The best Tamil movies of 2022: From 'Vikram' to 'Ponniyin Selvan: 1' – The Hindu

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December 20, 2022 11:40 am | Updated 09:33 pm IST
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From ‘Vikram’ to ‘Ponniyin Selvan,’ it was a superb year for Tamil cinema | Photo Credit: Collage by Albert Francis J
Pray, what we’d give to just go back to simpler times — of listening to music at Music World, shopping at Spencer's Plaza or taking a stroll on a clean Marina Beach? What we’d give to go back to the Nineties in Madras? With Mudhal Nee Mudivum Nee ( MNMN), Darbuka Siva transported us right there. Packed with a wonderful assortment of characters including Vinoth, Rekha and Chinese and an endearing tale of love and hope, MNMN gave us a chance to re-live the Nineties.
It is only fair for a film reviewer to feel palpable horror when a movie title has the word ‘ vivasayi’ in it. Let’s admit it, we are tired of the kashtapadra vivasyi (oh poor farmers) subgenre that comes across as the work of opportunists. Thankfully, Kadaisi Vivasayi eschews melodrama and M Manikandan doesn’t want your tears but empathy. He illustrates that being a farmer, more than anything, is a state of being. His protagonist is octogenarian Maayandi, who, as the title indicates, is the ‘last farmer’. Or rather, the “last” among the generation that practised this state of being. Kadaisi Vivasayi is not about triumph but about the battles that are won quietly.
A still from ‘Kadaisi Vivasayi’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement
Remove the half-hearted romance and a bit of flab in the second half, and Taanakkaran could well be one of the best ‘focused’ dramas of 2022. An impressive debut from a filmmaker (Tamizh who acted in Jai Bhim) who is not just confident about what he is going to tell but how. It also helps that we get an insider’s perspective of the system through Tamizh, a former police officer. This is easily the best movie Vikram Prabhu has been part of since his debut Kumki. And he is too good here. Taanakkaran is one movie you wish had a theatrical release.
Some of us die-hard Kamal fans felt cheated watching Vikramfor the first time. It was a six-long-year wait to watch and celebrate the man on screen. And Kamal is not even there in the first half! Yeah, yeah, he gets a swashbuckling entry in the now-terrific interval block. But the disappointment was there. Since then, Vikram has been watched five times now. That should explain how we were sucked into the Lokesh Cinematic Universe. Jai Agent Tina!
Kamal Haasan and Lokesh Kanagaraj on the sets of ‘Vikram’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement
Apart from the several great performances, this is a film that gives you perspective. If the system or society judges you, how do you react? If the media paints you in a certain manner, how do you respond? If your life turns upside down in a single day, how do you cope? Sai Pallavi puts her best foot forward in this Gautam Ramachandran-directorial that doesn’t rush into things, but still functions like a whodunit; that last half hour might leave you in shock. There are some great performances to check out, especially Kaali Venkat who plays a lawyer.
He’s a man on the run, and looking back at his life, realises the several follies he has committed. A storyline like this could have been developed in any manner — but trust Parthiban to make it a labour of love. What could have been considered a logistical nightmare to many filmmakers turned out to be a challenge that Parthiban successfully surpassed; thus, resulting in making this a single-shot movie in a non-linear narrative. Just for the madness of its creator and his sheer passion for the medium, Iravin Nizhal deserves to be checked out.
Dhanush can play a variety of characters on screen and be super convincing, but place him in a quintessential Chennai middle-class family setup, and he’ll blend in with utmost ease. Here, he’s Pazham, an innocent guy who has some pretty complicated relationships: with his father (Prakash Raj), with his best friend (Nithya Menen), and with many others. There’s humour, songs, and some nice slice-of-life sequences in director Mithran Jawahar’s family drama that reminds you of many aspects that Tamil cinema really gets spot on.
There are so many things you associate Pa Ranjith with. A preachy filmmaker isn’t one. His sixth feature does come across as ‘preachy’ and borderline condescending. Leave aside the politics of it, there is a lot going in its favour. This is Ranjith’s finest and purest film to date. Not just in terms of what it stands for but also the form with which it presents. Whether it’s the visual scope or the way Ranjith uses Tenma’s music, Natchathiram Nagargiradhu is a daring experiment that disrupts our collective conscience and consciousness. You either love it or hate it. There’s no middle ground.
A still from ‘Natchathiram Nagargirathu’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement
Gautham Menon’s films have largely been in the romance or gangster space, which is why when the first look of Vendhu Thanindhathu Kaadu (VTK) came out with lead star Simbu looking all dishevelled, it was a big shocker. Like the train that Simbu takes — with AR Rahman’s hummable ‘ Marakkuma Nenjam’ playing in the background — this film is a journey too, one that is likely to continue in its next installment.
Mani Ratnam has never made the same movie twice. Although all his movies are of a certain ‘kind’. Has there ever been a filmmaker who has built a body of work that is so large and so diverse by exploring just human relationships? We doubt it. Even in a historical fiction like Ponniyin Selvan — that is straight up his alley — Mani Ratnam only cares about the personal dynamics. Personal, as they say, is political. That interval sequence with Aditha Karikalan and Nandini, and that operatic score by AR Rahman, is peak Mani Ratnam cinema.
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