The top 10 Tamil films of 2018

Posted on December 24, 2018


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Despite the strike taking a toll on releases, this wasn’t a bad year for Tamil cinema. Here’s my list, in order of date of release. (I am on a break, so this includes films released till mid-December.)

Mercury: We had to wait almost till the end of April to see something ambitious, something auteur-istic. Karthik Subbaraj’s “silent movie” (with freaky sound design by Kunal Rajan) turned out to be his most accessible, most “fun” outing since Pizza – not just a genre thriller, but an emotional horror-drama, with a touch of eco-activism. In other words, goodbye to the dense layers and intricate textures of Iraivi and Jigarthanda – but the superlative filmmaking is intact. How will this joyfully idiosyncratic filmmaker transfer his sensibilities to a massy Rajinikanth movie? That may be the most interesting question of 2019.

Oru Kuppai Kadhai: What if Engeyo Kaetta Kural (1982) was made in a less judgmental era? You’d get this morality tale by Kaali Rangasamy, which shows a surprising amount of compassion to its heroine, who leaves her kindly sanitation-worker husband and begins a relationship with a software dude. I wish the film had expended similar empathy to the city folks (They drink! They have casual sex!), whose portions end up laughably simplistic. But given the sickening moralism in Tamil cinema, Oru Kuppai Kathai must count as progress. The film begins with the line “To err is human” and ends with “To forgive is divine.” This applies as much to the wife who strayed as the husband who deceived her. They’re both punished. Sounds like equality to me.

Asuravadham / Thimiru Pudichavan: The latter film (by Ganesha) came later in the year (November), but I’m clubbing these two joyous B-movies together because they show what’s lacking in the “mass” movies made by bigger directors, with bigger-name stars. Maruthupandian’s Asuravadham is a series of mind games centred around a strong, silent protagonist, a relentless pursuer like the unseen truck driver in Steven Spielberg’s Duel (but he’s the good guy). Thimiru Pudichavan doesn’t have as much craft, but its writing is just as good. Both films have a refreshing sense of a self-awareness (they know how ridiculous their premises are), and work hard to make the action-movie clichés seem less clichéd.

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Posted in: Cinema: Tamil