There’s a long way to go before Netflix India scales up regionally; its library of content is rather thin. But if Priyadarshan’s direct Netflix release Sila Samayangalil (Sometimes) is anything to go by, these are good times for both filmmakers and moviegoers to experiment and embrace all kinds of cinema, irrespective of language and genre. From whatever little they do have, we’ve picked the best Tamil movies on Netflix (no particular order) right now.
1. Lens (2015)
Jayaprakash Radhakrishnan’s disturbing cautionary tale examines the dark, perverse corners of the digital space. Arvind, a software engineer and a family man, sits across a computer screen in his locked room. Estranged from his wife, he excitedly searches for an online session of voyeurism and virtual sex. He accepts a random friend request from a girl with a beautiful profile picture. But only a tall, bald man graces the screen on the other end. The man has one simple yet menacing request: ‘please watch me commit suicide’. Arvind immediately disconnects, but the stranger has already set up a vivid, seemingly cruel plan to trap Arvind.
Director Jayaprakash avoids explicit manner of storytelling and neatly suggests the violence and sexual abuse inflicted upon the characters. Anand Sami’s performance as the vindictive stranger is one of the big talking points of the narrative. Altogether, it’s a bold, hard-hitting drama that warns us about the vices of the virtual space. (By Arun Kumar)
2. Radiopetti (2015)
Hari Viswanath’s award-winning independent feature is set in the picturesque Pondicherry. The 83-minute film tells the moving tale of an old man and his unbridled love for a vintage radio-set. Stage actor Lakshmanan Koratur soulfully plays the grandfather. The crisp writing and cinematography keep the emotions subtle, never tending to exploit the premise for melodrama. Radiopetti won the audience award at Busan International Film Festival. (By Arun Kumar)
3. Bahubali (2015-17)
I am in absolute awe of the Bahubali adventure, the scale and magnificence of its production design and the power and audacity of the imagination of its creator, SS Rajamouli.
The Bahubali series makes you more than suspend disbelief. It takes you to the realm of the possible: gigantic waterfalls, a mythical kingdom, a rising to the clouds city, water to air transport, palace intrigues, unusual war sequences and so much more.
All choreographed and shot with such dexterity that it makes you marvel at human prowess and skill.
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Indian cinema has seen or experienced nothing like this celestial madness. I hope that one day soon Rajamouli can pack in these two parts into one glorious film of three hours, subtitle it in English and expose the global audiences to the magic of Indian cinema.
This is magic surrealism and superhero ethos rolled into one mind-blowing journey. And it is more than that. Awesome all the way, overwhelming in most parts and extraordinary from conception to execution. Experience it. (By Sanjay Trehan)
4. Visaranai (Interrogation) (2015)
Vetrimaran’s hard-hitting study of pawns of the ‘system’ evokes fear, helplessness and righteous fury. The director uses Chandrakumar’s painful memoir Lockup as a perfect framework to explore police brutalityand corruption. Many found the intertwining element between Pandi (Dhinesh) & co and auditor (Kishore) an inorganic aspect. But, that’s a minor quibble in a narrative which unveils one hard truth after another. And it doesn’t fail to engage our emotions. Visaranai is like a surreptitious trip behind-the-stage; the stage designed (to fool the general public) by the complex collaboration of the powers that be (media, police, etc). The total lack of accountability and apathy of the lawmen is chilling.
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5. Merku Thodarchi Malai (Western Ghats) (2018)
Lenin Bharathi’s stirring docu-drama is an important work among the new wave of Tamil films that focus on the state’s cultural, economic, and political reality. Unlike many didactic Tamil social dramas, Merku Thodarchi Malai is less concerned about (contrived) plot mechanics. In fact, it serves as an anthropological record, subtly documenting the rituals, livelihood and dreams of the landless laborers.
The film’s highlight is its first 40 minutes which unfold from a hamlet near the beautiful Western Ghats. We witness the villagers’ daily chores, which involve carrying heavy sacks of cardamom through rough, craggy terrain. Accordingly, the thin plot revolves around how one of these worker’s personal dream is uprooted by the invisible and inhumane capitalist forces. Easwar and Bharathi’s ethereal shots hold a sense of poignancy that convey something lot powerful than words. Let alone 2018, this is one of the decade’s best Tamil films.
6. Sila Samayangalil (Sometimes) (2018)
Priyadarshan’s Netflix release benefits from hearty characters and precise observation of human condition. The storyline is pretty simple: seven frustrated strangers await the results of an HIV test. Priyadarshan uses an aggravating atmosphere to reflect on the ultra-sensitive social environment. Prakash Raj plays one of the prominent characters, a distressed middle-aged man. The strong cast also includes Ashok Selvan, Sriya Reddy, MS Bhaskar, Shanmugarajan, and Anjali Rao. Unlike many Tamil films focused on passing a social message, Sila Samayangalil doesn’t over-dramatize the situation. The narrative has some pacing issues. Overall though, it’s an engaging character-driven social drama.
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7. Anbe Sivam (2003)
Kamal Hassan took on the themes of globalization, religious fatalism, and economic disparity in this brilliant re-working of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987). Anbe Sivam is a buddy road film involving a trade-union activist Nalla Sivam and an upper-class ad-executive Anbarasu (Madhavan). Circumstances force these polar opposite figures to travel together from Bhubaneswar to Chennai. Although they disagree on everything, a brotherhood is forged through their shared humanity. Kamal’s script, apart from the formulaic flashback, shines with witty as well as thought-provoking word-plays. In the era of clashing lifestyles, religious and cultural views, the film’s laudable message is simple enough to not forget: ‘Love is God.’
There go the best Tamil movies on Netflix to stream and watch. Is there something we missed? Are there other interesting titles worth exploring? Tell us in the comments below or write to us at info(at)flickside(dot)com.