Best Tamil Movies of 2019
2019 was a better year for the business of Tamil movies than in 2018. Even with respect to content, 2019 was far better than the last few years as directors explored different genres and storylines.
- A mainstream star like Ajith acting in a movie like Nerkonda Paarvai. The discussion that the film created because of the involvement of a star like Ajith is essential.
- The resurgence of writers in Tamil cinema and collaboration of writing like the one for Super Deluxe between Mysskin, Nalan Kumarasamy, Neelan K Sekar and Thiagarajan Kumararaja or the Game Over partnership between Ashwin and Kaavya Ramkumar should be welcomed with open hands.
- This year we had a lot of different stories than the previous years. The directors and producers were willing to experiment.
- The business that the top 3 stars made amounts to around 900 crores and some of the smaller movies have been profitable. According to trade analyst Sreedhar Pillai, 19 films have proven to be profitable for the producers (out of 200). Although the numbers are low, these figures are better than the last few years.
- The story stealing accusations that were levied on various movies including Bigil, Comali, Hero, etc. and this has become a regular issue in the industry.
- The pseudo message ?woke? movies have increased manifold ? from faux feminism (Bigil) to farmers? distress (every second movie ? Suriya in NGK and Kaapan) based storylines are not good for the films and society at large.
- The release problems for smaller movies. Except for the films of the top 3 (Rajini, Vijay and Ajith), every other film had to go through some sort of release related issues due to the mistakes made by the producer or the actor. The rift between the theatre owners, distributors and producers is expected to blow out of proportion in the New Year. The lack of Producers council and actors association is not helping the industry.
- Attempts made by people to whitewash ?Me too? accused and the problems of victim-blaming showed (one more time) the deep-rooted misogyny and patriarchy in the industry. In fact, some of them couldn?t even accept a movie like Nerkonda Paarvai because of the strong message it portrayed.
Best Tamil Movies of 2019
1. To Let
Director: Chezhiyan Producer: Zha Cinemas (Chezhiyan and Prema Chezhiyan)Actors: Santhosh Sreeram, Suseela and DharunCinematography: Chezhiyan
To Let Tamil Movie
To Let is an extension of Balu Mahendra?s Veedu. Probably, if Balu Mahendra had to make a Veedu like movie in this age, he would have done something like To Let. The film shows the lived experience of a lower-middle-class couple who are forced to lookout for a new house. The subtle references to class conflicts, religious and caste discriminations prick you throughout the movie. A still-life like cinematography by Chezhiyan himself and the lack of background score (there is a radio that?s playing old Tamil songs) makes the movie dense and hard-hitting. The movie has won numerous awards in various film festivals across the world and also won the Best Feature Film in Tamil at the 65th National Film Awards. It also won a special Jury mention at the IFFI, Goa.
Director: Magizh Thirumeni Producer: Red Han The Cinema People (Inder Kumar)Actors: Arun Vijay, Vidya Pradeep, FEFSI Vijayan and Tanya HopeMusic Director: Arun Raj Cinematography: Chezhiyan
I am glad Tamil cinema directors have started exploring Crime thrillers again like the 80s. Thadam took the usual dual role trope of Tamil cinema and turned it over its head. Wonderfully written and directed by Magizh Thirumeni, the movie worked because of the powerful performance by Arun Vijay and ably supported by Vidya Pradeep and FEFSI Vijayan. I am glad that finally, Magizh Thirumeni got a commercial hit in his kitty.
3. Super Deluxe (Movie of the Year)
Director: Thiagarajan Kumararaja Producer: Tyler Durden and KinoFestActors: Vijay Sethupathi, Fahadh Faasil, Samantha Akkineni, Gayathrie, Ramya Krishnan, Mysskin, Bagavathi Perumal and Ashwanth Ashok kumarMusic Director: Yuvan Shankar Raja Cinematography: PS Vinod and PC Sriram
Although Super Deluxe deserves a longer post (there is one in the cards), take this is as a prelude. Super Deluxe for me was about moral judgements and acceptance. Note that I said acceptance and not tolerance, both are two different concepts. I enjoyed the amoral universe, references to Aaranya Kaandam and non-linear meta-level storytelling of Thiagarajan Kumararaja, but for me, the movie was beyond the form. The content struck a chord with me because of the subtle message it professed. Can we accept people without making moral judgements on people who don?t conform to our normative moral values? In a way, the movie in itself is a meta-level of the theme, if you can?t accept a film with such ideas, will you be able to accept the people that it talks about?
