Paava Kadhaigal is a Tamil movie made up of four short stories that leave you feeling disturbed. For this reason, it is a movie that is definitely worth watching. Unlike other movies where bad things happen to other people, in this one, the main characters are those who face untold circumstances and struggle with feelings of guilt, shame, and betrayal. They are sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters with inner conflicts, shaken by guilt and helplessness as they find their freedom and identity denied by the society in which they live. There is an underlying theme of violence in the four short stories that deal with topics generally considered taboo like transphobia, honour killings, rape, inter-caste marriage, and caste politics. These acts of violence, which most of the time take place off-screen, are not perpetrated by hardened criminals but by loving and caring family members who lose sight of what is right and what is not, swayed by deeply rooted notions of pride and honour. They are at the mercy of systemic pressure from a society that is extremely intolerant of difference, with a static, conservative mindset that ruthlessly enforces class, caste, and gender discrimination. Women are, in fact, often the victim in these stories which illustrate patriarchy with all its toxicity. They are oppressed and humiliated, and unspeakable monstrosities are unleashed upon them in the name of honour. The film is captivating because it forces you to stay with a sense of unease that you would rather not feel. While in other movies these feelings are treated as fleeting, here you are not allowed to escape them and experience them to the full. The father whose fanatic reaction we find disturbing is one we deeply emphasized earlier in the story. The distraught mother who crumbles under the pressure of vicious gossip and social stigma surrounding victims as she tries to protect her loved ones is someone we relate to.
We feel betrayed and uncomfortable because we keep telling ourselves that these are the good guys, that they are not supposed to do these things and yet we are in conflict because we understand their plight. When it comes to storytelling, the short stories successfully keep you on the edge of your seat. The fact that the line between good and evil is blurred adds nuance to the characters, making them all engaging and memorable. Moreover, you are never sure what is their real intention at any time and things are never what they appear to be. You find yourself glued to the story wondering how it is all going to end. In the end, Paava Kadhaigal leaves you with a heavy heart because it chooses to portray the dark side of humanity and brings to light those uncomfortable truths that the rest of us choose to ignore. It nevertheless keeps you engrossed and turns out to be one of the most riveting movies to watch.
About the Contributing Editor:
Author Nanda Pavaday is Mauritius based writer and columnist. He writes in French and English. His first book "Tales of Simpler Times" is a story about nostalgia, times gone by ,and the good old vibes of childhood, love, thought, humour. His words are a joy. He contributes to RAD TIMES around cinema, culture and writing.