From Kuthiraivaal (2022) to Merku Thodarchi Malai (2018), these are the best Tamil movies on Netflix as of June 21, 2022.
Netflix India’s regional library of content is rather thin but if the recent spate of OTT releases and their reception is anything to go by, these are good times for both filmmakers and moviegoers to experiment and embrace all kinds of cinema. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Malayalam cinema naturally did well with their direct OTT releases. Though there was immense hype behind the Tamil direct OTT releases, the overall content has been pretty underwhelming. The few exceptions were the Prime Video releases of Soorarai Pottru (2020) and Jai Bhim (2021) – both featuring Tamil star-actor Suriya. On the other hand, Netflix’s over-hyped Jagame Thandhiram (2021) turned out to be a massive disappointment.
In fact, recent projects involving big stars of Tamil cinema have been rather terrible. Vijay starrer Beast, Suriya starrer Etharkum Thunindhavan, and Sivakarthikeyan starrer Don, all streaming on Netflix are fine examples of such substandard star outings. At the same time, Netflix has acquired some great independent films from Tamil cinema. This includes the underappreciated Merku Thodarchi Malai (2018) and Kadaseela Biryani (2021). So here’s a look at all that’s actually worth your time. We pick the best Tamil movies on Netflix, streaming as of June 21, 2022.
1. Kuthiraivaal (2022)
Produced by Pa. Ranjith and directed by Jason & Shyam Sunder, Kuthiraivaal (Horse Tail) is a Kafka-esque tale that doesn’t follow any of the conventions of Tamil cinema. The film revolves around Saravanan (Kalaiarasan), a lonely and depressed bank employee. One morning he wakes up to find a horse tail grown on his back. Naturally, Saravanan is perplexed, and he embarks on a journey to understand the reason for the growth of the tail.
Written by G.Rajesh, Kuthiraivaal is audacious, abstract as well as absurd. It has a lot of interesting philosophies and themes packed in. Of course, the film’s intellectual digressions and treatises don’t always work. Nevertheless, it’s fascinating to see wildly imaginative work in Tamil cinema.
2. Kadaseela Biryani (2021)
From Nalan Kumarasamy’s Soodhu Kaavum (2013) and Naveen’s Moodar Koodam (2013), Tamil cinema has started embracing dark comedies. Thyagaran Kumararaja’s Super Deluxe (2019) and Nelson’s Doctor (2021) are the recent great hits from the genre. Nishanth Kalidindi’s Kadaseela Biriyani is yet another delightful offering that manages to find humour in the darkest of situations. The narrative is centred on three brothers born to a bandit-like mother and a pacifist father. When the father is murdered by an influential businessman, the sons seek revenge.
Debutant filmmaker Nishanth’s writing and staging techniques consistently engage you. There isn’t a single boring moment in the film. The casting is another greatest strength of the film, and almost all the actors deliver an impressive performance.
3. Mandela (2021)
Madonne Ashwin, who’s previously worked as a writer on critically acclaimed films like Kurangu Bommai, makes his directorial debut with Mandela. The plot focuses on an inconsequential barber who becomes the deciding vote in a local body election. The film is held together by Yogi Babu’s stellar performance. In fact, it’s wonderful to see Yogi Babu in such a well-written role, and the actor effortlessly plays the role, accompanied by his strengths (his deadpan delivery is perfect). Otherwise, he is largely cast in silly comedic roles and is subjected to body-shaming.
Ashwin makes a quiet statement about governance and caste politics with a sensible screenplay that doesn’t dish out public service announcements in the name of a monologue. Watch out for Vidhu Ayyanna’s rich visuals of the village and Bharath Sankar’s soothing music.
4. Kannum Kannum Kollaiyadithaal (2020)
The trailers and posters of the film might lead you into believing it to be a regular boy-meets-girl romance. Director Desingh Periyasamy’s Kannum Kannum Kollaiyadithaal is anything but that. The film’s title is inspired by a song in Mani Ratnam’s adventure drama Thiruda Thiruda (1993). Like Mani Ratnam’s film, Periyasamy’s narrative also revolves around two rootless young criminals, who get caught in a more sinister plot.
