Paava Kadhaigal (2020)

Some films leave a mark for their warmth and positivity. Some do because they make you feel terrible. Paava Kadhaigal is a film in the latter category where the purpose of each filmmaker (it’s an anthology of four stories) is to evoke a sense of dread, disgust, and sadness, and they succeed in making us feel so. Honour-killing is the central thread that runs through each of the segments, but the directors add various nuances to their respective lead characters (apart from their distinct film-making styles i.e.) rendering them all unique and memorable. Family isn’t the safest place for the leading ladies in Paava Kadhaigal, especially when they’ve decided to swim against the flow. Does that count as “sin”?

Thangam: An excellent show by Kalidas Jayaram (playing a transgender) drives this segment. This is an actor I’ve grown up seeing perform miraculously as a child artist but never got to shine as an adult. In Thangam, he gets his due. Shades of that original brilliance were felt in his character Sathaar, who is detested by nearly everyone in the village except for a best friend (played by Shantanu). Apart from the honour-killing aspect, it also tackles gender and religious issues without overcooking them. It does get a little dramatic towards the end, but as in Sudha Kongara’s Suriya-starrer Soorarai Pottru, the despair is wholly felt.

Love Panna Uttranum: A dark comedy segment with a few Vignesh Shivan™ flourishes, this one keeps things unpredictable. It may be the weirdest of the lot, but it also made me laugh (the dwarf who played the main thug is splendid!) and feel perturbed at the same time. It’s likely to be viewed as weak when compared to the plot strength of the rest of the segments, but at least Vignesh was sure of what he wanted to portray. The dialogues are inventive and the quirky camerawork supplements the tone of the segment well.

Vaanmagal: A Gautham Menon film is usually one where family represents the safest zone for anyone. In this segment, he tries to subvert the idea, especially with a strong showing from himself (he’s doing just fine as an actor) and Simran. Yet, it didn’t strike me as a “believable” notion, especially knowing Menon and his familial signatures. There’s a musical interlude, but thankfully no voiceover narration. It gets blood-soaked towards the end and comes packed with a twist that toys with our perception – one that didn’t have the same level of impact as the other episodes.

Oor Iravu: As far as the theme of honour-killing goes, this one is the most “conventional”. And that is if you conveniently forget the massive spoiler that was shown at the beginning of Vaanmagal. Vetrimaaran’s powerful storytelling and choice of frames are worthy of many a discussion. He ignores the musical interludes of the previous segments, uses musical score minimally, and plays with two timelines effectively. This is also where the agony (associated with honour-killing) is showcased in chilling detail. Prakash Raj and Sai Pallavi are both brilliant here.

In totality, Paava Kadhaigal is one of the stronger anthologies to have come out in 2020. It is dark and disturbing for sure but in the hands of these talented filmmakers, the quality of work is solid.

Review by arungeorge13

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