Sunday, January 14, 2018

Top 15 Tamil Movies of 2017

It is that time of year again to make our Top 15 list. As always, we need to remind you we did not watch EVERY Tamil film that came out this year. Only some were shown at our local cinemas. The rest we had to watch on DVD, hence the late update.

So let the countdown begin:

15) Baahubali 2
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The only reason this film is not higher up on this list is for one simple reason - laziness. For such a big budget blockbuster, this film forgets one thing that its prequel did so well - keeping its promise to be a bilingual. The filmmakers simply chose to dub over some integral scenes in Telugu into Tamil rather than shoot everything in both languages. The lip-sync errors are so obvious it takes you out of the movie. Despite this major flaw, the story, action sequences, cinematography and visual effects are all top notch and worth your time.

14) Thupparivaalan
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There is a big difference between being inspired by someone else's work and ripping off other's work. This is a prime example of the former. Director Myskin makes a film that is entirely original based on characters from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, who has been given credits in the film's opening. The film stays loyal to not only its source material's characters but how the story typically unfolds. What starts of as a small case slowly leads up to a much more serious crime. If only it was edited better without revealing the antagonists' identity so early in the film, it would have been as good as BBC's Sherlock series.

13) Maayavan
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Watching this film was like watching a two hour version of an episode of Black Mirror, just with less social commentary and more fast paced action. This is really a one of a kind sci-fi mystery thriller to come out of Kollywood. The cast gives a great performance and the suspense keeps us at the edge of our seats. But if only the film had stayed more loyal to the Black Mirror formula, it would have been much higher up this list. Instead, director CV Kumar chose to spoon-feed most things to the audience with countless exposition accompanied by visuals that made parts of the film seem like a science lesson. However, these minor flaws can be looked over considering how entertaining the overall film is.

12) Kaatru Veliyidai
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This film proves that even at his most average, Mani Ratnam is better than your average Tamil film director. If there is one thing all critics can agree on is the technical aspects of this film are solid, as in all Mani Ratnam films. Mani does well in making love stories as he always grounds them in the reality of the masses. His love trilogy - Mouna Ragam, Alaipayuthey and OK Kanmani all revolved around urban middle-class Tamil-speaking people. However, if we can look pass Kaatru Veliyidai Kashmiri setting and predominantly northern Indian cast, we will find a beautiful love story that transcends time and place.

11) Pandigai
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Another great piece of work by a debut director, this film is one of the best heist films to come out in recent times. For a film that starts out as what seems to be an Indian version of Fight Club, the interval block twist suddenly moves the plot into a heist story about a group of young men trying to redeem themselves. What stops the film from being one of a kind is it has the stereotypical bubbly heroine and the comic-relief best friend. Apart from that, this is a film with some genuine surprises that will hold your attention right up to the very end.

10) Taramani
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A film about a young single mother who has a live-in relationship with a man she is only dating? This film makes OK Kanmani and Iraivi seem so tame. Just like how the male lead's preconceived notions about a woman's role in a relationship is challenged, so is the audience's. Although the director's voice over can be a little annoying at times, this is overall a well-made drama film that explores how urban India is adapting to changes coming in from western culture.

9) Aruvi
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What is left to say about this film that has not been said? This is one of those rare films that will make you cry, laugh, and feel all kinds of other emotions at once. Our heroine, Aruvi is a lovable and happy-go-lucky young lady who had a blessed childhood and grows up into a beautiful and confident college girl. Then, something happens to her that changes her life forever. Director Arun Purushotaman leads us to believe one thing about our protagonist. Then, he drops a bomb on us that shows us that we are no different than the members of society who he is making us go against. The satirical aspects of the film could have been more subtler, but the ending will make you forget all its flaws and haunt you for days.

8) Theeran Adhigaram Ondru
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Imagine a Gautham Menon script directed by KS Ravikumar. That is the best way to describe this film which is based on the real life Tamil Nadu police operation that led to the capture of the murderous Bawariya criminal tribes in Uttar Pradesh over a decade ago. This film could have been so much higher on this list if only the technical aspects matched the maturity of its story. The over the top action scenes, the buildup for certain characters, the comical love angle and the throbbing background score stop the film from being different. Otherwise, this is undoubtedly one of the best police films to come out of Tamil cinema in recent years.

7) Aval
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Aval joins the ranks of Maya as some of the few straight up Tamil horror thrillers in the pool of Chandramukhi wannabes. The fact that the intimate scenes between our male and female leads not making headlines for the wrong reasons goes to show how mature Tamil film goers are these days. That is not the only reason this film has an adult certificate. The film gets violent and brutal whenever it has to be for more than just shock value. The story is not entirely original but the gripping screenplay and the incredible technical aspects keep us intrigued from beginning to end.

6) Kurangu Bommai
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If you have watched it, then you will agree that no other film has shocked you as much as this one. Despite revolving around serious subject matters like smuggling and the search for a lost father, the film still manages to be somewhat fun and lighthearted. The big reveal at the very end will leave you breathless for a moment or two. It has been sometime since Bharathiraja has directed a film as big as his name, but in this film, he plays the role of the male lead's father with such endurance and love that you will remember this character no matter how big the revelation at the end is.

5) Maanagaram
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It is hard to believe that most of the people behind the scenes of the crew are first-timers. For such an intense suspense thriller, the director cleverly weaves in humour every now and then. Unlike most Tamil thriller films, the love track in this film plays an integral part to the overall story. An interesting part of the film is some story arcs are left open-ended and we as the audience are left to decide the fate of some of the characters involved. Even at the very end, when our two male leads finally come together, the director refuses to reveal what actually happens to them after that.

4) Kadugu
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Here is another film on this list that challenges the stereotypical role of the male hero in a Tamil movie. Bharath ticks all the boxes - he is handsome, musclebound, brave, kind and morally righteous. But he is also selfish. When he witnesses a man of power taking advantage of his position, he chooses to turn a blind eye. Rajakumaran, the second hero, is an unattractive and timid character. The third hero, Bharath Seeni, is for the most part a pushover who cannot stand up for himself when the first Bharath steals away his love interest. How these three heroes' stories come together is makes for a compelling story on what is right and what is wrong.

3) 8 Thottakkal
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Somebody give M. S. Bhaskar an National Award already! His performance itself deserves a watch, but that is not the only great thing about this film. First time director Sri Ganesh has a few surprises up his sleeve. His hero is not your usual ultra-macho super cop. What starts of as a slow-burning police procedural thriller makes a 360 degree turn in the second half and becomes a drama film. If you can look past the annoying song sequences, then this film's outright refusal to abide by regular Kollywood conventions makes it an absolute winner.

2) Vikram Vedha
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The film is very self-aware as a gangster origin movie. As this year's Thani Oruvan, the hero and anti-hero have great chemistry that works well on screen. Apart from the flashbacks that happen too frequently and inorganically, this film will keep you on the edge of your seat. The film not only has a gripping plot with several twists and turns, it has great character development that allows us to understand both male leads' motivation, particularly Vijay Sethupathi's anti-hero character.

1) Kuttram 23
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While Gautham Menon was busy making movies like Neethane En Ponvasantham, Yeto Vellipoyindhi Manasu, Ekk Deewana Tha and a slew of other often delayed projects, Arivazhagan has taken over his place as the ace director in making cop thrillers. It is not everyday that we get a medical thriller from Tamil cinema and that itself makes this film unique. Inspired by a novel by writer Rajesh Kumar, the movie is fast paced but still manages to maintain its mystery element for a shocking reveal in the climax.

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