'Putham Pudhu Kaalai' Review: Amazon Prime Video’s first Tamil anthology film is an interesting package of five short films

A Potpourri of Vestiges Review 

By Murtaza Ali Khan 

Ritu Varma in a still from second segment titled ‘Avarum Naanum – Avalum Naanum’

utham Pudhu Kaalai is an interesting package of five short films and like all package deals it has some pros and some cons. This is Amazon Prime Video’s first Tamil anthology film. The opening segment titled ‘Ilamai Idho Idho’ directed by Sudha Kongara is easily the best of the lot. It’s playfully bold and refreshing and provides the perfect start to the anthology. But it is a downslide here onwards with the fifth and final segment titled ‘Miracle’ directed by Karthik Subbaraj looking completely out of place in the anthology.

Each of the five short films revolves around the themes of love, fresh beginnings, hope, and chance—set and filmed during the countrywide lockdown imposed by the Indian government.

The aforementioned opening segment by Sudha Kongara features an aging man and a woman who lie to their respective children in order to date each other. But once they are together they start to feel young again as things begin to get a little naughty.

The second segment titled ‘Avarum Naanum – Avalum Naanum’ directed by Gautham Vasudev Menon tells the story of Kanna who reluctantly visits her grandpa during the lockdown. Her grandpa didn’t support her parents’ marriage and she has never been able to forgive him for that. She still tries to be nice to him but it’s just the silence before the storm.

The third segment titled ‘Coffee, Anyone?’ directed by Suhasini Maniratnam revolves around two sisters who visit their ailing mother during the lockdown. They get furious when they learn that their father has got her discharged from the hospital despite her being in a comatose state. What further complicates the matter further is the apathetic attitude of their estranged younger sister towards the family  

The fourth segment titled ‘Reunion’ directed by Rajiv Menon revolves around a musician with a drug problem who fortuitously reunites with his school friend. On learning that she is stranded because of the lockdown, the friend, a doctor, and his mother ask her to stay with them during the lockdown in order to avoid any possible risk. But things take a dramatic turn when they learn about her drug addiction.

The aforementioned fifth and final segment revolves around two smalltime thieves desperately looking to turn their luck during the lockdown. It’s easily the darkest segment of the lot, and while it’s not bad, it looks completely out of place in the anthology.

The two veteran Malayalam actors, Jayaram and Urvashi, are a treat to watch as the aging paramours in the opening segment. They are well supported by their younger counterparts Kalidas Jayaram and Kalyani Priyadarshan.   

Ritu Varma delivers a memorable performance as the granddaughter in the second segment. MS Bhaskar as the grandfather is superb. Both actors share tender chemistry that makes the segment click.

The performances of Suhasini Maniratnam and Anu Hasan as the two caring sisters are the highlight of the third segment. Shruti Haasan fails to match their brilliance as the younger sister despite trying her best.

Andrea Jeremiah steals the thunder as the bubbly musician suffering from a drug problem in an otherwise flat segment directed by Rajiv Menon.

Bobby Simha’s performance is easily the best thing about the fifth segment.

Jayaram and Urvashi are absolutely mesmerizing to watch in ‘Ilamai Idho Idho’. The two veteran performers show their class. It’s really a masterstroke to use two younger actors to show their naughty sides. Every time they experience a high we get to see their younger selves (essayed by Kalidas Jayaram and Kalyani Priyadarshan) instead of what they look like in the present. The segment also features some beautiful song sequences which further elevate the mood.

It’s difficult to take one’s eyes off Ritu Varma once her character is introduced in Avarum Naanum – Avalum Naanum’. She is simply mesmerizing to watch as the granddaughter in the second segment and so is MS Bhaskar. The director cleverly uses photographs and voiceovers to build the narrative even before we get to see Kanna for the very first time. Almost all the scenes between Varma and Bhaskar are very powerful. The segment also features a delectable semi-classical composition ‘Kanna Thoodhu Po Da’ which serves as a perfect way to end the segment. 

‘Coffee, Anyone?’ succeeds in exploring the complexity of modern relationships really well. Sometimes we unknowingly hurt those we love and by the time we realize our mistake, it is already too late. It also exposes the absence of communication in relationships despite living in a world that’s highly connected thanks to the technological wonders. Also, it’s worth mentioning again that Suhasini Maniratnam and Anu Hasan are brilliant in their respective roles.

Rajiv Menon is always a very interesting filmmaker but ‘Reunion’ is mostly forgettable with the exception of Andrea Jeremiah’s layered performance that tugs at our heartstrings. Here is a girl who desperately wants to excel as a musician but at what price? 

It’s really surprising that the anthology even have a fifth segment. Karthik Subbaraj would have really done us a favor had he released ‘Miracle’ as a separate short film.

What we really miss are ore purposeful fourth and fifth segments.

Readers, please feel free to share your opinion by leaving your comments. As always your valuable thoughts are highly appreciated

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