There is a genre called mock epics that adapt the heroic style of classical epic poems to write about trivial subjects. Putham Pudhu Kaalai, released on the OTT platform Amazon Prime in the month of September, is one such film and what I found was a brilliant example of self-mockery.
It has now become a regular sight to see trolls, especially on the Internet, swarming towards a film to attack more often than not. Which is why, Putham Pudhu Kaalai,, with an ability to laugh at itself and pull its own leg, is endearing.
Putham Pudhu Kaalai is an anthology of five stories, all of which has been shot and narrated with the 21-day COVID-19 lockdown as its setting. Directed by five prominent directors of the Tamil film Industry: Sudha Kongara, Gautham Menon, Suhasini Maniratnam, Rajiv Menon and Kartik Subbaraj, Putham Pudhu Kaalai translates to A Brand New Dawn and is a light-hearted take on second chances, new beginnings and desires.
While we are at it, I’d request the readers to imagine a white-washed wall with extremely artistic home decor, as I begin to brief the first four stories.
The first film Ilamai Idho Idho in Putham Pudhu Kaalai hums old Tamil film melodies and is about two senior citizens reinventing love and accepting its ageless beauty.
The second in Putham Pudhu Kaalai is Avarum Nanum-Avalum Naanum by Gautham Vasudev Menon, which narrates the story of the reunion of a grandfather and his estranged grand-daughter. Both parties transcend their differences and build a bond that they never thought they’d nurture in the first place.
The third Putham Pudhu Kaalai story, directed by Suhasini Maniratnam, called Coffee, Anyone? is a take on yet another miraculuous turn of events, wherein a mother, in a state of comatose, is visited by her two daughters, who keep their differences aside, to do so. The reunion leads to an improvement in the mother’s condition, who eventually recovers fully from the comatose.
The fourth Putham Pudhu Kaalai, called Reunion, explores second chances, both romantically as well as personally, where a singer finds herself forced to spend time at the house of a friend (who has now become a doctor), whom she happened to reconnect during the lockdown. As the doctor and his mother helps the singer to get back on her feet after an emotional breakdown, the latter decides to seek professional help. Towards the end, the doctor also somewhat confesses his love for the singer.
Filled with positivity, these four Putham Pudhu Kaalai shorts will lead the audience to continue to believe in love and second chances, and not lose hope because a miracle is probably just around the corner.
Then comes the fifth story of Putham Pudhu Kaalai titled ‘Miracle’ by Karthik Subbaraj. It’s funny how this short is a subversive take on what Putham Pudhu Kaalai was offering us so far: A commentary on the irony of miracles, this is the only film that brought the harsh realities of lockdown starvations and turns the whole miracle business on its head with its narrative.
There are three main characters: a filmmaker and two thugs who want to make a lot of money and a guruji (who comes on TV). Three of the main characters – the director and the two thieves are watching the spiritual baba’s talks on miracles which he assures can change one’s life at any point of time. While the director needs to make some quick cash to make his film, the two thieves want to make money so that they can eat some biryani.
One night, the thieves try to remove a car tyre to sell and get some money. They then head to a building nearby, thinking it is a software company to steal laptops. There they find a bundle of cash and a person who was poisoned. They run away in fear, leaving behind the tyre they had stolen from the car. Later they realise that what they stole was duplicate money and the building was a film production house. On the other side, the filmmaker finds the tyre to find that it was full of money. He jumps with happiness as a result. The two thieves meanwhile manage to get food from social workers.
This short in Putham Pudhu Kaalai is important because it explicity mocks the narrative of miracles. It uses the word miracle multiple times to showcase the emptiness of its promise and takes you to a different space where walls are used and broken, different from the beautiful walls of beautiful homes housing beautiful stories that we had envisioned watching the other four stories. Miracle takes you to characters who have no money to have lunch: From white washed walls to broken wrinkled houses, from white and clean clothes to old and dilapidated ones, from post-modern worries of existence to hunger …and so on.
This Putham Pudhu Kaalai short mocks the miracle that makes the rich richer and the poor poorer. For the poor, managing to eat one time’s meal itself is a great miracle.