Director: Nelson VenkatesanProducer: Potential StudiosActors: SJ Surya, Priya Bhavani Shankar and KarunakaranMusic Director: Justin PrabhakaranCinematography: Gokul Benoy
Monster Tamil Movie
Monster was the surprise package of this year. Nelson Venkatesan was impressive with his Oru Naal Koothu (that was on our list in 2016), and it was a surprise that he chose to do a radically different film with SJ Surya and a rat. It takes a lot of guts to make something that hasn?t been attempted before in Tamil cinema ? a full-length movie on a rodent but also making it genuinely funny feel-good film that centres around Vallalar?s (the hero is a Vallalar follower) idea that the world is for all. It was also a treat to watch SJ Surya in a different light.
5. Game Over
Director: Ashwin SaravananProducer: Y Not StudiosActors: Taapsee Pannu and VinodhiniMusic Director: Ron Ethan YohannCinematography: A. Vasanth
The ambiguity of Game Over is what made the movie one of the best this year. The story was open to interpretations and especially the video game metaphor in the second half did baffle people, but I think the metaphorisation makes the movie stand apart from the rest. The faceless assailants, ambivalent storytelling (Is it supernatural or Taapsee?s brain playing games) and performances of Taapsee and Vinodhini make the movie a worthy watch. What if the entire second half is just a game that she designed to overcome her fears? And thanks to the directors and writers (Ashwin and Kavya Ramkumar) for the Pacman reference.
Director: V. J. GopinathProducer: Vetrivel Saravana Cinemas & Big Print ProductionActors: Vetri, Monica Chinnakotla and KarunakaranMusic Director: K. S. SundaramurthyCinematography: Praveen Kumar
What I loved about Jiivi was the way the movie was constructed. The lead characters are unapologetic about their actions, and the film doesn?t get into the moral science class. The writing (Babu Tamizh) was impeccable, and the way he had used the theory of interconnectedness (he calls it Thodarbial) was quite remarkable. The movie doesn?t adore or demonise the lead character. He takes his decisions based on the situation that he is in that?s purely human. Vetri has definitely worked on his acting from his 8 Thottakkal times, but it?s Karunakaran who takes away the cake in this movie.
7. Nerkonda Paarvai
Director: H VinothProducer: Zee Studios & Bayview Projects LLPActors: Ajith Kumar, Shraddha Srinath , Abirami Venkatachalam & Andrea TariangMusic Director: Yuvan Shankar RajaCinematography: Nirav Shah
I was sweetly surprised and was immensely happy that someone as mainstream as Ajith could take up the remake of Pink. I was worried that they would butcher the movie to suit the fans. But it was surprising that except for a fight sequence and a duet song for Ajith; the film was faithful to the original. The fight sequence did bring his fans to the theatres, and the movie created a ripple that sprung discussions and even Prime Time TV debates. It was sad to see that many couldn?t agree to the central theme of consent in the movie, but I think the audience deliberately tried to circumvent by not discussing the issue. But I believe that this movie would have been discussed in some houses and that?s the most important thing the film achieved.
8. Ottha Seruppu Size 7
Director: ParthiepanProducer: Bioscope Film FramersActors: ParthiepanMusic Director: C SathyaCinematography: Ramji
Parthiepan is a filmmaker who loves the ?What if? questions? What if there is a movie without a story? What if there is a movie with only one actor, but others are just voices? OS7 is a delight to watch. The performance of Parthiepan, the voice acting of other actors, the adequate score of Sathya, Ramji?s brilliant photography and above all the sound design of Resul Pookutty makes this one of the must-watch movies of Tamil cinema. You can witness the effort made by each technician in every frame of the film. While watching the movie, I thought that only two other actors who could have done the role, one was Kamal Hassan, and the other one was Nagesh. Yes Parthiepan, I can?t give a better compliment to you than the previous statement.
