2016 has seen a humoungous amount of movies getting released every week. Out of all these movies, not even a meagre 15% make this list, and when I sat down to make one, the bad, worse and the worst movies ovetook the good ones by a huge number. So, let us end this year with positivity by having a discussion on the good movies alone. Here goes the list, which has three categories- Good, Better and Best.
The movies have been listed in terms of their release date, and not on any other basis.
Thaarai Thappattai: Carrying the tagline ‘a film by Bala’, it stayed true to its name with the lives of street dancers and local artists shown in the most realistic way possible. Though it can’t be watched by everyone, we have to agree that it was yet another true film from the repertoire of Bala, with Ilaiyaraja Sir’s rousing, red-blooded score which took us back to his glory days.
Sethupathi: The first of many Vijay Sethupathi films this year, which had some solid masala moments that lifted a rather ordinary script. VJS was at his nonchalant best, giving us a different version of the Kollywood Cop, who exuded coolth and red-bloodedness simultaneously at equal proportions. Arun Kumar has to be applauded for bringing this version of cop to Tamil Cinema, who is primarily a husband and a father.
Kanithan: A movie that didn’t break any ground, but was a racy, punchy thriller for most of its runtime. The bottomline was simple- If you voice against injustice, you’ll be crushed and punished. Kanithan made most of this taking Journalism as its key weapon.
Pichaikkaran: It made headlines twice for completely different reasons. The movie had a wonderful premise, but was wasted because of numerous reasons. Yet, the movie did strike a chord with the audience in a huge way, just because of its core plot being easily relatable to the day-to-day happenings.
Manithan: Manithan was an honest remake, which did its job to perfection. It was a good comeback for Udhayanidhi after a string of flops, with Prakash Raj and Radha Ravi having pivotal roles to support the movie. Another good point about the movie was the director never tried changing the script for the hero, which in itself was a success.
Velainu Vandutta Vellaikaaran: VVV was all about one man- Robo Shankar and his laugh-your-lungs-out stretch of comedy, which will remain in the top for long. Soori too had a very good outing, and if the creative team had thought of a proper story for these laughs, this might’ve turned into an epic in this genre. But it did what it was set out to do- make people laugh.
Dharmadurai: The next of a slew of Vijay Sethupathi movies in this list, Dharmadurai had an outstanding premise, which was let down to a slight extent because of an indifferent attempt at staging the scenes. But it had some beautiful songs, lovely cinematography and an honest attempt at saying something properly.
Rekka: Yet another Vijay Sethupathi movie that finds itself in this list is Rekka. It was preposterous, but thoroughly entertaining and it revitalised the formulaic masala genre with a relatively successful oomph. The reason for the film to become so entertaining was just because of the director’s decison to go full bonkers while driving himself mad.
Achcham Yenbadhu Madamaiyada: A different kind of GVM movie, which changed the structure of a masala movie. It had a typical GVM movie first half and a second half which was atypical of GVM, only to end up with a weak climax. But, it stood out for some mesmerising music from AR Rahman, terrific acting from STR (in a welcome return to form) and an assured debut from Manjima Mohan.
Saithan: Yet another movie which had an outstanding premise, only to be let down by indifferent filmmaking, especially in the second half. One thing that makes me sit with astonishment is the knack of Vijay Anotny in choosing superb scripts with a gulf of difference in the genres of his successive movies. Had the original story been taken further, this would’ve become an instant classic.
Jil Jung Juk: A quirky, riotous movie, where everything clicked from the start except the factor of cohesion, which was found wanting at a few places. But it exuded style, coolth and panache which is rarely seen in Tamil cinema. Add to that the terrific original score from Vishal Chandrasekar, this was a very good movie. Had the last 30 minutes found the same amount of quirk, this would’ve been in the next list.
Kadhalum Kadandhu Pogum: This is the fourth of the six VJS movies that have been released this year, and this was a heavy plot handled in the subtlest of ways possible. Aided by the terrific performances from the leads and a simple, yet superb score from SaNa, this movie struck most chords perfectly. Nalan Kumarasamy is an astounding writer, but he has to improve his vision as a director to give us more appealing, visually pleasing products in the future.
Thozha: A simple plot. An honest remake. It was never trying to be classy, and had a lot of rough edges, but was consistently entertaining, making us feel warm-fuzzy in the process. Karthi and Nagarjuna gave us a near perfect bromance, which helped the movie to flow seamlessly throughout its runtime. After all, it is entertainment that we need from a movie and it delivered that to perfection.
Zero: A very different, underrated attempt which was aesthetic, had solid filmmaking, and was aided by a superlative soundtrack. While the first 3 quarters of the movie gave us an enthralling experience, the last quarter meandered along towards a rough path to stop itself going into a narrow territory of terrific movies. This must probably be one of the least watched movies of 2016, and it didn’t deserve this fate.
Vetrivel: Another underrated attempt, which had a simple story which was conceived superbly. The director has to be applauded for keeping this simple and letting the characters speak through their completely constructed arcs, and a solid soundtrack which gave the film a boost of sorts. It also had a terrific supporting cast and an assured performance from Sasikumar to shore things up. Sometimes, it is nice to keep things at the rudimentary level to succeed. Kudos to Vasanthamani for that.
Oru Naal Koothu: Yet another simple story which was more character driven, and had some solid actors to accompany the job the director had set out to do. Nelson Venkatesan shaped the characters up in a way where the story can be seen from anyone of the leads’s point of view. The score of Justin Prabakaran gave the much needed impetus, and the drama unfolded in a beautiful way. The only problem was the last act, which ended in a haphazard fashion and let the movie down a notch.
