meWATCH’s Curation of Tamil Movies – A Welcome Surprise
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, digital consumption of content is at an all-time high. With filming and production on a worldwide standstill, streaming platforms are rushing to get premium content on their sites. Of course we all know the streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon Prime. However, meWATCH is paving its own way for regional representation with a variety of Tamil, Chinese and Malay films, amongst other languages.
Owned by Mediacorp, meWATCH (previously Toggle) is the go-to platform to catch up on local television shows. That includes dramas or infotainment shows across Channel 5, Channel 8, Suria and Vasantham. In early 2020, meWATCH started rebranding itself as a digital video on-demand service and has been stockpiling on various regional titles.
A streaming platform is only as successful as the variety that they provide. I’ll be honest and say that I was expecting a token 10 or 20 Tamil movie titles that are hosted just for the sake of providing to the minority.
However, to my utmost delight, meWATCH has over 150 free Tamil movies in their library, ranging from older classics to newer blockbusters. I was thoroughly impressed with their curation because of a previously infamous reputation for having mediocre and repetitive content.
Thank you for the encouragement to stay home, meWATCH!
Much Ado About Love
Upon its release in 2001, Dumm Dumm Dumm did not perform exceedingly well at the box office. However, as the 90s kids grew up, the movie garnered a cult classic status and is dearly beloved amongst the Tamil audience. The film is about a couple, Adhi (Madhavan) and Ganga (Jyothika), who reluctantly agree to an arranged marriage – a premise that is painfully familiar to the Indian audience while garnering intrigue for the non-Indian audience. Adhi and Ganga then scheme to stop the wedding but end up falling in love with each other.
Dumm Dumm Dumm has a cult following amongst the 90’s kids due to its understated, honey-dipped romance. The lead pair are fan favourites and perform beyond expectation. The music in this film is also noteworthy as the album is still very popular even after 19 years. This film felt very ahead of its time and is still relevant and relatable today with its encouragement for independence, as it will be for a very long time to come.
Pa Pandi marks the directorial debut of film actor Danush, who also wrote and produced this film. Previously known for his acting prowess internationally, Danush proved to be an expert storyteller with his debut behind the camera. The film follows Paandi (Rajkiran), a retired stunt master, as he sets out on a roadtrip to seek out his first love, Poonthendral (Revathi), after being estranged from her for many years.
This film is best enjoyed on a rainy day, under the sheets with a cup of tea in hand. It is an extremely heartwarming film that is a reminder that youth is a state of mind. Both Revathi and Rajkiran are yesteryear’s finest, shown on screen with their mature and reserved chemistry. It makes for a moving watch that never overplays its hand at sentiment.
Raja Rani features an ensemble cast consisting of Arya, Nayanthara, Sathyaraj, Jai and Nazriya. When done right, a loaded cast has the ability to elevate a film’s performance and that is exactly the case here. The main theme of the film is how love can happen more than once in life – a premise that the lead couple John (Arya) and Regina (Nayanthara) struggle with immensely. Like Pa Pandi, this film presents maturity and pragmatism in love that is often overlooked in Tamil cinema.
Over the last decade, director Atlee has become one of the most successful and sought after directors in the Tamil film industry. He made his debut with Raja Rani seven years ago, which has successfully set the tone for the rest of his career with its box office success. This is a film that draws on the nostalgia and heartbreak that surrounds a first love and it is difficult to go wrong with that formula.
Highlighting a policeman’s life in crime-riddled Chennai, Kaakha Kaakha is one of the most beloved Tamil action romance films of all time. Anbuselvan (Suriya) and Maya (Jyothika) fall in love amidst the city’s dangerous criminal backdrop, which threatens both their love and life. The couple, who are also married in real life, have a chemistry that is explosive and extremely memorable – arguably the film’s biggest selling point.
Director Gautham Menon enthrals audiences with suspense, heartbreak and desire, making Kaakha Kaakha a timeless love story that is very watchable. It does not have unnecessary niches and is a film that caters to the mass audience and critics alike, regardless of language or cultural backgrounds.
Thrills & Spills
Even 15 years after its release, Chandramukhi is a film that cannot be classified as solely horror or as a psychological thriller. It is an amalgamation of both but promises many thrills and twists along the way. The first viewing of this film is a memory (albeit slightly scarring) that would be stubbornly etched in every Indian’s minds. The premise is typical – a couple, Ganga (Jyothika) and Senthilnathan (Prabhu), moves into a supposedly haunted house and weird things start happening. Then, they enlist the help of Dr. Saravanan (Rajinikanth) to help solve the mystery.
This film was career-defining for Jyothika and is arguably her best performance to date. It created a huge stir with many commenting that they were unable to see her the same way again because of her disturbing and masterful portrayal. This legendary film is a must-watch for its mind blowing plot twist and stellar performances.
