My top twenty: 2014

Posted on December 27, 2014


Recalling the Tamil films of 2014 that, even if not great in the overall sense, stood out for some reason(s). Here, in alphabetical order.

  1. Appuchi Gramam: A meteor threatens to annihilate a tiny village in a clever little subversion of the Hollywood disaster epic. Stuffed with a ton of clichés, yet the sci-fi backdrop makes them fun again.
  2. Arima Nambi: No flashy cutting. No mood-killing romance. No comedy track. Just tense, atmospheric mood in a solidly crafted conspiracy thriller. May not be great art, but a supremely well-engineered machine.
  3. Burma: A lot of attitude, atmosphere, flavour, good writing and wry comedy in this crazy-noir movie about car thefts. Makes you so high on how crime can entertain that you almost forgot it doesn’t pay.
  4. Goli Soda: A sequel in spirit to Pasanga, this gloriously inventive masala movie featuring teenagers is a terrific example of how, with a little imagination, you can make a film whose appeal is broad without insulting the audience.
  5. Inam: As a drama, Santosh Sivan’s latest, about the conflict in Sri Lanka, is middling. But the near-surreal imagery is a powerful representation of the horrors undergone by the citizenry and the resignation with which they regard life.
  6. Jeeva: The second half is pretty much a disaster, but there’s much to like earlier in this story of a small-time cricketer who yearns for a big break. When he feels like it, Suseenthiran is capable of a casual kind of greatness.
  7. Jigarthanda: The coolest, cult-est film of the year is a meta movie about moviemaking as well as a gangster epic. The two strands don’t quite cohere, but who’s complaining when the result is so exquisitely written, staged and performed?
  8. Kathai Thiraikathai Vasanam Iyakkam: Another meta movie about making movies – can you believe this? And from Parthiban, who dispenses with a conventional plot where each scene locks into the next one and just dives from moment to uproarious moment.
  9. Madras: A familiar story about jobless youths (think Sathya meets Subramaniyapuram) is elevated by magnificent filmmaking. The film’s “horror” element is possibly the year’s most under-examined subtext.
  10. Nedunchalai: A rock-solid B-movie that, thankfully, doesn’t want to elevate our taste, ennoble our souls. All it wants to do is tell a muscular story with craft and confidence. What a bloody relief.
  11. Nerungi Vaa Muthamidaathey: Whose story is this? Where is it headed? The most interesting aspect of this drama is that it keeps us guessing. What the narrative loses in momentum, it gains in texture, thanks to the sprawl of the characters that results in lovely non sequiturs.
  12. Oru Kanniyum Moonu Kalavaanigalum: Part sci-fi, part myth, and part one of those what-if movies where we’re invited to wonder how things might turn out had someone set out to do them a minute later. It’s hardly perfect, but there’s always a genuine sense of playful invention.
  13. Pisaasu: An easy candidate for the film of the year, Mysskin’s latest promises us horror-movie chills and, instead, turns into the year’s most haunting love story. The filmmaking is more than clean. It’s pure.
  14. Poovarasam Peepee: This coming-of-age story should have been much better, but it can’t be dismissed either. There is a mind at work here, and a voice.
  15. Poriyaalan: An action-thriller marked by superbly economic storytelling, lingering grace notes, plus texture – you can taste the grit.
  16. Saivam: A toothsome little fable revolving around a pet rooster and a large, loving, and very loveable family. Wry humour, terrific ensemble acting, wonderfully observant writing – a mainstream entertainer without an iota of cynical calculation.
  17. Thegidi: A tight paranoia thriller (also featuring a nicely written romance) where the protagonist finds himself deeper and deeper in a conspiracy. The deliberate pacing ensures plenty of tense moments.
  18. Thirudan Police: The “appa sentiment” served with a twist. After the father dies, we think we’re in for a typical revenge saga, but instead, the hero’s emotions become the target of a running gag. The climax is a riot.
  19. Vaayai Moodi Pesavum: A disease called Dumb Flu strikes, and everyone falls silent. The terrific conceit isn’t fully exploited, but the film is an example of how a smart filmmaker can imbue even a “light entertainer” with a strong sensibility. The YouTube mashup is an instant classic.
  20. Velayilla Pattathari: The year’s best star vehicle is a Selvaraghavan movie you can take your mother (and her mother) to. Yes, it gradually becomes cliché-heavy, but complaining is futile when both actor-Dhanush and star-Dhanush are in such fine form.

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Posted in: Cinema: Tamil