Kabali: In the last 2 decades, we were not able to see the subtler side of Rajinikanth’s acting, or even the actor in him, excluding his style and showboating. The problem with Ranjith was he thought if doing a lot of things and ended up spraying everything, which gave us a bit of a muddled product. But, SaNa’s outstanding album, brilliant work from the technical team, Ranjith’s dialogues, the performances from each and every actor and the Superstar himself, propelled this film to a different level and made this a blockbuster.
Kuttrame Thandanai: In what was Manikandan’s second outing after Kaaka Muttai, he and a pretty simple theme- Karma is a bitch and What is required is the right thing (Edhu thevaiyo.. Adhu dharmam.) The card of subversion was played ever so subtly, and it gave him magnificent results. Tunnel vision played a major part in the movie, and the way through which the story could’ve been perceived brought the astute thinker in Manikandan to the fore.
Kodi: This movie set an example of how a commercial movie could be, with wonderfully written characters, a solid story, and a terrific screenplay where things kept happening throughout. The only problem for the movie was the underwhelming performance of Trisha in a role which needed a lot of power, cunningness and vigour to carry that off. Though the dialogues, Dhanush and other factors pulled the movie forward, Trisha’s performance stopped it from becoming the best of its kind.
Chennai 28: II Innings: This was the comeback vehicle Venkat Prabhu was craving for, and the boys gave him back in some style. A thoroughly enjoyable movie, which was ably supported by a series of running gags despite having a weak plot with bloated drama. Siva struck good with his one liners, and it was so good to see him come back to do what he’s best doing at. Yuvan Shankar Raja’s brilliant score (especially Gopi’s Bat Theme and Marudhupandi’s theme being standouts), lovely visuals and some spirited performances from the whole cast gave the movie the much needed lift.
Irudhi Suttru: A heartwarming, though predictable boxing drama, which had its heart in the right place, with a knockout performance from Ritika Singh, and a script which talked to the audience in a solid, emotional way. Madhavan played second fiddle in an exceptional way, and it was ably supported by SaNa’s awesome score. It was a mind blowing way to start the year, and Sudha has to be credited for taking Tamil Cinema into the territories it didn’t explore till then.
Visaranai: A chilling, absorbing, outstandingly effective drama, which was brutally honest in showing how the system toys with the common man. In what was a no-mercy-will-be-shown movie, everyone felt chills down their spines because of the levels of audacity this movie was able to bring constantly. An absolute masterclass from Vetrimaaran, which doesn’t need an Oscar to prove its worth. Helped by an otherworldly sound design, a brilliant, terrific Samuthirakani, this movie will certainly go down in the history books.
24: 24 was a gobsmacking comeback vehicle for Suriya, which he was craving for a long time. In what was probably one of the best screenplays written in Tamil cinema, Vikram Kumar effectively mixed science and fiction to tell us a story in the very desi way possible, unleashing the performer in Suriya in the process. Athreya will be remembered as one of the best antagonists of Tamil cinema, and Vikram Kumar will not be forgotten for giving us such a wonderful product, which, despite having one or two flaws, was so efficient in carrying itself through.
Uriyadi: Surprise package number one of 2016. Nobody knew Vijay Kumar before the movie had released, and the way he handled such a difficult, political, caste based movie with such grace and to justify the A certificate with the amount of violence that the film required, it was mind blowing. Outstanding stunt choreography, superb score and a terrific screenplay backed the movie to the hilt, while the few amateurish attempts at acting did show up as a minor blemish, which can easily be neglected.
Iraivi: Karthik Subbaraj gave us an extraordinary piece of cinema, yet again. SJ Suryah carried the whole movie throughout, which was woven by a complex, intricate, yet a lovely script which has to be seen a multiple times to be understood. A lot of undercurrents ran through the entirety of its runtime, backed by oh-so-wonderful performances and a beautiful score. The only problem was the complexity of the script and the patience it demanded from the viewers, which didn’t make it a grand success. This is a different kind of feminist movie which subverts all the clichés, and is a movie to be celebrated.
*Aandavan Kattalai: Movie of the year-2016. Manikandan gave us yet another comedy of desperation, which was glorious, marvelous yet remained understated throughout. Manikandan and his writing team have to be given due credit for shaping this script up in a way it reached everyone in the society. Vijay Sethupathi had 6 of his movies released in 2k16, had all 6 in my list, and the best movie is also his. What an year he’s had! Once again, the supporting cast, the technical team, the music department gave us a memorable movie watching experience. This was another simple story based on simple morals, which had its heart at the right place. Rithika Singh was outstanding yet again in a completely different role, and this is a movie which must never be taken out of our memories. This movie has put us into a position of expecting nothing but the best from Manikandan’s future works.
Ammani: It was a textured, layered drama, which had solid performances from everyone who played a part in moving the story. K gave us a score which we can remember for long, and Lakshmy Ramakrishnan reminded us of her ability as a filmmaker. This gritty little film was bold on telling the simple things, and proved how different life can play out depending on the situations. This movie deserved more, and I hope it gets its due at some point in the future.
Dhuruvangal Pathinaaru (D-16): I’m coming to the end of the list with what was a brilliant movie (surprise package number 2 of 2k16), which is a fitting one to end our list. This movie was on my must-watch list right from the time it’s trailer was released. Karthick Naren told us a simple script of a procedural in the most complex, nonlinear way possible, springing some unexpected twirls and turns in the process of doing so. Rahman’s performance gave this movie the much needed momentum, and the style of narration is sure to leave people spellbound. This is a movie not to be missed, and for all the so-called senior filmmakers, this is a lesson on how to make a film with solid, assured writing.
This ends my list of the movies that impressed me in 2016 at some level, and I hope the count increases the next year. By the way, Happy New Year, everyone!