Led by Dulquer Salmaan, Ritu Varma, Niranjani Ahathian, Gautham Menon, Rakshan, the heist romance comedy packs every element of a wholesome entertainer. The writing here is definitely derivative, but it works due to the interesting twists it keeps throwing at us.
5. Andhagaaram (2020)
Vignarajan’s directorial debut is a suspenseful non-linear thriller which eventually fizzles out due to silly twists and turns. But thanks to two brilliant performers, Vinod Kishan and Arjun Das, and the remarkable aesthetic choices, Andhagaaram remains mostly engaging. The film revolves around three individuals from different walks of life, and an interesting thread that connects these three.
Vignarajan painstakingly sets up his characters, and some of his visual choices are absolutely fantastic. At the same time, the filmmaker offers unexciting answers to the puzzle he meticulously sets up. Besides, there’s too much expository writing in the final-third of the narrative.
6. K.D. (2019)
Madhumitha’s K.D. chronicles the journey of an innocent, compassionate 80-year old K.D. (Mu Ramaswamy) trying to escape his family when he finds out they’re out to kill him, and the orphaned, witty and affectionate 8-year old Kutty. A gentle, heartwarming story, K.D. tugs at your heart and is sprinkled with life lessons abound without sermonising. A well-narrated effort coupled with sparkling lead performances, this is one of the best films of 2019.
My only grouse, it could’ve been a little tighter towards the end. But that doesn’t take away from an otherwise well-made, well-meaning film. The eminent theatre artist Mu Ramasamy and the talented child artist Nagavishal are phenomenal in the central characters.
7. Sillu Karuppatti (2019)
Anthology movies rarely work, especially the ones that deal with love and relationships. However, Halitha Shameem’s delightful quartet of romance tales in Sillu Karruppatti sets a new standard for Tamil as well as Indian cinema. The four stories focus on conflict-ridden yet hope-filled narratives of love. From a teenager’s crush to an elderly people’s beautiful connection, Halitha lends her characters great dignity and maturely handles the themes. The film never gets too dramatic and the filmmaker avoids easy stereotyping.
Halitha has also written and edited the film. She along with Leena Manimekalai (Maadathy), Madhumitha (KD), Lakshmi Ramakrishnan (Ammani, House Owner) bring a distinct female gaze to Tamil cinema.
8. Bahubali (2015-17)
The two Bahubali movies make you more than suspend disbelief. It takes you to the realm of the possible: gigantic waterfalls, a mythical kingdom, a rising to the clouds city, water to air transport, palace intrigues, unusual war sequences and so much more.
All choreographed and shot with such dexterity that it makes you marvel at human prowess and skill.
Indian cinema has seen or experienced nothing like this celestial madness. Rajamouli takes a conventional story of revenge and transplants it to this mythical kingdom. Imaginative set-pieces and a fine ensemble cast help elevate his storytelling. Now with the success of RRR, Rajamouli’s brand of commercial cinema is being recognized by Western audiences and critics alike.
9. Merku Thodarchi Malai (Western Ghats) (2018)
Lenin Bharathi’s stirring docu-drama is an important work among the new wave of Tamil films that focus on the state’s cultural, economic, and political reality. Unlike many didactic Tamil social dramas, Merku Thodarchi Malai is less concerned about (contrived) plot mechanics. In fact, it serves as an anthropological record, subtly documenting the rituals, livelihood and dreams of the landless labourers.
The film’s highlight is its first 40 minutes which unfold from a hamlet near the beautiful Western Ghats. We witness the villagers’ daily chores, which involve carrying heavy sacks of cardamom through rough, craggy terrain. The thin plot revolves around how one of these worker’s personal dreams is uprooted by the invisible and inhumane capitalist forces.
Easwar and Bharathi’s ethereal shots hold a sense of poignancy that convey something much more powerful than words. Let alone 2018, this is one of the decade’s best from Tamil cinema.
