Best Tamil Movies of 2018 — The Annual Tamil Movies Round-up

Tamil Cinema didn’t have a great year concerning movie releases, strikes and association issues. The second half of the year saw some revival with some good movies, box office hits and different storylines. The strike did affect the release schedules of movies, and some of the movies couldn’t get the box office success like they would have received in a typical year.

I couldn’t write a lot of reviews this year because I was working towards a PhD and I have moved to the UK to study. Except for the movies with big stars, I could see the small budgeted movies (I love them) only after few weeks when it gets released online (legally). The sad part is that this trend will continue, but the good part is you can read articles like these on this blog.

1. 96 and the over-romanticization of Love.

2. Why Ilaiyaraaja is the linchpin of Tamil cinema and many more

Disclaimers:

1. The movies are not ranked. These are 10 best movies in the year listed in chronological order (based on the date of release). 
2. I have watched all the films listed here, and the choices are based only on my critical viewpoint. Box office collections, Fanbase/bias, were not considered, and that’s why you will find some notable omissions.

10 Best Tamil Movies of 2018

1. Sila Samayangalil

Sila Samayangalil is the first Direct-to-stream Tamil movie that was released on Netflix. Seven people from different walks of life give their blood for ELISA Test (HIV Screening) because they suspect that they have been infected by the virus. As the test results are provided only in the evening, to avoid tension, they bribe the lab-technician to get the results early. She informs them that one person is infected by HIV and each one of them laments about their acts with anxiety.

Sila Samayangalil is a movie that was made to provide awareness on HIV transmission, but at the same time, the film never takes a documentary or preachy tone ever. The movie is a social thriller that keeps you guessing until the end, and at the same, it subtly plants the message. The strengths of the movie are the strong screenplay by Priyadarshan, some scintillating performances from Prakash Raj, Ashok Selvan, MS Bhaskar and Shreya Reddy, and soulful music from Ilaiyaraaja.

Sylvianism Rating: 3.5/5

2. Nadigayar Thilagam

Let me be honest, I have issues with biopics because it easily whitewashes the bad things of a celebrity or hides the good stuff of the person. There is always a creator bias in such movies (my next analytical article would be on that), but even then I loved Nadigayar Thilagam for the sheer beauty and grandeur of the movie.

I had my doubts when Keerthy Suresh was cast as Savitri, but she bamboozled everyone with her performance, and surprisingly everyone else faded in front of her including Dulquer Salman (surprisingly he wasn’t convincing as Gemini Ganesan). But Mohan Babu as SV Rangarao was a treat to watch. The grandeur in production values, meticulous detailing by Nag Ashwin (and his team) and Mickey J Meyer’s music made Nadigayar Thilagam/Mahanati a memorable movie of the year.

Sylvianism Rating: 3.5/5

3. Asuravadham

Revenge movies are pretty usual in Tamil cinema, but you get to see quite a lot of revenge dramas in Tamil. It’s because hatred is the most honest emotion of humankind. When I watched Asuravadham, it was like watching a Korean movie. The villain doesn’t know why the hero is taking an act of revenge on him.

As an audience to the movie, you are taken through the same journey and at some point in time, you sympathise with the villain a bit. Asuravadham is a true-blue action revenge drama made in the rural milieu. Taut screenplay (Maruthapandian), raw action (does comply with the title of the movie) and some gripping background score from Govind Vasantha make this movie one of the top 10.

Sylvianism Rating: 3/5

4. Tamizh Padam 2.0

The 2.0 I loved. The movie is not getting its due because it’s a parody. I hadn’t enjoyed a movie so much in a theatre like I did when I watched Tamizh Padam 2.0. I was like kid identifying all the references in each of the scenes and marvelled at the scene compositions of CS Amudhan and his team. The movie is a celebration of the absurdities of Tamil cinema, and that’s why it’s on the list.

