Putham Pudhu Kaalai Vidiyaadhaa review: Five lockdown stories that resonate wonderfully with everyone

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‘Putham Pudhu Kaalai Vidiyaadhaa’ is an anthology of five stories created by contemporary film-makers Halitha Shameem, Balaji Mohan, Richard Anthony, Surya Krishna and Madhumita.

A year ago we watched stories that were meant to be about the lockdown, but we knew they were only partially connected to the pandemic. We are all veterans of solitude now, used to the silences that surround us, some of us even mourning in silence the loss of friends and family. It is universally known that January gets a raw deal when it comes to content. Movies and shows that could not make the cut during the holidays are all thrown at us in January. But then there’s this! And the stories are magical.

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I should stop right here because you might want to turn to Amazon Prime Video now to watch. But just in case you are sharing the big screen with kids lining up to watch Encanto on Disney+Hotstar or parents who need to play catch up with Succession or Foundation, let me share why you should watch these five stories.

If you have someone to hold hands with you, then watch the third story first. Joju George and Nadia Moidu are a couple who’ve been married for years, and the only thing between them are uncomfortable silences. There’s a reason why she writes her grocery list on the blackboard and they sleep in separate rooms. It’s lockdown time. And I watched the two interact and my heart was filled with love and anguish. We’ve all been there. When you’re so deeply hurt by your spouse’s actions that you cannot say another word to them. “Mouname Paarvaayi” is aptly named. Silences between spouses have never been more eloquently shown than in this story.

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Sometimes the company of strangers is real therapy. The second film in the anthology is titled “The Loners”. Some of us are alone by choice, and this pandemic has thrust loneliness upon others. Lijomol Jose of Jai Bhim fame and Arjun Das play the lead roles in “The Loners”. Those conversations will make you call your best friend just to hear them tell you about their everyday ordinary things to make you feel good.

The next story resonated with me so much, I emptied a tissue box when the story barely started. A busy young executive receives a phone call that we’ve all come to dread during this lockdown. She has lost her father to Covid. There’s so much to take in, you would have to be a stone to not be affected by this story. Sure, the masked dancers that follow her were annoying to me, but you can let it go because it is tough to show agitated thoughts on screen. This story is called “Nizal Tharum Idham”, and it underlines the value of not putting off that phone call to parents and loved ones staying away from you. If they’re gone, we will have to live with regret for the rest of our lives. Better to pick up that phone and call, no?

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“Mugakavasa Mutham” is a lovely story, the first in the anthology, and it has so much warmth, I was smiling through the telling of this tale of cops on lockdown duty (horrendous actually, because we were safe in our homes and they were out there catching people who tried to wander about during the lockdown). The two cops helping lovers out is a very sweet tale.

Last, but not the least, is a story about a young lad who works from home (the quintessential IT guy, as per the explanation on the Amazon Prime Video website) lives with his parents and is unable to tell them that he’s in love with a young man, that he’s gay. He tries to rent a home with his love Paul, but tries to hide the fact that they are together. Paul is tired of pretending and gets mad at Arjun. An irritated Arjun tries to tell his parents his truth, but his father breaking a coconut with a whack of the billhook (it’s called an Aruval) makes him lose his courage and he tells his dad he just wanted the coconut water…

When he gets a call from his childhood friend out of the blue, Arjun discovers that the mask he’s wearing for his family can come off. Only if he can face the truth. The friend is a thug (in ‘security services’, he says) and even though he has everything, Covid has put him in a state where he needs to face the truth of his life. Will he tell his son who he is? This makes Arjun realise that he needs to tell his own dad his truth. A lovely story, but could this story be made without the pandemic being the setting? You watch and decide.

I loved this series. A lovely way to spend this weekend. And yes, don’t forget that tissue box.

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