Best and worst of Tamil cinema so far: From disappointing Eswaran to rewarding Karnan

From Master to Jagame Thandhiram, from Karnan to Sulthan, here are the best and worst Tamil films to come out in the last six months.

The year 2021 began on a very positive note down south. The first wave of coronavirus seemed to have flattened and people returned to the world outside. Major blockbusters vied for best dates to release their movies and houseful boards again came up outside theatres.

While Bollywood filmmakers exercised great caution in releasing their big films, the south Indian film industry showed the way by taking a leap of faith. The makers of Master went for broke by releasing the film in January this year, and the gamble paid off. The Vijay-starrer was a hit at the box office, and warmed up the engines of the show business, which were rusting for about 10 months. However, the newfound excitement and energy did not last long. By May, the second wave of coronavirus sent us scuttling back inside our houses. Like everything else in the country, the film industry was also back at square one.

With theatres closed, the filmmakers again turned to the streaming platforms to release their films and cut their losses. But, we are not going to discuss Tamil movies’ box office performance this year. We have already discussed that topic here.

In this piece, we will discuss the quality of movies that were released in the last six months. There were surprises and disappointments in Tamil films released in the first six months of 2021.

The Disappointments


Director Suseenthiran’s Eswaran was a non-starter from the word go. It was supposed to be a big comeback film for Simbu, who has been longing for a break for about five years now. And his wait continues. The film was extremely unoriginal and that’s not even scratching the surface.


Starring Jayam Ravi in the lead role, director Lakshman had delivered a confused and unimaginative take on the ways to uplift the farming community from crushing debt. At least they had the decency to release the film directly on a streaming platform. This allowed people to feel disappointed about the film from the comfort of their homes as opposed to risking their lives to see a brain-dead film like Eswaran in cinemas.


Unlike Eswaran and Bhoomi, Kabadadaari was an honest attempt by its makers, who wanted to give us a clever film. But, only if good intentions could make for great movies. A remake of Kannada hit Kavaludaari, director Pradeep Krishnamoorthy and his team of writers ensured they got the mood right but failed to catch the soul of the original.


Maara suffered from the same affliction as Kabadadaari. Director Dhilip Kumar attempted a remake of the Malayalam hit Charlie with Madhavan and Shraddha Srinath reprising the roles of Dulquer Salmaan and Parvathy. Again, the film got the mood and the visual style right but it offered nothing fresh in terms of emotions, especially if you had already seen Charlie.

Kutty Story

In the okayish film category, we also have Tamil anthology Kutty Story, Anbirkiniyal, a faithful remake of Malayalam hit Helen, director Shakti Soundar Rajan’s no-frills medical thriller with walking and talking teddy bear, Teddy.

Jagame Thandhiram

Director Karthik Subbaraj’s Jagame Thandhiram can’t be dismissed entirely but it is not the uber-cool gangster movie that we were promised. The film has many flaws, including the way Karthik had written the English characters and dialogues. Instead of stringing together cool-sounding words that evoke no response from the audience, he should have just hired the right people for the job.


The Hits


The more you see it, the more you like it. Master seems even more entertaining when you watch it the second time. The unhurried and smooth texture of the film makes it an important one in Vijay’s career.

Nenjam Marappathillai

The over-the-top performance of SJ Suryah is the highlight of this Selvaraghavan drama, which revolves around the age-old fight between good vs evil. The premise is old but Suryah’s get-it-out-of-your-system kind of performance, with a hint of Sivaji Ganesan, is a delight to watch.


Mari Selvaraj is an auteur and this film established it. It is sheer poetry. A very personal look at the dehumanising nature of caste, the film is elevated by Mari’s impressive visual sense and a soulful score by Santhosh Narayanan. Dhanush is a revelation.


Director Madonne Ashwin’s political satire was a very accurate observation of the current state of politics and how the culture of freebies has become all-pervasive during elections in Tamil Nadu. It is a television movie, so one can forgive its lack of artistic merit, focussing instead on how well it is crafted and how witty it is.


Maybe the low expectations set by Bakkiyaraj Kannan with his previous film Remo worked in favour of Sulthan. This popcorn movie might not stay with you but is immensely enjoyable. There is something about an army of 100-strong men walking and dancing in unison that really gets to you.


A hard-hitting socio-political film about the challenges of tribes living in forests, director Ganesh Vinayakan’s directorial put a lot of social issues into perspective. It puts a human face on the tragedies that we read as headlines everyday, and forget in a moment.

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