Yes, we are tired too of seeing Friends and Breaking Bad on every recommended binge-watch list to get through days (and possibly weeks) of social distancing and self-isolation to weather the coronavirus scare. With films being our easiest escape from these worrying times, doesn’t it make sense to fall back upon regional movies we have grown up watching, fallen in love with multiple times over, and most importantly, view along with everyone at home?
So what does define a ‘comfort list’ then? It could mean different things for different people: maybe it’s something that takes you back to your high-school memories, or the first time you fell in love with a movie theatre or your favourite star, or heck, even bond with your family… after all, you are stuck with them now.
Without further ado then, here’s our list of ultimate Tamil comfort watches.. sentiment, love, action, family, class and mass all thrown in together for good measure.
Gautam Sunder’s picks:
Long before Vijay cared too much about empowering farmers, women, the country, vegetable prices… he cared most about himself and the girl he liked. Ah simpler times, which resulted in one of the the best rom-coms of the 2000s. Kushi had it all: in SJ Suryah, a director hungry for success, two incredibly popular leads who sizzled with chemistry, a smash-hit soundtrack from Thenisai Thendral Deva that complimented the witty repartee in the film, Vivek at the peak of his powers, and the mother of all item songs in Kattipudi Kattipudida which catapulted Mumtaj to magazine front-cover fame. What’s not to love?
PS: The almost fleeting banter/ bromance between Vijayakumar and Vijay in the car is one for the ages.
Nope, we are not going to make this about Rajinikanth at all for a change. Of course you’ve seen the viral Neelambari meme already: she literally invented social distancing —and how! If she could do it for 18 years, we really shouldn’t be complaining about two weeks.
But we digress; like any quintessentially great Superstar offering, Padayappa plays out its winning formulaic tropes in immaculate form — and style — aided by a surprisingly effective supporting cast, led by an outstanding Ramya Krishnan.
After watching it a 100 times over the years, you know every scene by the book, yet it’s as charming, cheerful and comforting as ever. As Abbas says, What a man.. indeed.
I was conflicted for the third choice: Vikraman’s masterful Suryavamsam which is the movie equivalent of thaachi mammam (it also gave us the best olive branch dialogue in movie history with Payasam saapdunga friend) vs Gautham Menon’s winsome, almost-before-he-came-of-age debut in Minnale that further heightened Madhavan’s Alaipayuthey stardom towards making him the chocolate boy for an entire generation.
In the end, the latter wins for three reasons: It’s endearing to see GVM’s quirks in a flat-out silly script before he became the master of romance dramas/ redefined cop portrayals; the legendary album by Harris Jayaraj in his debut that inspired nostalgic comparisons with Rahman and Raaja; and finally, Madhavan himself as Aminjikarai Rajesh wooing Reema Sen: I mean, Abbas, go back to fanboying over Rajinikanth’s biceps.
Srivatsan S’s picks:
Kadhalika Neramillai (1964)
What’s there to say/write about Kadhalika Neramillai that has not been said/written already? With two (metrosexual?) men at the centre, CV Sridhar made what could possibly be one of the best urban, madly funny, musical drama Tamil cinema has ever produced. Yes, the plot might seem silly, even dated today. But Kadhalika.. is one of those silly-good movies that was quite self-aware about its absurdness. Will this generation (yes, the ‘90s kids) ever get the greatness of Baliah? Another common factor you’d find in my ‘comfort’ list is Nagesh. His omnipresence shall continue in every listicle I write. At least I owe him this much for his contribution to Tamil comedy. There will be theses written about how to set up a great comedy stretch, like the one with Nagesh and Balaiah’s.
P. S: What great songs by the great MSV? Naalaam Naalaam is my go-to song. What’s yours?
Moondru Deivangal (1971)
Is there a more comforting watch than Moondru Deivangal, the criminally-underrated movie in Sivaji Ganesan’s oeuvre? It had everything in its premise — from Crime and Punishment to Sense and Sensibility. It tracks the lives of three morally-ambiguous characters (Sivaji Ganesan, Nagesh and Muthuraman), who are forced to take refuge in a family, which forms the moral epicentre of the film’s universe. What captivated me when I first watched the film, apart from the maligai kadai track, is the chiffon shirts worn by the characters. It might seem out of fashion now, but I’m assuming it was cool back then. The title, basically, is an allegory on our acting Deivangal — Sivaji, Nagesh and Muthuraman.
