Paava Kadhaigal loosely translates to tales of sin and deals with the much more grave and controversial topic of honor killings in different familial scenarios. Thangam directed by Sudha Kongara features a transgender man Sathaar (Kalidaas Jayram) who is in love with his best friend Saravanan (Shanthanu Bhagyaraj) the only person who treats him with dignity and respect. In the second episode, Love Panna Uttranum directed by Vignesh Sivan, a village chieftain who performs honor killings against people is faced with a personal dilemma as his twin daughters (played by Anjali) both reveal that they are in an “ unacceptable” affair – one with a driver and the other, in a same-sex relationship with her friend (Kalki Koechlin). Gautham Menon’s Vaanmagal sees the director himself in front of the camera along with Simran, who plays a middle-class couple shattered by the brutal sexual assault on their younger daughter and deal with the aftermath. The final tale in this anthology comes from director Vetrimaaran titled Oor Iravu. When a father (Prakash Raj) welcomes back his estranged pregnant daughter (Sai Pallavi) who had eloped, back into the fold, all seems well and forgotten but deep-rooted prejudices seemingly buried threaten to rear their ugly head.
Honour and its controversial side effects are at the forefront
All four narratives depict the disturbing side of what society deems as pride and honor and the 4 filmmakers give us raw and honest looks at the resentments and burdens it still carries. Sudha Kongara poignantly paints the stigma of a transgender person through a beautifully moving performance by Kalidas Jayaram who gets the body language and tone just right without ever veering into caricature. His character’s relationship with his best friend is selfless, non-judgemental, and heartwarming and both actors depict these emotions competently. This episode definitely left a lump in the throat. Oor Iravu is probably the most disturbing of the 4 stories and has the quintessential Vetrimaaram stamp of realistic shock value. Does societal honor supersede even the love of a family member? Is it a matter of life and death? The filmmaker challenges the audience with these uncomfortable questions and his actors Prakashraj and Sai Pallavi are brilliant in their portrayal of this uneasy truth. These 2 narratives personally were the shining stars of the anthology. Interestingly all 4 episodes are captured in the rural landscape and therefore assume more significance as far as topics of honor and pride are concerned-issues that are rampant in the village setup.
A few contrived missteps mark episodes 2 and 3
While Vignesh Shivan attempts to shatter the glass ceiling as it were in depicting a lesbian relationship, the ethos behind it felt a tad manufactured. Anjali and Kalki Koechlin don’t share the greatest chemistry unfortunately and therefore the segment falls a little flat. But credit should be given to some cleverly witty writing especially for Jaffer Sadiq’s character who makes an impression. Gautham Menon to doesn’t really tackle a new concept and one expected a different culmination to his plotline. Instead, it felt more like a “ been there done that” scenario rather than a novel one. Simran is as always charming and effective but Menon though should stick to direction only. Also barring Vetrimaaran’s Oor Iravu, the other 3 stories are marred by songs that weren’t really necessary in the half-hour running time.
WATCH OR NOT
Paava Kadhaigal is a penetrating look at society and its deep-seated resentments towards personal choices. It highlights what honor means to different people and the consequences of challenging that honor. It is real, emotive, and movingly written and is a must watch
Directors: Sudha Kongara, Vetrimaaran, Gautham Menon, Vignesh Sivan
Cast: Kalidas Jayaram, Shanthanu, Bhagyaraj, Prakash Raj, Sai Pallavi, Gautham Menon, Kalki Kochelin
Streaming on: Netflix