Sylvianism Rating: 3.5/5

5. Kadaikutty Singam

The movie that surprised me this year and taught me a lesson. AV Meyyappa Chettiar used to say that if you can bring the women and the families to the theatres, your movies will be a hit. Over the years, rural-based movies with decent storylines and emotional connect, have become substantial box-office hits. Kadaikutty Singam is one such movie.

Kadaikutty Singam is a story of a lone younger brother (played by Karthi) to five elder sisters. While two of his sisters want him to marry either of their daughters, he falls in love with someone outside the family. A family conflict ensues, and the rest of the movie is about how he convinces everyone in the family to marry the love of his life.

If you find the movie plot regressive, think again, the movie became a hit because this is a day-to-day conflict in rural areas of Tamil Nadu. The film was filled with comic sequences and emotional tearjerkers that appealed to the broader audience. What I loved is the slick storytelling of Pandiraj, the energy of Karthi (he was on his own) and the poignant climax. Most of the reviews panned the movie, but this movie showed why B and C centres can still change the fortune of a film. It explains why the cameras should go back to the villages. The only grouse I had was the casting of Sayesha and painting her with dark makeup to make her look like a rural beau.

Sylvianism Rating: 3/5

6. Kolamavu Kokila

Nayanthara has become the quintessential female star of Tamil cinema. Her diverse role choices and the way she could carry a film as a lead is brilliant. If 2017 was all about Aramm, it’s Kolamavu Kokila in 2018. The beauty of her performance as Kokila was that she keeps you guessing till the end. She actually made the audience to think that there is something more to the character and she played it so eloquently. It was a treat to watch her on the screen.

Nelson Dilipkumar was brave enough to create a genre-bending dark humour movie with a female lead. A tight screenplay, strong performances from actors (Saranya, Jackline and Yogi Babu) and quirky music made this movie an interesting watch.

Sylvianism Rating: 3.5/5

7. Merku Thodarchi Malai (Movie of the Year)

Merku Thodarchi Malai is not a movie. It’s an ethnographic study. I haven’t seen a film that has documented the life of a group of people like Merku Thodarchi Malai did. At the same time, it didn’t give a documentary feeling, it was as if a camera was placed in that village

The making of the film itself is study material for filmmakers. The long but expertly written scenes with almost a non-moving camera are not usually seen in cinema these days. But for an ethnographic material like this, the movie asked for it. In fact, only when you hear Ilaiyaraaja’s music, you actually feel that it’s a movie. Ilaiyaraaja too has used minimal music that has helped to accentuate the movie’s impact. The film was supposed to shock and hurt you, that’s what the film does to you. When you watch the movie, you will feel that the Ghats have its own soul and narrating its heart-wrenching story.

Sylvianism Rating: 4.5/5

8. Annanukku Jai

If Tamizh Padam mocked the absurdities of Tamil cinema, Annanukku Jai mocks the absurdities of Tamil Nadu Politics. Matta Sekar (played by Dinesh) is a carefree guy who works under his father (Mayilsamy), a toddy seller. Selva (Boxer Dheena) wants Mayilsamy to stop his Toddy business so that he can build his wine shop business. An altercation between Selva and Matta Sekar pushes Sekar to take an active role in local politics. Although it sounds like a severe political movie like Madras or Vada Chennai, Annanukku Jai takes the comedy route how stupid the local politics can be. Ably supported by Radha Ravi and Vayapuri, debutant Rajkumar has crafted an enjoyable comedy.

I guarantee that you will not stop laughing the entire time and you will know why Vetrimaaran accepted to produce this movie.

Sylvianism Rating: 3/5

9. Pariyerum Perumal

It took me some time to watch Pariyerum Perumal as I put off certain movies to watch it at the right moment without any disturbance (I couldn’t watch it in theatres as I travelled in that month). I knew Pariyerum Perumal would disturb me, make me uncomfortable and prick my conscience. It was supposed to give the same effect to many others who watched the movie.

