Paava Kadhaigal Tamil Movie Review

Feature Film | Anthology, Drama | 2h 25min
In Netflix's Paava Kadhaigal, Tamil cinema's four exceptionally talented directors deftly tackle themes of honor and pride in a patriarchal society. The anthology may not be an easy watch, but it has breathtaking moments, strong writing, and outstanding performances.
Dec 20, 2020 By Sreejith Mullappilly

Short stories usually do not have enough time to establish a deep connection with the audience and then stir our emotions. However, Netflix's new anthology entitled 'Paava Kadhaigal' is an exception to that. Each short in this new anthology runs about 30 minutes, and it has many moments that take our breath away.

Paava Kadhaigal means Sin Stories, and each short tale here is about the sins that members of a patriarchal society commit. The honor and pride of people with different genders are questioned time and again here. In one short named 'Vaanmagal', a father wonders whether he has failed to protect his daughter's dignity. Whereas, another father in a different story, 'Love Panna Uttranum', does not approve the relationship choices of his twin daughters, and he enjoys doing it.

I cannot tell you a lot about the stories themselves because doing so would amount to plot spoilers. The shorts are directed by Sudha Kongara, Vetrimaaran, Vignesh Shivan, and Gautham Menon. Netflix splits each short into separate files, which gives you the impression that these are the four episodes of a web series. So, you would not be wrong in viewing Paava Kadhaigal as an 'anthology web series', as Wikipedia puts it. I would recommend watching it in no particular order. That is to say, start watching it with the last short, followed by the two others, and then end with the first one. It will make no difference to your enjoyment quotient.

Themes of honor, pride, and of the psychological burdens that the society put on patriarchal family members run across the anthology. Different actors and characters appear in each short, so there is no continuity of characters in Paava Kadhaigal. That is a given in an anthology of short stories. Anyhow, strong writing and brilliant performances across the board are not always a given in it. Simran and Gautham Menon's characters here deal with the situation in their family. Simran conveys much inner turmoil without a lot of lines, whereas Gautham lets you feel the anguish of his father character with not much screen time.

Meanwhile, Kongara turns Kalidas Jayaram into a convincing transwoman in 'Thangam'. It is the actor's most accomplished performance in a feature film. He does not overplay even a single emotion of the transgender character. He conveys the femininity of Sathar with casual gestures, instead of the stereotypical lisp and saree draping we usually see transwomen do in Indian movies.

Vignesh Shivan's 'Love Panna Uttranum' is the wackiest of the four shorts. Shivan infuses humor into an honor killing scene, making it look more of a sequence from a Quentin Tarantino flick. Its writing is Shivan's film's strong suit, but Kalki Koechlin, Anjali in a double role, and Padam Kumar stand out here.

Which brings us to Vetrimaaran's 'Oor Iravu'. In it, Sai Pallavi plays Sumathi, an adult who marries a lower-caste man. Pallavi and Prakash Raj are outstanding in the anthology's most powerful short film.

The filmmaking part of the anthology is also good. As for me, what matters more than the making of a film is how well it is written and how well the written material is enacted. That said, you have to appreciate the filmmaking brilliance when you see one. I quite like the shots in this anthology that deceive us. For instance, one scene from Vignesh Shivan's short starts with some men seemingly standing at the back of a lorry, but ends with the revelation that the vehicle is a jeep and that the men are outside of it.

Sreejith Mullappilly