10. Sila Samayangalil (Sometimes) (2018)
Priyadarshan’s Netflix release benefits from hearty characters and precise observation of human condition. The storyline is simple. Seven frustrated strangers await the results of an HIV test.
Priyadarshan uses an aggravating atmosphere to reflect on the ultra-sensitive social environment. Prakash Raj plays one of the prominent characters, a distressed middle-aged man. The strong cast also includes Ashok Selvan, Sriya Reddy, MS Bhaskar, Shanmugarajan, and Anjali Rao. Unlike many Tamil films that focus on a social message, Sila Samayangalil doesn’t over-dramatize the situation. It gives us realistic characters whom we come across from all walks of life. The narrative has some pacing issues. Overall though, it’s an engaging character-driven social drama.
11. Super Deluxe (2019)
Kumararaja’s neo-noir is an exemplary work of art. It has a very unique and distinct style of storytelling that follows many different plots that merge together into a singularity.
Credits are in order to writers – Mysskin, Nalan Kumarasamy, Neelan K.Sekhar and Kumararaja. The best thing about this movie is its unpredictability and shock value. But then again, the twists weren’t created purely for shock value. There’s meaning and purpose behind them. The camerawork and cinematography are top-notch. So is the execution. The film takes simple everyday life stories and escalates them to an all-new level.
The capacity for creativity and the potential for imagination required to pull off something like this is what separates Super Deluxe from the ordinary. The marks of a true and talented filmmaker are all over this one.
12. Sarvam Thaala Mayam (2019)
This is a rarely explored genre in Tamil cinema. Sarvam Thaala Mayam is a beautifully realised musical about dreams and passion. A young movie fanatic is the son of a skilled mridangam craftsman. He is sent to deliver the instrument to a famous mridangam player, Vembu Iyer. The musician intrigues him to such an extent that he decides to become a musician himself. Music director GV Prakash offers one of his career-best performances in the central role, Peter.
The movie is full of moments that will make you smile, but this does not undermine its serious tone. Neither does the serious tone weigh it down with serious subjects. The movie is in perfect harmony.
13. Petta (2019)
Karthik Subbaraj’s Petta is a complete fan service that has no right to be as good as it actually is. The screen presence of the superstar is nothing to be scoffed at. He completely owns the show with his explosive style and classic Rajini swag. The filmmaker populates the narrative with entertaining references from Rajinikanth’s classic hits.
The interconnected and complicated plotlines are an icing on the cake. The performances by the other actors are also quite amazing. The action is breathtaking. The stunt work is phenomenal and the quick action cuts are almost revolutionary. The emotional magnificence of the film is not as pronounced but it is not too bad either.
14. Game Over (2019)
Game Over comes out on top of every aspect as a complete and utterly brilliant film. It deals with the psychological condition of “anniversary reaction” triggered by a post-traumatic stress disorder. Game Over keeps you on the edge with its twists and turns and never lets you go. It holds you captive with its mystique and suspense.
Tapsee Pannu turns in an amazing performance. The plot is remarkable and the film original and quite brave in its approach to video games, using the medium to its full potential. It redefines thrillers and cinema as a whole. But most importantly, it’s fascinating to see a Tamil cinema maturely handle themes of mental health and trauma.
There we are! These are the best Tamil movies on Netflix available for streaming right now. If you are done watching these, you can add some of the older good Tamil films to your watchlist. Anbe Sivam (2002), Kannathil Mutthamittal (2002), the greatly entertaining Rajinikanth starrer Sivaji (2006), and Bombay (1995). Sethum Aayiram Pon (2020), Mugizh (2021), Pandigai (2017), Oththa Seruppu (2019), and Irandam Ulagaporin Kadaisi Gundu (2019) are flawed yet watchable Tamil films streaming on the platform.
Oththa Seruppu and Gundu are particularly known for their fresh narrative premise. Are there other interesting titles worth exploring that we missed? Let’s talk in the comment below.
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You missed Super Deluxe