Widely regarded as 2018’s movie of the year and one of the best Tamil thrillers ever made, Ratsasan is a small-budget film with big accolades. Arun Kumar (Vishnu Vishal) reluctantly becomes a police officer after his father’s death. Before he knows it, he is pulled into a disturbing string of murders and hunts down a very elusive serial killer.
Ratsasan possesses very intelligent storytelling that keeps viewers continuously engaged and tense. Despite featuring no big names, the film skyrocketed thanks to rave reviews on social media. The taut storyline coupled with fantastic performances and compelling music, births a psychological thriller that is of international standards and an eerily entertaining watch.
Tamil cinema is infamous for butchering the genre of action thrillers with over-the-top fight sequences and unrealistic death-defying moments. However, if one film had to be chosen for doing justice to the genre, it would be Vikram Vedha, a film that is head and shoulders above the rest. The storyline is deceptively simple – Vikram (Madhavan), a police officer, hunts down Vedha (Vijay Sethupathi), a gangster. Vedha then tells Vikram three stories that challenges his perspective of good and evil.
This film is complex and multi-layered enough to require work from the viewers to truly get the most out of the experience. Challenging the status quo of clear demarcations between right and wrong is a provocative premise that the conservative Tamil film industry desperately needed. With films like Vikram Vedha, the industry is constantly reinventing itself and makes for a milestone watch.
If this film had to be described in one word, it would be “crazy”. Aasai is a turbulent ride from start to end, without giving the audience a moment’s reprieve to gather their thoughts. The romantic thriller is centered around Major Madhavan (Prakash Raj) who kills his own wife to lust after her sister, Yamuna, (Suvalakshmi) who is in love with Jeeva (Ajith Kumar). This complicated and sinful love triangle gives rise to a triad of psychopathic behaviours that must be seen to believe.
Prakash Raj outdid himself as a villain in Aasai that went on to cement his place as the go-to actor for negative roles since. The film may be slightly harder to get comfortable with because it is older and not made with the foresight of global acceptance, with the introduction of the setting being catered towards a Tamil speaking audience that reside in Tamil Nadu. However, upon persevering through 20 or 30 minutes, Aasai is a film that confronts the ugly and was way ahead of its time with its portrayal of the destruction of desire.
Another film featuring an ensemble cast with the likes of Vijay Sethupathi, SJ Surya, Bobby Simha, Anjali and others who are all known for their work in message driven films. Iraivi is a trailblazer of a film for female representation. Three couples are featured in the film, with the men involved in criminal activities and the women leading independent lives as a result of it. Although it seems like a seemingly simple premise, the film is layered with intricacies that are pleasantly unusual for Tamil cinema such as focusing on the rawness of a wife’s pain.
Iraivi treads new ground by asking questions from a woman’s perspective dealing with their wastrel husbands. While the film opened to average business, it started gaining popularity after domestic and international critics began dissecting it. Iraivi requires a progressive and open mindset to fully appreciate but is worth it.
This one is just an all-out fun movie. Jigarthanda, which is the name of a traditional drink (similar to almond milk) in Tamil Nadu, is every bit as sweet, cold and enjoyable as its namesake. Aspiring director Karthik (Siddharth) adamantly wants to make a movie when the opportunity to highlight gangsterism presents itself. Enter Sethu (Bobby Simha), a gangster that Karthik shadows to write about and eventually gets embroiled with. What results is a hilarious ride in their relationship.
Like the other offbeat films in this category, Jigarthanda might just seem like a comedy at surface level. However, it is a commentary on the Tamil film industry and the gangsterism hidden behind the laughs, imploring the audience to reassess their norms. This is a film to watch for its intelligence and brilliant attempt at dark humour.
Originally debuted at the 39th Toronto International Film Festival, Kaaka Muttai is an arts film particularly with how different it is from mainstream Tamil cinema. There are no flamboyant heroes or glamorous heroines. Instead, there are two young brothers (J Vignesh and V Ramesh) who are from a slum and are on the pursuit for a delicious slice of pizza.
An impactful dose of class commentary is sprinkled throughout the film while being packaged as a very heartwarming storyline. The film swept many domestic awards in that year and is one to watch to truly understand how sometimes, place of birth is a privilege in itself.
Black comedy is a genre that has become increasingly popular in Tamil cinema because of its capability to explore difficult topics while masking it behind some superficial laughs. With this technique, a film is able to cater to a larger audience, whether they understand the genre of black comedy or not. Naanum Rowdy Thaan is one such film. Revolving around the love story of Kadhambari (Nayanthara) and Pandiyan (Vijay Sethupathi) the film tackles gangsterism, murder and revenge.
The entire film is covered with quirks that are actually subtle (or not-so-subtle) digs at the notoriously rich and powerful in Tamil Nadu, along with their ability to get away with many crimes. Naanum Rowdy Thaan is thoroughly entertaining from start to end. To the learned it is a black comedy but to the layman, it is an entertaining romance thriller – the ability to allow viewers to take what they want from a film is art in itself.
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