Anthologies: A Format that Needs A Reformat

Today’s feature is about the emerging trend of Anthologies. Initially anthologies were only made in Hindi starting from Bombay Talkies but now the trend has stepped into Telugu and Tamil as well. The reason for anthologies to be interesting is that it gives filmmakers an opportunity to explore different genres, it also gives an opportunity for actors to play different parts. Of late, the genre is losing its shine as a result of stories which are one dimensional. Case in point being Paava Kadhiagal along with the recently released Pitta Kathalu. But before that I will give a brief description about six anthologies, four of which I liked and two I didn’t.

The first one is Bombay Talkies. It is a collection of four stories directed by Karan Johar, Zoya Akhtar, Dibakar Banerjee and Anurag Kshyap. It was made as a celebration of 100 years of Indian cinema. The stories were about how cinema impacts the life of the common man except for the first one directed by Karan Johar. The first one was about homosexuality and in a way an odd one out. But that didn’t become bothersome as it was about breaking out from your shackles and coming to terms with your sexuality. Out of the four this one was my favourite.

Onir’s I am was more serious given the issues that it tackled from child abuse to Kashmir etc. In spite of the heaviness of these themes it was thought provoking and never boring or depressing. The anthology felt necessary and was a welcome break from the commercial format.  

The third one is Putham Pudu Kaalai. It is an anthology set in the times of COVID- 19 and deals with lives of the people amidst the pandemic.

In Putham Pudu Kaalai the first four stories are set in the upper middle class milieu except for the last one directed by Karthik Subbaraj. The story of Karthik Subbaraj is about two thieves and through them the director talks about how greed leads to nothing. It also explores how miracles can indeed happen sometimes.

The best way to describe Putham Pudu Kaalai would be as an uplifting exploration of love and longing amid the pandemic. My favourite story out of the five is the first one directed by Sudha Kongara. The story is about a reunion between two lovers in their middle age and how the lockdown enables them to enjoy the company of each other. One of the major reasons why the story works is due to the chemistry between Jayaram and Urvasi. 

 The last one is Unpaused, just like Putham Pudu Kaalai this anthology is also heart warming. One of the stories in Unpaused is about a woman who thinks of killing herself after she discovers that her husband is a sexual predator. But just then a stranger rings the bell.  Apartment talks about finding your inner strength and shows that death is not the solution. In totality the anthology was both uplifting and melancholic. 

Now let’s move to Paava Kadhaigal and Pitta Kathalu. All the stories of Paava Kaidhagal revolve around caste and Honour killings. There is nothing wrong in making films about caste and honour but it should not be in such a way that it makes you lose faith in human beings. In all the four stories the parents are the villains which is even more disturbing. Vetremaran’s segment particularly made me angry. It was too prolonged and it also didn’t help that you had fine actors like Prakash Raj and Sai Pallavi. Because of their acting you feel the pain more. 

In Pitta Kathalu three of the four stories portray women as villains. For example in the first story you have Lakshmi Manchu’s character who takes advantage of a girl in order to rise in politics. It is a typical story which vilifies an ambitious woman. Nag Ashwin’s X Life is the only different one in the anthology. It talks about people’s obsession with gadgets and how they are losing the human touch.  I would end by saying that it is high time that the filmmakers reflect on the kind of stories they are making just because they have freedom. They need to move out of stories which have abuses, extramarital affairs etc.

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