Director: Vetri Maaran Producer: V CreationsActors: Dhanush, Manju Warrier, Pasupathy and Ken KarunasMusic Director: GV Prakash KumarCinematography: Velraj
On the surface, Asuran could be seen as a movie about a father trying to save his son because he decided to take revenge for his brother?s murder. But in Asuran, the sub-texts are more interesting than the main text. An adaptation of Vekkai (novel by Poomani), the movie brings out the socio-political issues behind the conflict in a brilliant way. What makes Asuran different from other similar films is that it shows how caste divide of the past has developed into a class divide. Asuran is a bold critique of the society that we live in.
10. Sillu Karupatti
Director: Halitha ShameemProducer: Venkatesh VelineniActors: Samuthirakani, Sunaina, Nivedhithaa Sathish, Leela Samson, Sara Arjun, Sree Ram and K ManikandanMusic Director: Pradeep KumarCinematography: Abinandhan Ramanujam, Manoj Paramahamsa, Vijay Karthik, Yamini Yagnamurthy
Sillu Karuppatti is the Modern Love (a series on Amazon Prime based on a New York Times series of articles) of Tamil cinema. The film portrays four modern love stories of people in different times of their life that are wonderfully crafted by Halitha Shameem. What makes the movie special is the fantastic writing, and some of the dialogues will make you smile, laugh and get into applause instantly. The most important thing about the movie doesn?t overdo any of the emotions ? be it affection, love, anger or sadness. They are just there like the way they should be. If you like to end the year with a smile, this is the movie you should watch.
Movies that just missed the cut
These are movies that I liked this year but couldn?t make the final ten because of the other movies. Again, it?s in chronological order.
Movies that missed the list
Director: SivaProducer: Sathya Jyothi FilmsActors: Ajith Kumar, Nayanthara and Anikha Music Director: D ImmanCinematography: Vetri
Last year, Kadaikutty Singam taught me that it?s not right to discount movies that are rooted in the emotional sentiments of the audience. Viswasam used the typical cliched Father-Daughter sentiment trope but with a difference. I enjoyed the way Siva wrote the character of Nayanthara in a mainstream hero-centric movie. The hero never blames his wife, nor he goes on an advice rampage in the film. Let me be honest, Viswasam has its flaws, and it?s a bit melodramatic at the end. Still, if a movie can bring the families back to the theatres, I can look beyond the flaws. After all, a film that literally uses my favourite Kahlil Gibran poem as dialogue should be on my list somewhere.
Director: Naveen NanjundanProducer: RT Infinity DealActors: Kathir, Srushti Dange and LaguparanMusic Director: Amresh Ganesh and Surya Prasadh R Cinematography: Mahesh Muthuswami
There are a lot of cat and mouse movies, especially with a cop as the lead protagonist. But is it possible to make it different? Sathru is on the same space as Kaakha Kaakha because the protagonist has to save his family from the villains, but in here, he doesn?t know who is targeting his family, nor he has the support of the police force because he is a rookie. An absolute pacy thriller with fantastic set pieces, the movie was a treat to watch with Kathir as the lead and Lagubaran as the antagonist. A promising debut by Naveen Nanjundan and he is a director watch out for.
3. Vellai Pookal
Director: Vivek ElangovanProducer: Indus CreationsActors: Vivek, Charle, Dev & Pooja DevariyaMusic Director: Ramgopal KrishnarajuCinematography: Jerald Peter
Is it possible to watch a comedian in a serious role as a detective? In the current set of actors, I think only Vivek could have pulled it off. And he did with aplomb with able support from Charle. There are flaws in the movie because the actors, director and even the music director are amateurs. However, they still pulled off a near-perfect thriller. I wish the film got more visibility and I hope Vivek gets more such roles to perform. Why not a web series with Vivek and Charle as sleuths?
