Director: Halitha Shameem
Cast: Samuthirakani, Sunaina, Leela Samson, Nivedhitaa Satish, Sara Arjun, KravMaga Sree Ram, K Manigandan
One of the little pleasures of watching an anthology is the exercise of wondering why the makers choose to tell these stories in a particular sequence. Should the pattern follow an ascending order of inventiveness, with the last short being the most ambitious? Or, should it be the opposite, like Amazon's Modern Love, which started off with the best, perhaps, to get us hooked, only for diminishing marginal utility to soon take over.
What Halitha Shameem has effectively done with Sillu Karupatti is invent another pattern. Of the four, one of the best takes the slot right before the interval; the other, the final one, leaves the Netflix-obsessed millennial asking for more.
Pink Bag, the opener, is the film you almost expect from the filmmaker who gave you Poovarasam Peepee, with 'cute' being the mood word. The titular pink bag is a curiously colourful garbage bag that ends up with one of the city's ragpicker boys. This bag, which he waits for every day, gives this short an epistolary form, with each delivery of trash presenting him with fresh treasures. A photograph of a young girl arrives first, followed by a cassette player, a ribbon and a half-used shampoo bottle, before something really valuable reaches him, albeit inadvertently. In his effort to return this, we get beautiful moments such as the one where he hides behind a trash can, in fear, as this new friend comes closer. Class is, of course, addressed, but it isn't the only topic the makers are interested in. Dialogues, too, take a back seat and Manoj Paramahamsa's visuals take over, giving us images of 'falling in love', which include a mosquito fogger being used for that dreamy smoke effect and mountains of trash replacing the customary Alps duet location.
At the opposite end of the age spectrum is Turtles, which uses the titular reptile as a metaphor to tell the story of two guarded seniors who finally find the courage to come out of their shells to fall in love or fall in love again. What it also gives us is oodles of old-world charm, including some delightful wordplay – a diabetic's desperate search for a sweet is misunderstood for a compliment and a cup of 'inji tea, with added dignity' is thrown into the mix. This much-needed dignity pervades every frame of this episode, balancing real-world issues of the elderly with some harmless romanticisation.
Kaaka Kadi, painted in Vijay Karthik Kannan's burnt-out visuals, is the closest we get to the conventional love story of mainstream Tamil cinema. The setting is as contemporary as it can get, with a meet-cute set in an Uber Pool. Mukilan (an excellent Manikandan) is the average daytime IT guy who turns mememaker by night, and Madhu, his co-commuter, is a fashion designer whose coat Mukilan steals for one of his vlogs. Yet, their love story is hardly commonplace. Cancer is involved, of a particularly masculine kind. But what the film does is destigmatise the "Tabu" ever so delicately with its everyday conversations that the topic is only given as much weightage as an obstacle in an otherwise ideal love story. It's always Madhu (played by the very personable Nivedhitaa Satish) who makes the first move, and her uppity attitude sells us lines as cheesy as Johnson and Johnson's 'No More Tears'. And when a film gets you to look at a crow pooping on the hero's shoulders as a sign of "true love", you know there's some magic in the writing.
But, it is Hey Ammu, the finale, which deals with post-marriage love (or the absence of it), that really surprises you with its depth. Amudhini (Sunaina, showing us how underrated she is) is introduced to us in a top angle shot as her husband Dhanapal (Samuthirakani) gets ready to go to bed. The three kids sleeping in between them tells us that we're seeing a 'long distance' relationship. Sex, for them, is something mechanical. There's no need for sweet words or foreplay. She knows when it's time to move to the other room, because sex has become routine…something her husband needs to fall asleep, like 'sleeping pills'.
Hey Ammu gives us a chilling look at this housewife and the loneliness that forms a part of her daily life, where the sounds of the tap dripping and the clock ticking are all that she has once her kids leave home for school, and her husband goes to work. But Dhanapal is not looked at as the enemy. Has he changed? He has, but the film gives him the space to be heard and a chance to change. And, for all the films about technology and AI ruining human existence, we finally have a story that subverts this notion to tell us that Alexa could just become your best friend. With these four stories, writer-director Halitha Shameem gives us an optimistic, yet deeply-moving takes on what constitutes the modern romance. What we receive, by the end of Sillu Karupatti, are love stories for the ages.