Putham Pudhu Kaalai: Vidiyaadha, Amazon’s New Tamil Anthology Is Heartbreakingly Relatable
Directed by Balaji Mohan, Halitha Shameem, Madhumita, Richard Anthony and Surya Krishna
Rating: *** ½
5 stories, not all equally persuasive,about individuals connecting during the lockdown, you would have to be absolutely heartless to not fall in love with these characters and their attempts to reach out .A sequels of sobs gleaned from the first five stories that were released in 2021 , the current stories are, in many ways, far more credible and connectible than Season 1 which tended to get over-cute while showing couples locked away together and blessing all the 340 gods for this windfall of time together.
In Season 2 the nerves are far more on-edge and the characters are in no mood to look at the brighter side of the pandemic; because by now there is none. In one of the best stories Loners directed by Halitha Shameem, the protagonist Nella(Lijomol Jose) switches on an app that gives her the sound of traffic for one hour. She befriends a fellow-loner Dheeran(Arjun Das) and his dog . Deeran who warns Nella that their growing bonding could be just a symptom of the cancerous loneliness spreading itself out further and wider with each lockdown.
“Taking out the trash every day is a highlight of your day. So is talking to me,” Dheeran observes, not unreasonably. The bonding between the two seems very real. I know of so many people who have befriended strangers during their prolonged solitude.
My favourite story of the quaint quintet is Mouname Paarvayaai where a couple , played with marvelous muted nuances by the redoubtable Joju George and Nadiya Moidu, are not on talking terms for months. This segment of the anthology is tender and brutally funny. The swipes at the husband’s ineptness in the kitchen when his wife falls ill, are so direct I felt like an inherent part of the plot.
Joyously , Mouname Paarvayaai is well paced, which some of the other stories are not. Mugakavasa Mutham about two traffic cops on duty during the lockdown who come close while uniting a pair of young lovers , is much too labored. The contrivances diminish the story’s beauty.
In Nizhal Tharum Idhama a potentially resonant story of daughter returning to her hometown in Pondicherry after her father’s death to reclaim their family home,shoots itself in the foot when suddenly director Richard Anthony decides to introduce a bunch of Greek Chorus dancers whose relevance I couldn’t figure out. They only made Shobi(played by the very photo-genic Aishwarya Lekshmi who has a marvelous meltdown sequence towards the end of the story) seem somewhat schizophrenic.
The story that meanders the furthest away from its centre is The Mask.A story about coming out, it squanders its main plot-development opportunity in an utterly bland encounter between the closeted gay hero Arjun(Sananth) and an antisocial pal Velu(Dhilip Subbarayan). Before their evening talk session is done, we are bored to distraction by the sheer blandness of their conversation.
Despite the jerks of discrepancy the anthology means well.And it has its heart in the right place. Even in its worst moments the anthology reminds you of the unspoken ways in which the pandemic has changed our lives.And it does so gently,not afraid to tell the truth but ensuring that the sagas of solitude do not spin themselves into a web of despair.