Filmmaker Roopa Rao crafts a beautifully-poignant coming-of-age tale of love, separation and longing in her feature film debut, a pleasant romantic drama we have had in a long time. Gantumoote, in fact, works better as a peek into someone’s deeply-personal memoir, whose dog-eared pages are filled with more tears than happiness. Its English title translates to Baggage and it is this baggage that Meera carries throughout the movie and perhaps, beyond. You can look at Gantumoote in two ways: a filmmaker unearthing a personal story for her feature film and a teenager overcoming the grief that has engulfed her life after the passing of the boy she loved to the moon.
Roopa Rao examines the romantic relationship of highschool sweethearts Meera (Teju Belawadi, in a wow performance) and Madhu (Karthik Achari) in this seemingly innocent love story where she points out the horrors of ‘romantic’ tropes through the eyes of Meera, giving the much-needed female gaze on a culture that is predominately male. Gantumoote is easily the most powerful piece of filmmaking in recent times, and it is what you would get when the film’s politics is aligned with the filmmaker’s vision and not the other way round.
Gantumoote is on Amazon Prime Video
Sillu Karupatti (2019)
There is no other way to describe Sillu Karupatti than call it a bittersweet experience. Halitha Shameem’s sophomore anthology movie is four delightfully woven stories with a common motif: love. Much like C/O Kancharapalem, the four shorts here — Pink Bag, Kaaka Muttai, Turtle Walk and Hey Ammu — represent the various chapters of a (wo)man’s life and are written with great care and precision.
There is an admirable amount of tenderness in Sillu Karupatti, which you would not normally find in Tamil movies. It is there in the writing, in the frames and in music. With this movie, it is safe to come to a conclusion that Halitha Shameen is one filmmaker you should look out for.
Sillu Karupatti is on Netflix
From the creator of Ozhivudivasathe Kali and S Durga comes yet another offering on what I would like to call the Power vs Powerless trilogy. Chola is bone-chilling and takes the torture to a whole new tangent. Those of you familiar with Sanal Kumar Sasidharan’s brand of cinema would know that he takes pleasure in disrupting the collective consciousness of the audience. And Chola, which premiered at the Venice International Film Festival, is torture in disguise and makes us squirm in our seats.
Chola can be seen as an extension of where S Durga ended. It opens with a fable, which, in turn, takes the shape of the narrative. A teenage boy (unnamed) decides to take his girlfriend Janaki (Nimisha Sajayan who seems to have lived through the torture) out on a date, on a broad daylight. Janaki is not convinced, but she agrees in the hope that it would just be the two of them. She becomes suspicious of the presence of his “Boss” who agrees to do the pick-up, drop service. Her suspicion takes a full-blown shape and turns into a nightmare as the movie progresses, completing the fable.
Chola is on Amazon Prime Video
C/O Kancharapalem (2018)
I have to admit that I was blown by this Telugu indie directed by Maha Venkatesh, and have taken the part-time job of the film’s PR person, advertising it to my close circle since then. It is a delightful coming-of-age story that is diligently-written, beautifully-shot, wonderfully-cast and brilliantly-acted. The director seemed to have mined the stories out of real-life incidents, making them all the more palatable.
It is joy to watch the characters of C/O Kancharapalem and fall in love with them all over again. And what great songs by Sweekar Agasthi. I must warn you though: it is not a love story, but a story about love. Those of us who queued up to watch C/O Kancharapalem, having no prior knowledge about the film nor its filmmaker, stepped out of the cinema hall feeling dangerously optimistic about life. Given the times we are in at the moment, this sweet, little movie is all we need.
C/O Kancharapalem is on Netflix
This turned out to be a pleasantly-surprising watch last year. In the sense that nobody could have predicted the outcome of this part-good, part-bad screenplay and you find yourself constantly guessing where the plot leads us. A series of mysterious events begins to mirror Saravanan’s life when he robs his landlady. Jiivi might give you the impression of an archetypal heist-thriller at first. But its screenplay is more deeper than that. It talks about the interconnectedness of life. Jiivi is not perfect but it certainly surprises you and puts a smile on your face by the end of it.
