Putham Pudhu Kaalai Tamil Movie
Seeing Putham Pudhu Kaalai on Amazon Prime is like watching lightning bugs do their glowing thing at night. The anthology is rather elaborately mounted, and each short in it makes you feel excited only in brief spurts. This is to say, almost every short film in the anthology comes and goes so quickly that it only leaves you with a melange of good and quirky moments. There is no thread common in the shorts except for the fact that these are all set in the coronavirus lockdown period.
The anthology starts with Sudha Kongara's 'Ilamai Idho Idho', a nod to an Ilaiyaraaja chartbuster. It has well-known actors playing characters who find themselves stuck in their homes after the Indian government announces a nationwide lockdown. I will not reveal anything more about Kongara's short for doing so will amount to a plot spoiler. You only need to know that it has actors Jayaram, Urvashi, Kalidas, and Kalyani Priyadarshan. It is feel-good, has some filmy references and has its moments. Watching Urvashi and Jayaram briefly takes you back to the 1990's, the time they did many classic Malayalam films.
Goutam Vasudev Menon's is the second short, named 'Avarum Naanum - Avalum Naanum'. It is about a granddaughter visiting her grandpa after a long time, as the nation goes into lockdown. Shorts give actors very little time to build a memorable character, but M S Bhaskar is quite effective here. He plays the grandpa in the story, a former scientist who finds a new home with the arrival of her granddaughter played by Ritu Varma. Menon is not known for his subtlety, but there is more of it here than in his full-length feature films. A bit like his Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa, it is about the flaws in the relations of the characters, plus their longing for each other. Menon's short may not be the best in the anthology, but it is the first in it to get the ending right.
Then comes Suhasini Mani Ratnam's 'Coffee, Anyone?', which arguably features the best of Shruti Hasan. The short is about three sisters getting used to the gravity of their old mother's new illness. While two of the sisters and their father react logically to her condition, one seems to harbor resentment to her. Suhasini's short seemed the most rushed film of the five, but it has its moving moments. Take, for instance, Shruti Hasan's character being emotional and slightly awkward as she talks to her mother.
The fourth short is Rajiv Menon's 'Reunion', about schoolmates meeting after a long time as the lockdown starts. Sikkil Gurucharan and Andrea Jeremiah's characters are forced to spend some days with the former's mother, played by Leela Samson. Menon conveys powerful views about drug addiction in Reunion, but it is the dialogues that work better than the whole short itself. This is true of most shorts in Putham Pudhu Kaalai.
Then, there is Karthik Subbaraj's 'Miracle'. Talk about saving the best for the last, it is just that kind of a short film. It is full of Subbaraj films' quirky twists and trademark camera work, somewhat reminiscent of his debut movie Pizza. There are indirectly related characters here whose worlds collide through some sort of divine intervention. The title, Miracle, itself denotes that god exists and has a plan. It has Muthu Kumar and Subbaraj's frequent collaborator Bobby Simha, attempting a robbery as COVID-19 adversely affects their lives. It also has a god-man who delivers religious sermon, as any other guru in India would. The times may have changed, but not small-time thieves, god-men and their world.