Usually we would have gone with choosing five or ten films from each language in South cinema for our best of lists annually. But the party-pooper pandemic had not only limited the releases that came out this year, but also limited our mental strength to go into a theatre and enjoy a film. Thanks to the services of OTT Platforms, some of the movies came straight to our living room. From Anushka Shetty’s Nishabdam to Dulquer Salmaan’s Maniyarayile Ashokan, 7 South Films of 2020 That Released Directly on OTT and Left Us Annoyed!
Before the lockdown was imposed in March, we did have films of superstars like Rajinikanth, Mammootty, Mohanlal, Allu Arjun, Mahesh Babu etc gracing the theatres. Most of them were disappointing, but a couple of them were more than decent. And then after the lockdown, most of the films entered OTT space. Not all were good, but there have been some pleasant surprises.
In this special year-ender feature, we choose 10 films from South that impressed us the most in 2020.
Kannum Kannum Kollaiyadithaal
A romcom that is also a heist thriller, Kannum Kannum Kollaiyadithaal is charming in most of the portions, and benefits from a lovely chemistry between Dulquer Salmaan and Ritu Varma. The twists and turns may be very predictable, but it is the treatment that makes this film so appealing.
Ka Pae Ranasingam
One of the victims of lockdown, this social drama was pushed to a pay per view release on Zee Plex, but turned out to be a profitable venture for the platform (unlike a certain Khaali Peeli). Aishwarya Rajesh is excellent in the lead role, while Vijay Sethupathi reigns on the screen in a more supporting capacity.
Soorarai Pottru, directed by Sudha Kongara (also watch out for her short Thangam in the Netflix anthology Paava Kadhaigal) is a well-made underdog film inspired by real-life stories. Suriya is scintillating in the lead role, underplaying his mass appeal and yet manages to make his common man role extraordinary. And of course, who can forget Aparna Balamurali's scene-stealing performance as the protagonist's strong better half!
Plot-wise, this Trivikram Srinivas film may not have anything new to offer. It is a typical family entertainer, but what makes Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo so appealing is that the 'entertainer' aspect works impressively with its riveting blend of romance, humour, songs and family drama. The "Butta Bomma" song proves that COVID-19 is not the only rage of 2020. But of course, the real reason why Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo works is because of its lead star, Allu Arjun, who is absolutely fabulous, be it in delivering laughs, putting up the smooth dance moves as always, and delivering mass moments with panache!
Middle Class Melodies
While Vijay Deverakonda had a forgettable year with a disappointing World Famous Lover, his younger brother Anand leads a lovely family entertainer that came straight on Amazon Prime. The strength of the film, apart from a nice chemistry between Deverakonda and Varsha Bollamma, is in its simplicity and its ability to surprise you without the need to go overboard.
The second film in this list to revolve around food (after Middle Class Melodies), this Kannada film is a very decent smorgasbord of entertaining elements. It does suffer from length issues and screenplay niggles, but overall, Bheemasena Nalamaharaja is a well-acted, feel-good entertainer. Also its music is just fabulous!
A coming of age drama, this Malayalam film stars The Family Man fame Neeraj Madhav in the lead role. The young actor, who is very naturally talented, performs the role with enough finesse, as a young man who has to deal with the fact that his first car is a Nano. The movie is very heartening and also emotional, with a surprising third act.
Can't help but feel a twinge of sadness when I write about Ayyappanum Koshiyum. The film turns out to be swansong of its director Sachy, who passed away a couple of months after its release. Ayyappanum Koshiyum remains Sachy's best film, both as a writer and director, as it deals with uncompromising clash of male bravados. Both Prithviraj Sukumaran and Biju Menon are excellent in the lead roles, aided by a fantastic supporting cast.
One of the loveliest feel-good entertainers of the year, Varane Avashyamund marks the debut of the producer in Dulquer Salmaan and the directorial debut of Sathyan Anthikkad's son Anoop Sathyan. Dulquer, however, takes a smaller role in the film, instead letting veterans Suresh Gopi and Shobana (recalling their wonderful chemistry of yore) and an affable Kalyani Priyadarshan shine in the spotlight. While Varane Avashyamund may not offer any novel plotline, what works for the film are its endearing moments and nice blend of humour and drama.
C U Soon
Inspired by Hollywood film Searching, Take/Off director Mahesh Narayanan gives us one of the best experimental thrillers of Malayalam cinema in recent times. Shot through iPhones, and portrayed entirely through laptop screens and mobile phones, the director proves that even lockdown shouldn't be a reason to curb your creativity. Also it boasts of excellent performances from the cast - be it a likeable Roshan Mathew, a stupendous Fahadh Faasil (who is also terrific in Trance) and Darshana Rajendran in the best performance of the film.
(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Dec 22, 2020 10:40 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website latestly.com).