Jiivi is on Amazon Prime Video
This indie movie directed by Selvamani Selvaraj might perhaps be the least-known in this list but surely is an affecting romantic drama, exploring the lives of two childhood friends Vimal (Vicky R) and Nila (Sruthi Hariharan) who get a chance to rekindle their relationships. Loneliness pervades Vimal’s life as he shuttles customers 24×7. He is a Taxi Driver in Mumbai. There is an inexplicable sense of emptiness in him until he chance encounters Nila, the girl who he had seen only in school uniform, makes a re-entry as a woman in saree.
He drops her. She waits for him. They relive memories and tend to discover each other, at this stage of their lives. Vimal never had the gall to propose. Life, after all, gives you second chances. But there is also another side to Nila that he needs to know. When he comes to know the truth, it shatters Nila more than Vimal. For, she takes comfort in his gaze and presence. I remember this fantastic dialogue that Nila says to Vimal towards the end: “Nee paathathu poothi-vitta maari irunthuchu (Your gaze, after all, gave me warmth).” This line will stay with you for sometime.
Nila is on Netflix
Ee. Ma. Yau (2018)
This is not exactly ‘hidden’ but definitely a gem of a movie. Cinephiles across the country take pride in admitting the fact that they are a fan of Lijo Jose Pellissery, having watched his universally popular movies — Angamaly Diaries and Jallikattu. But Pellissery’s finest work has got to be Ee. Ma. Yau, a seminal and meditative take on life and death.
Vavachan (Kainakary Thankaraj) senses a premonition about his death and requests his son Eeshi (Chemban Vinod Jose) that he give his father a proper farewell. His death sets off a bomb of events, exposing the murky sides of human minds that are both comedy and tragedy — in the sense, the comedy is evoked from horrible situations but we laugh nevertheless.
No other filmmaker in contemporary Indian cinema has been exploring myriad themes like how Lijo Jose Pellissery has been doing. Watch Ee. Ma. Yau if you haven’t and I assure that your jaws will be dropped for its opening sequence.
Ee. Ma. Yau is on Amazon Prime Video
This Telugu thriller is madcap fun. Six individual stories — dealing with multiple psychological and social issues — form the dominant part of the narrative and you tend to suspect Awe! as an anthology at first. But it is not and director Prashanth Varma tries to tie together these stories, with a stellar cast that includes Kajal Aggarwal, Nithya Menen, Regina Cassandra, Srinivas Avasarala and Murali Sharma.
A lot happens in Awe!, which has a twisted narrative structure that at times leaves you with a sense of exasperation and claustrophobia. But if you sit through the first half-hour mark, you will discover a bunch of interesting ideas executed nearly-well.
Awe is on Netflix
This should be an interesting watch for those who are familiar with Lokesh Kanagaraj’s rock solid directorial debut, Maanagaram. It has a similar narrative arc or what they call ‘hyperlink’ cinema. A set of bizarre events take place in the lives of the central characters and how the director (Vivek Athreya) manages to stitch them together is what Brochevarevarura is all about. There is romance, there is comedy, there is robbery, there is a commentary on sexual harassment and above all, there is an entertaining movie at your disposal.
Brochevarevarura is on Amazon Prime Video
Oththa Seruppu Size 7 (2019)
R Parthiban is infamously known for twisting one’s statement and for his confusing wordplay — if we were to take a leaf out of the numerous comedy tracks with Vadivelu. In Othatha Seruppu Size 7, he puts the audience in Vadivelu’s shoes to observe the consequences of an unreliable narrator. Masilamani (Parthiban) is lodged inside a police station, for he is a suspect in a murder case. The movie is about the investigation and whether or not Masilamani is a convict.
OSS7 is Parthiban’s bold and dazzling effort in pulling off an effective trick: cheating the audience into believing something, thereby diverting their attention from the larger design. You have to buy into whatever Parthiban has to say, given the absence of visuals to support his argument. Of course, the solo act may have ended as a dud without the editor’s (R Sudarshan) work.
Othatha Seruppu Size 7 is on Netflix