I am pretty sure the casteists wouldn’t have watched the movie because it would have affected them. But some would watch it and still not accept their flaws because they are oblivious to the fact that casteism prevails in this country. Pariyerum Perumal’s shame, agony and anger manifest on us, and that’s what makes the movie powerful.

Sylvianism Rating: 4/5

10. Raatchasan

Raatchasan is one of the best thrillers in recent times. Ram Kumar has crafted a beautiful screenplay that keeps you on the edge of the seat and at the same time makes you forget the flaws in the movie. The whole idea of “keeping it under wraps” seems to be a plot device (and I accept it) rather than a logical move.

There are such moments in the movie, but the character sketches are so perfect so that you don’t care about them. You have a villain who is always ahead of the investigators (what a performance by the debutant Saravanan), and the restrained acting of Vishnu Vishal makes the movie a treat.

Ramadoss is becoming the next Nasser/Delhi Ganesh of Tamil cinema with such incredible performances. Ram Kumar somehow has the knack of identifying talents — if it was Ramadoss and Kaali Venkat in Mundasupatti, it’s Saravanan and Vinoth (as Inbaraj) in Ratchasan.

A must watch thriller of the year. Kudos to Ram Kumar

Sylvianism Rating: 3.5/5

Notable omissions

  1. Vada Chennai: This could be a surprise for most of my readers, but I found Vada Chennai as a stereotypical gangster story with a stereotypical depiction of the area. I did like the way the movie unfolded with its non-linear narration, but there was nothing new for me to go gung-ho about.
  2. 2.0: The 2.0 I hated. It’s a colossal waste of money, time and resources. The movie will make 1000 crores (or possibly little lesser) in the box office but it poses pseudoscience as science fiction, and it’s quite dangerous that children might believe in “Aura”. To put it in the words of Sujatha (one of the original creators of Endhiran), Aura is an image created by painters to show the holiness of godly figures. Check out his answer in one of his magazine QA sections.
Image Source: My friend Chelian’s Facebook Post

3. 96: I wrote a long piece on how the movie over-romanticises love. You can read it here

3 Movies that you might have missed but should give them a watch

  1. Veera: Directed by Rajaraman with Krishna and Karunakaran in the lead, it’s a story about two friends trying to take control of the area political outfit. A comedy of errors the movie is buoyed by some hilarious sequences and performances of the leads. Watch out for Thambi Ramaiah and Radha Ravi. Also, you will find a lot of similarities between Annanukku Jai and this movie.
  2. Raja Ranguski: Will you believe that Chandni Tamilarasan has the most number of releases for an actress in 2018? It’s true. She had 5 movies in 2018, and all of them are low-budgeted movies. Raja Ranguski is a thriller directed by Dharani Dharan (Burma and Jackson Durai). 
    Raja (played by Metro Shirish) is a police constable, and he often visits Maria (an antique collector). He falls in love with Ranguski (Chandni), an aspiring writer. One day Maria gets killed, and Raja becomes the prime suspect. The movie has some plot twists with logical loopholes, but the film is a decent watch. Chandni does shine in her role and carry the movie. Shirish still doesn’t emote.
  3. Thuppakki Munai: The movie lost in between the bloodbath of movie releases during the last two weeks of December. Directed by Dinesh Selvaraj, the film is about a cop (played by Vikram Prabhu) who is designated to commit an encounter of a rapist. The rapist is a Bihari immigrant, and due to the cop’s interaction with a victim’s father, he decides to investigate the issue and save the innocent Bihari immigrant. 
    The movie is a straightforward drama, but the slick making and sharp dialogues elevate the film. It has its problems by trying to discuss too many issues in one movie but nothing taking precedence. MS Bhaskar once again proves why he is one of the best character artists and don’t miss his monologue at the end.

The choices might surprise a few of my readers but the list was made after long a deliberation. There are movies like Kanaa and Adanga Maru that have been left out. Kanaa would have made the list if it wasn’t trying to mix two issues at one time.