Utharavindri Ulle Vaa (1971)
Wasn’t Utharavindri Ulle Vaa far ahead of its time? I’ll tell you why. It’s a movie that escapes from Tamil cinema’s conventions. It’s a movie that doesn’t judge a woman for seeking comfort in a house, filled with (urbane?) men. Of course, the men never miss a chance to flirt with her. Their approach, however, doesn’t come across as intrusive or vulgar, and was handled with great sensitivity. In other words, it was Modern Love. Plus, it had a terrific ensemble starting with thalaivan Ravichandran and Kanchana (I had a massive crush on her, I admit). Let me not get started on Rama Prabha’s phenomenal ‘naadha’ act with Nagesh. Four men take a vacation and sh*t happens. Doesn’t it read like the synopsis of The Hangover directed by Todd Phillips? Utharavindri Ulle Vaa could have been our very own Hangover franchise.
Pradeep Kumar’s picks:
Sure, the Coronavirus has put us humans on the back foot. It is forcing us to step up to the challenge it poses, and it seems like the virus would want us to prove a point at the end of it all. Who is that one man I could think of, who, when faced with similar odds, rose to the challenge and leapt up high just to prove a point? Who indeed! And cue Deva’s inspired lift off the James Bond theme music… When Rajinikanth thunders: “Assshooook” at Sarath Babu’s character, we know things were about to change. We just didn’t know it would happen over the course of a song.
Soon enough, when a vaccine is developed, it would be us (as Annaamalai) making the Coronavirus (sorry Sarath Babu) get off the chair, and I believe we will have the last laugh at the virus when we say, “Malai da… Annaamalai!” Cue Deva again for added comfort.
“Lingam?” “Yes… I’m Ramalingam, he is Sundaralingam” And Nagesh goes: “I’m Chokkalingam”. One of the finest comedies to date in Tamil cinema, Kaathala Kaathala is a laugh riot, and with an absolute riot of a song like Kaasumela Kaasu Vanthu thrown in the mix for good measure. A film which brought to light the underrated actor in the late MS Viswanathan. The ‘Appane Muruga’ gags, the impersonations, an effervescent Vadivelu and some clever dialogues make Kaathala.. the perfect antidote for a gloomy day at home.
How do you better Kaathala Kaathala? Winner is the answer. The meme king of Tamil cinema, Vadivelu runs away with the film, our hearts and our laughs in this Sundar C film, which is, for all purposes and reasons, less of a film and more a 150 minute comedy marathon. Oh, and did I forget to mention that Vadivelu was the one to introduce the concept of social distancing long before it became a trend forced down on us? Hey Coronavirus! Remember: “Intha kotta thaandi neeyum vara koodathu, naanum vara maaten!”
Srinivasa Ramanujam’s picks:
This one is right up there in the Kamal Haasan-Crazy Mohan combination series. It tells the story of Ramachandramurthy alias Ram all right, but also gives us a peek into the lives of his four best friends and how they bring the roof down by getting themselves into all sorts of trouble. Along with rib-ticking performances, the film also packs adequate doses of sentiment and songs. Watch out for the funny one-liners…a note of caution though: if you laugh too much for a joke, you will actually miss the next.
So yes, if you want to smile, watch Panchanthanthiram. If you want to laugh, watch Panchanthanthiram. If you want to roll on the floor laughing, watch Panchanthanthiram.
What better to do in these troubled times that to watch a film whose title translates to ‘happiness’?
This Lingusamy-directed flick has every element that you would associate with a ‘rural family subject’: the ones in which a doting family just can’t live without each other. Watch out for that one special sequence in which actor Abbas, away from home, telephones his family… every one, including the household help, must speak to him. With sappy music and emotional sequences, this film will make you long for a similar family — one that’s filled with happiness and smiles.
Aarilirunthu Arubathu Varai
Those young fans of Superstar Rajinikanth who are used to his ‘mass moments’ ought to watch this charming-yet-sad 1979 film to celebrate the performer in him. Rajinikanth raises a family with much love and concern, but they all leave him, one by one, in pursuit of opportunities and better lives.
This isn’t a happy film by any stretch of imagination, but the sheer way in which it communicated a point would put many message-drive films of today to shame.
In the end, we are all alone. Rajinikanth and SP Muthuraman told us this way back in 1979.