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Putham Pudhu Kaalai review: Amazon anthology fails to deliver

Karthik Subbaraj’s short Miracle, starring Bobby Simha and Muthu Kumar, is the shortest, but the most interesting: there is, of course, a twist in the tale.

It’s hard to pull off anthologies because the arrangement can get forced, leaving you wondering about commonalities. But one of the side-effects of the pandemic is that everyone who is lucky to be alive, has more time to invest in and repair relationships, especially those that have gone south, or gone missing. Can we dare hope that things will be better?

That’s the theme running through Putham Pudhu Kalaalai, five shorts made by a bunch of well-known directors. The lockdown and its impact has already been seen in many similar efforts by filmmakers around the world. But despite some perky moments here and there, this anthology remains mostly blah.

Sudha Kongara’s Ilamai Idho Idho (Jayaram, Kalidas Jayaram, Urvashi, Kalyani Priyadarshan) has a pair of lovers reconnecting after years. They remember dancing around like leads in winsome Mani Ratnam’s romances, as well as squabbling about wet towels left on beds, and spoons stuck in dishes in the fridge. The film goes back and forth in time, and we get to see the young lovers turning into their elderly selves, hiding from their grown-up children, till one day… Sweet, but needed to have been more bitter-sweet, for requisite impact.

A granddaughter and her ‘thaatha’ are at the centre of Gautham Menon’s Avarum Naanum/Avalum Naanam ( M S Bhaskar, Ritu Varma). She arrives at her grandpa’s house to tend to him, as his house-help is stuck during lockdown. She is an IT professional; he is a scientist, and both are shown trying to find a way to get back to each other, having had no contact for years because of family complications. The girl has an amazing wardrobe (I fully drooled); the grandpa knows how to fix routers (yay for him), but the way they do this is much too straight, and heavily underlined.

A comatose mother has been rescued from the pain and indignity of the ICU by her husband, much to the consternation of their daughters, one of them played by Suhasini Mani Ratnam, also the director of ‘Coffee, Anyone?’ Anu Hasan and Shruti Haasan also appear in this segment, which talks of the importance of being together and healing, and there are a couple of interesting plot points superficially touched upon (a late child born to middle-aged parents, and the acceptance of a special needs child), and it’s all too treacly.

Rajiv Menon’s Reunion has an empathetic mother (Leela Samson), a doctor son (Sakkil Gurucharan), and a surprise visitor from the son’s past, a girl he was in college with. Sadhana (Andrea Jeremiah) is an attractive boho-chic singer at a bar, and sports knee-high boots. She also has a secret. What’s interesting is the degree of relaxed support that the mother extends to the girl (it’s the kind of thing most people would be horrified by), but again I kept looking for that something extra that Menon is usually able to bring to his work. The short just slides by, minus nuance.

The fifth short, Miracle, by Karthik Subbaraj seems to have been shoe-horned into this anthology. What have two down-on-their-luck petty thieves rootling around in run-down backyards have in common with the immaculately groomed people of the previous four films? Bobby Simha and Muthu Kumar play the scruffy ruffians who luck into a cache of cash. Do they manage to make off with it? Subbaraj’s short is the shortest, but the most interesting: there is, of course, a twist in the tale.

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