The days of social distancing are here to stay, as the virus does not seem to come under control any soon. The fear of social spread still looms large, which has forced the government to tighten the precautionary measures further.
What this means for us is, the places of entertainment and recreation will remain closed, we will have to continue working from home and stay indoors for a longer period.
As promised in the last week’s column, here is a list of 5 very recent south Indian films that are available on streaming platforms that you may find interesting to watch.
• Ayyappanum Koshiyum (Malayalam, Prime)
In Ayyappanum Koshiyum, Sachy, the writer of the year-end hit of 2019 Driving License, directs his own screenplay that has another epic clash of male egos in its core.
To make this conflict as scathing as it could be, he has placed it in the green milieu of the tribal haven Attappady and taken the support of the menacing side of Biju Menon to play the antagonist (if you can call him one).
Koshi, a spoilt brat from a rich family and a retired army man gets into a drunken brawl with a police team. The upright Inspector Ayyappan Nair who frames him in a legal case grows sympathetic towards him but not before it becomes too late. Fresh from a short stint in jail, the much egoistic Koshi lands again in Attappady to exact revenge.
Ayyappan Nair, on the other hand, is someone who is living quite a restrained life hiding his bloody past and a terrifying persona behind the police uniform. Koshi who had underestimated his opponent, soon realizes who he is fighting with, bit by bit, but his ego does not let him stop at any point though there are several occasions in the plot that offer him an exit route.
Ayyappan has a task in hand after Koshy forces him out of his job and threatens to implicate his family in terror charges and put them in grave danger.
Nature, politics, class and power become integral parts of the conflict, which Prithviraj and Biju Menon turns in to an interesting tie. Every character is well etched out in the screenplay and performed with precision. You wouldn’t complain even if you feel the movie should have been shorter by 15 minutes or more.
• Dia (Kannada, Amazon Prime)
Dia is one of those gems from Kannada commercial cinema that happen once in a while. In 2019, we saw such a rare gift in Gantumoote (which is also available on streaming).
Though a love story crafted around a familiar plot of a lover returning to life after his partner has moved on (right from the days of Raj Kapoor’s Sangam), Dia boasts of some good writing and performances. The story flows with ease with twists placed at the right intervals; the first one comes barely after 15 minutes into the film. Then on, it’s an enjoyable ride, thanks to writer-director Ashoka’s riveting screenplay that explores relationships quite intensely without resorting to melodrama.
Kushee as Dia, Pruthvee Ambaar as Adi, Deekshith Shetty as Rohit and Pavithra Lokesh and Lakshmi live up to the challenge of making this roller-coaster ride much delightful.
The ease with which Pruthvee Ambaar has played the free-spirited Adi who holds the philosophy that ‘life is all about miracles and surprises’ as opposed to Dia’s line of ‘life is full of problems and pain,’ takes him a notch above the rest.
Skillfully written and directed, Dia does not lose its romantic intensity though it does not contain any song or intimate scenes, which form the staple fare of the genre.
• Vaanam Kottattum (Tamil, Prime)
In a fit of rage to avenge an attack on his brother, Bose (Sarathkumar), a villager who is a father of two, ends up murdering a political opponent. His wife Chandra (Radhika Sarathkumar) flees with her little children to the city in search of a better life and to avoid more trouble for her family.
Bose’s plans of coming out of jail are dashed sooner and he is forced to serve his life imprisonment in its entirety. When he finally completes his term, he is eager to reunite with his family and start over from the point where he had left.
What does his freedom mean to his family? How does he accustom himself into the world outside after more than one-and-a-half decade of confinement? How does his children who are now adults react to the long-missing father without whom they have learnt to lead their lives? How will he protect himself and family from those who wait to take revenge?
There are no easy answers to his problems. As he strives to claim back his position in the closely-knit family that has lived without him for far too long, it creates cracks in the relationships and creates problems for everyone.
The drama that ensues is brought to life by the electrifying screen presence of the lead duo of Sarathkumar and Radhika. The sequences that reveal the chemistry between the siblings played by Vikram Prabhu and Aiswarya Rajesh and their friendly demeanour with the rest of the cast, especially with their uncle Velsamy (Balaji Sakthivel), are a delight to watch.
My only grouse is that the director cut the focus fast from the conflicts that arise in the family after Bose reunites with them to the clichéd revenge drama. The tradeoff stole the chance to make the movie a much more delightful family drama.
This Mani Ratnam production also features a soothing soundtrack by singer Sid Sreeram. The title track Kanne Thangam is an ode to the warmth in the family, which I wish was exploited a bit more in the screenplay.
• Gundu (Tamil, Netflix)
The full title of the movie is Irandam Ulaga Porin Kadaisi Gundu, which means ‘the last bomb of World War II’.
On the face of it, this is an ambitious project that tackles the issue of bombs from world war 2, which are abandoned in the sea, landing ashore and creating devastation among the poor who collect and process scrap for a living. The loss of lives due to these live bombs are often documented in government files as random accidents to deny any compensation to the victims who are dead or survive with disabilities, thanks to the nexus between the companies that are responsible for destroying the bombs and the corrupt bureaucracy.
The rather heavy plot is revealed through the lives of the poor who work in deplorable conditions and a romantic track between the truck driver played by Dinesh and Chittu, played by Anandhi.
The film handles the core issue without compromising on drama but it does get preachy toward the end. The politics of caste and class and trade unionism interfere with the narrative without much of direct relevance, giving it a documentary feel at times. In the end, director Athiyan Athirai and producer Pa.
Ranjith delivers a thriller that succeeds in narrating a cause in an effective manner, weaving it seamlessly into the drama.
• Anveshanam (Malayalam, Prime)
With its heart in the right place, Anveshanam, quite opposite to what the title suggests, takes you through reflections about the past that cannot be corrected rather than an investigation into an event.
At best, it’s a middling thriller because it is no complicated case to be intellectually invested in but a warm family tale that holds a lesson on raising children.
Aravind who works for a TV channel and his wife Kavitha has two children. Their elder son meets with an accident and dies in hospital due to medical negligence. The investigation that follows also explores a murder angle in the course of which the characters undergo an intense emotional conflict as to whether the fate of the victim and themselves could have been any different.
Of the cast, Jayasuriya as Aravind Shruthi Ramachandran as Kavitha and Leona Lishoy as the investigating officer Latha help to keep the proceedings quite gripping.
Considering that the director Prasobh Vijayan had a rather impressive debut with the thriller Lilli a year ago, this is underwhelming though eminently watchable.
Many engaging and popular films have been released on streaming platforms. Some of the other recent South releases that are worth mentioning are Otha Seruppu Size 7, Sillu Karuppatti and KD (Tamil), Driving License and Kettiyolanu Ente Malakha (Malayalam) and Kavaludhari (Kannada).
You may remember that the previous editions of this column had recommended some of these films.
Stay healthy, stay entertained. Happy watching!
(Dress Circle is a weekly column on films. The author is a communication professional and film enthusiast. Read his past works here.)