Director: Lokesh KanagarajProducer: Dream Warrior Pictures & Vivekananda PicturesActors: Karthi, Narain, Dheena and Arjun DasMusic Director: Sam CSCinematography: Sathyan Sooryan
Kaithi was an action movie that everyone wanted. A pure action genre film without any frills including romance, heroine or even backstories, the movie was a sheer adrenaline rush and nothing else. The Gatling Gun scene is going to be an enduring image of Tamil action movies for quite some time.
4 Movies that you might have missed but should give them a watch
4 Movies that you would have missed
Director: MurugeshProducer: Selly CinemasActors: Saran Shakthi, Kishore, Ayra, Neeraja, Sree Raam, Pandi & Prithvi RajanMusic Director: ShabirCinematography: Niran Chander
Sagaa is a movie about friends from the Juvenile prison and the film tries to show the custodial violence and how it affects the lives of these young people. Some of them are forced to do a jailbreak, and it becomes a cat and mouse game between jailer (terrifyingly portrayed by Dheena) and the boys played by Saran (of Vada Chennai Fame), Sree Ram, Kishore and Pandi (from Pasanga). Director Murugesh has tried to weave a story of friendship and betrayal but has missed the execution a bit. But it?s a worthy watch.
2. Gangs of Madras
Director: CV KumarProducer: Fox Star Studios & CV Kumar ProductionsActors: Priyanka Ruth, Ashok, Daniel Balaji & Velu PrabhakaranMusic Director: Hari Dafusia (Songs), Shyamalangan (Score) & Santhosh Narayanan (Music Supervision)Cinematography: Karthick K Thillai
CV Kumar?s second directorial venture has the shades of Korean movies like A Special Lady and The Villainess, but I wished he went on with the full-blown violence action in the film instead of a more meek treatment. Still, the movie is worth a watch for the lead played by Priyanka Ruth and an excellent gripping screenplay. The movie falters at the end with a subdued watered-down climax. I still wish someone does a film like The Villainess.
Director: Jagadeesan SubuProducer: M10 ProductionsActors: Vikranth & VasundharaMusic Director: D ImmanCinematography: Jagadeesan Subu
Bakrid is a movie about a charming friendship between man and a camel. A farmer gets hold of a Camel accidentally and finds that although he showers all the care to the Camel, it couldn?t live with him because of the environmental reasons. To get it back to its original living conditions, he sets out a long, arduous journey to Rajasthan. There are patches of brilliance in the movie, but it didn?t make it to the main list because of the inconsistencies in form and content. For example, the film doesn?t care about the camel slaughtering but briefly touches upon the issues of Gau Rakshas. Albeit, it?s a beautiful feel-good movie about humanity, so give it a shot.
Director: Sri SenthilProducer: Leaping Horse Entertainment, Incredible Productions & Dina StudiosActors: Bharath, Ann Sheetal, Suresh Menon & Aadhav KannadasanMusic Director: Vishal ChandrasekharCinematography: Suresh Bala
What makes Kaalidas an exciting thriller is the way director Sri Senthil manages to hold the identity of the killer until the last sequence but still giving enough clues peppered throughout the movie. A passing dialogue or a simplistic sequence at the start of the film is connected well to the murders at the end. A series of murders take place in the city?s high rise apartments, and the common thread between the victims are extra-marital affairs. At the same time, Kalidas ( a restrained portrayal by Bharath), the investigating officer?s wife (played by Ann Sheetal) gets into a romantic extra-marital relationship with a tenant. It?s a promising debut for Ann Sheetal. I am not revealing any more details about the movie. Just watch it.
Best Tamil Movies of 2018 ? The Annual Tamil Movies Round-up
The round-up of Best Tamil movies of 2018 by Sylvianism. The list includes Kolamavu Kokila, Merku Thodarchi Malai but?
The Annual Tamil Movies Round-Up ? Best Tamil Movies 2017
The Annual Kollywood Movies Roundup 2016 ? Best of Tamil Cinema
The Annual Kollywood Roundup ? 2015
- ?Bigil?, ?Petta?, ?Viswasam?: What are Tamil cinema?s top 10-grossing films of 2019?