Cast: Arjun Das, Lijomol Jose, Gouri G Kishan, TeeJay Arunasalam, Aishwarya Lekshmi, Sananth, Dhilip Subbarayan, Nadiya Moidu, Joju George
Directors: Halitha Shameem, Balaji Mohan, Richard Anthony, Surya Krishna, and Madhumita
Music directors: Sean Roldan, Goutham Vasu Venkatesan, Karthikeya Murthy, Kaber Vasuki, and Pradeep Kumar
Cinematographers: A Vasant, Raghav Adhithya V, Preetha Jayaraman, Mukes, and Vikas Vasudevan
Synopsis: The second instalment of the franchise is an anthology in which five different episodes revolve around relationships and emotions during Covid and lockdowns
Ever since it was announced that there will be a second instalment of the Amazon Prime Video Original anthology series "Putham Pudhu Kaalai", the expectation levels among the audience were high, as the fresh collaboration of actors and directors had to offer us a lot. "Putham Pudhu Kaalai", the first part that released last year, was set in the same backdrop of revolving around the ongoing pandemic with a bit of hope yet was received with criticism that it wasn't portraying the grim side - personal loss, loneliness, and grief, rather glamorising it. However, the sequel is totally different with new themes and jaded characters who are trying to accept or settle down in the new normal and brimming with hope and positivity
The first short-- (why I choose to call it a short is because these episodes could have been much longer so that things could have been discussed in depth. This applies to all five episodes) 'Mugakavasa Mutham' directed by Balaji Mohan is the lightest of the lot, revolving around three police personnel, Kuyili (Gouri Kishan), Farook (Kallori Vinoth), and Murugan (TeeJay Arunasalam) are on a lockdown duty to book people flouting lockdown protocols.
This short feels more like an uninspiring govt related PSA on Covid awareness rather than what could have been an unusual love story between Kuyili and Murugan. Yet, there are a few gigs, and what comes across as a relief is that the characters are real and not your larger-than- life police officials . Yes, they do help a couple get reunited, but that happens without any serious undertone. It goes as simple as Murugan complaining about the tasteless food while having dinner or hating his job for it being monotonous and they have to get scolding from the public for inflicting restrictions. These lighter movements may or may not work, but Balaji Mohan has made it work with an unconventional ending.
'Loners' written and directed by Halitha Shameen is simply beautiful, realistic, and fresh. It discusses Nallathangal (Lijomol Jose) and Dheeran (Arjun Das), a young couple who meet during a virtual wedding and end up being good friends. Usually, Halitha Shameen's feature films generally are simple, real-life observations that make you smile because they are relatable and have a personal touch to it. Loners too has such moments.
Either, it's Nallathangal sitting with a saree draped over her pyjamas in a virtual meeting and laptop running out of battery at a crucial moment. Both Nalla and Dheeran are trying to process grief in their own way but somehow for them, it comes back into their mindset, disturbing their entire life. The drama between them and the daily video call conversations reminds us of our conversations with our friends during this pandemic.
When they decide to meet up, they are intimidated. Whenever they are having a convo, their chemistry has worked bigtime and looks beautiful on screen to an extent that it doesn't look forced. The episode beautifully encapsulates the way we are pushed to find new refuge on the internet, meet new people, and find a feeling of peace in loneliness that only loners can inhale.
Madhumitha's 'Mouname Paarvaiyaal' takes the setting more seriously following an older couple living in the same house, but unlike Dheeran and Nallathangal who often talk and share their feeling with each other, MuraliKrishnan (Joju George) and Yashoda (Nadia Moidu) barely talk. There is a disconcerting-yet-familiar silence surfacing throughout their life and when they are in need of something, the other gets it.
'Mouna Paarvaiyaal' title comes from a song from Kodi Malar where the actress has speech impairment but speaks through expression, emotions, and gestures and that's what Nadiya steals the show. When Yashoda loses her cool, she expresses her feelings through chopping ladies fingers, increasing mixer sounds, or holding her tongue as she screams inside herself. Joju George also shines as an apologetic, caring husband who was once aggressive in not letting Yashoda play the flute, stripping away the rhythm of their lives.
There are several underlying metaphors in the story layered throughout like Yashoda going into a shell after her husband broke one of her flutes and asks her to play at the end or relating them to the mythological characters of Krishna and Yashoda. The casting is excellent and director Madhumitha who co-wrote the film with Sabarivasan Shanmugham manages to capture the suffering, loneliness, panic, and the fear that each of the covid symptoms invoke before the test result comes out. Credit goes to TS Suresh's editing for not letting the suspense unfold. This is one of the shorts from the lot, which has nearly no dialogues yet speaks volumes.
Surya Krishnan's 'The Mask' is extremely self-aware, clever, and progressive, it follows Arjun (Sananth) who is searching for a residence to live with his gay partner, Paul (Arun Kurian). Arjun is unwilling to acknowledge his sexual orientation or about his partner to his parents and publicly. While Arjun is in look out for a rented house, he catches up with his school friend turned gangster, Velu (Dhilip Subbrayan) after 15 years, who has his own share of issues in life. The short equates to its metaphor of the marginalised community always being forced to hide and "mask up" towards judgemental society. "Every day is a lockdown for us," says Arjun in a scene. The narrative shifts from him being cool and breaking the fourth wall to a serious conversation between living life in his own way without caring about the circumstances.
The emotion stays throughout the short, but I wish they could have explored the relationship between them more as this is very new according to Kollywood Standards that is worth exploring. Still, it is refreshing to see a short where the two gay men are not stereotyped as 'effeminate' to share a serious relationship. The ending song by Kaber Vasuki reinstates that something has changed in Arjun while speaking with Vasu and that it is to accept his identity and fight for it at all cost.
'Nizhal Tharum Idham' by Richard Anthony is the last one, but might be the most nuanced of the lot. Aishwarya Lekshmi plays the role of an independent young woman, Shobi, struggling to cope with her father's loss and old wounds. Both Halitha Shameen's 'Loners' and this one, are on the same theme of exploring how one comes out of grief, yet, Richard makes it almost a personalistic mood piece of how memories and thoughts can haunt us, change the way we view our life and the way we interact as Shobi says in a scene that she has built a wall that protects her and doesn't allow anyone to come close to her which indeed breaks at last.
Aishwarya superly portrays this venerable protagonist who is emotional and easily indulges in afterthoughts. The masked creatures surrounding her around the streets metaphors her inner demons. The melancholy score by Pradeep Kumar and the cinematography by Vikas Vasudevan compliments the evocative, atmospheric style of the short. Shobi's single shot of restrained and affective emotional soliloquy is perhaps one of the best scenes of this anthology. Overall, this anthology is a lighter watch for you this Pongal weekend.