given the nature of the series, it is shocking to witness and painful to process. The fact that the role of the father is played by the man himself, Prakash Raj doesn’t help either. His kind and helpless look haunt for the ages.

The four Stories are unique yet so similar. Similar in the brilliant writing, the stunning performances and the beautiful messaging. It’s difficult to stand out among a stellar cast such as this, but Sai Pallavi and Kalidas Jayaram stole the show with their gut-wrenching performances. Kalki too manages to create an impact with her Tamil, that was good enough to be authentic and accented enough to fit her character. Simran and Prakash Raj are in a league of their own but this is of little surprise as they belong in the hall of fame. Perhaps the only person who was a bit too stoic was Gautam. 

It is not an easy job to deal with sensitive topics such as these and pull off a movie that entertains, humours, disturbs and enlightens. The kind of much-needed conversations on gender roles, caste, love, marriage and society that movies such as this spark is something that is unique to the OTT platform. These days instead of having conversations with parents about difficult subjects, I just show them a movie ( mostly Ayushmann Khurana ones )

Overall, Paava Kadhaigal is by no means for everyone, certainly not for the weak-hearted. But for those who realise the significance of a rare gem such as this and cherish its impact on society will truly enjoy it.

The Cinemawala Rating – 4/5 

 

About The Author-

Anushree Periasami is an electrical engineer from IIT Madras, currently working as a financial analyst. But her pet project has always been writing. An avid reader right from school, her favourite exercise was essay writing on novels and stories and the critical analyses of plots, characters, themes, etc. That interest continued right through college and to work as well. She was the Regional Editor for the internal quarterly magazine of her company – a compilation of interviews, technology articles and fun puzzles. The only things she loves as much as writing is watching movies and shows, especially masterpieces that aren’t advertised much and largely ignored. As Bojack Horseman put it, “But isn’t art, less what people put into it, but more what people get out of it ?” 

Also elle peut parler francais !

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