Story of Things: Inanimate objects that spoke the loudest in Tamil cinema 2023
Tamil cinema in 2023 has had many moments of audience looking back at inanimate objects with the same lens that they looked at the protagonists
There are multiple scenarios in everyday life that makes a person go, “If only this object could talk…” One could give many examples from a dress becoming a washcloth to that one pencil that a person cannot seem to let go of. Sometimes, it is the act of holding onto such things with much endearment that gives meaning to it. Tamil cinema in 2023 has had several such moments of the audience looking back at inanimate objects with the same lens that they looked at the protagonists. And just like their stories, these objects too spoke, sometimes the loudest… when no one else did. Here’s looking back at the story of things in this year’s Tamil releases…
Throne in Ponniyin Selvan II
Blood has been spilt for the sake of thrones and kingdoms for thousands of years. The history of the Cholas holds no less powerful of a story. Nandhini’s (Aishwarya Rai) quest to sit on the throne and rule the Chola empire leads her into a sinister path. She glances at the poweful chair every time she passes by it and hopes to one day sit on it after experiencing trauma because of the same in her childhood. She conspires with the Pandyas and calls Aditha Karikalan to Kadambur palace This leads to his untimely demise. Unable to bear the pain, she drowns in the Ponni river. But the power of the throne remains. Even as Ponniyin Selvan (Jayam Ravi) was to ascend the throne, he proposes crowning Madhurantakan (Rahman). The books, however, reveal Sendhan Amudhan taking the throne as the rightful heir.
Phone in Chithha
“Ponna phone paaka solladheenga,” says Eeswaran (Siddharth) when enquiring about her niece to a bus conductor upon seeing his daughter engrossed in the device. Director SU Arunkumar places the weight of the emotion not just on Chithha, but also pans the camera to the audience to reflect on humans losing focus and being distracted now more than ever with unlimited screen time. The first time Eesu calls Sundari, while playfully luring her out of hiding using a mobile game which forms a powerful callback to the scene when an abuser kidnaps her. The director puts the onus on the current generation to have become distracted individuals and to create more distracted individuals under the pretext of becoming a modern society. The smartphone showcases the growing lack of agency humans have built to rely on their memory and knowledge while passing it all onto a 'living' device.
Ray Dasan’s camera
When Karmegham (Ilavarasu) discovers Kirubai (a) Ray Dasan’s (SJ Suryah) camera tapes that contain the secrets behind Alliyus Caesar’s (Raghava Lawrence) life and death, it shows that he wasn’t just “Pandya’s” first dark-complexioned actor, but also a man who loved his family and community, who had a deep love for animals. The camera was from the time he was christened his name till the time of his death — giving him a purpose, not just for him but also for Ray Dasan, capturing crucial moments of celebration, anger and agony. Towards the climax, is truly a “For my boy” moment.
The chair in Maamannan
If Mari Selvaraj’s usage of plenty of animal metaphors weren’t enough, chairs occupy a higher moral ground and play a significant role in the politics of caste and oppression. Early on, Maamannan (Vadivelu) insists Athiveeran’s (Udhayanidhi Stalin) friends to sit and talk. He is called ‘mannu’ (mud) for years. He is made to stand in front of his oppressors, even when he goes to sort out an issue between Rathnavelu (Fahadh Faasil) and Athiveeran. The chair stands as a symbol of respect and exposes a bitter social conditioning that Maamannan is subjected to, which follows even as he rises in the political ranks. The effort that Veeran puts to make Maamannan sit on a chair, results in an ugly brawl. He is kicked to the ground but comes back up and sits on the same chair, higher than anyone else as he is elected as the speaker towards the climax. With just four words, “Appa nee ukkaru pa,” Mari showcases that caste resides and follows in everything for a lifetime.
For Farhana (Aishwarya Rajesh), her burqa is a symbol of her independence. It gives her wings and a new sense of purpose in life to move out of her house and be independent for the first time ever. She holds onto it tightly every single day, praying and fulfilling her duties one by one. Even during a marriage when everyone is brightly dressed, leaving her and her husband Kareem (Jithan Ramesh) exposed of their financial situation. It is when the same burqa slips, her husband realizes that something is amiss and must be addressed. As she goes to the job, she says, “Allah thanda rahmatha dhan naan pakaren,” and isn’t ashamed of her identity or her burqa as it makes Farhana who she is.
Rajinikanth’s glasses in Jailer
It is clear that Rajinikanth’s signature style with him flipping his cigarette in various scenes has now evolved to snapshots of his glasses which are aplenty in Nelson Dilipkumar’s Jailer. The man who was a Tiger in his prime, is leading a peaceful life with his wife and grandson in a quiet household before his life turns upside down when his son gets kidnapped by a bunch of goons led by Varman (Vinayakan). Behind a seemingly man, lies a glorious past that has left him untouchable. The glasses here, act as a barrier between the past and the present. It holds him back from waking up his younger self which he does eventually when the right time arises. While flipping it back and forth before every action sequence, he traverses back in time to bring back his “Hukum. Tiger Ka Hukum” power, energy, and will to fight enemies in front of him.
Dream catcher from Conjuring Kannappan
Who knew that dream catchers could conjure up a dangerous reality? For Kannappan (Sathish), finding a dream catcher did not mean he would have sweet dreams for life, but death knocking on his doors every time he falls asleep. The cursed dreamcatcher becomes a portal for him and his family to enter the wretched land of ghosts. It also helps them reconnect with each other before finally finding a way out of the misery. In a way, the well intricately made dream catcher symbolizes that not all charming objects (or people) have a rosy past behind it/them. The feathers here represent the nature and the rhythm that humans are adjusted to. Everytime they break it, nature revolts back with a curse that is too hard to come back from. When Kannappan says, “Ellarayum orey location ku amichuru,” it is easier on the laughs, but the horror creeps in soon after, resulting in a situation that not even exorcists can bring them back.
Time Machine in Mark Antony
It’s easy to wish for a time machine to undo past mistakes, but only a few get that opportunity. Mark Antony (Vishal) changes the course of his at least twice after finding a telephone that can make calls to the past, thereby saving his father as well as understanding the sinister intentions of Jackie Pandian (SJ Suryah). Director Adhik Ravichandran drafts the laws of time to his will, creating a cat-and-mouse game between Madhan, Jackie, Mark and Antony. Remember Vivekh making multiple calls to the grocery store in Singam (2010) to just ask for a couple of information? Mark makes just one call and alters his entire life. “Mark avan appa ku orey oru call dhan potan,” says an annoyed Madhan to his father Jackie and it clearly elevates the humour up a notch.
The walls in Maaveeran
The walls have ears. This isn’t just a warning, but a dangerous reality in the world of Madonne Ashwin’s Maaveeran as the walls aren’t just thin, but also on the verge of crumbling apart as a result of shoddy construction. When Sathya (Sivakarthikeyan) hears Vijay Sethupathi’s voice, providing plan of actions and premonitions only to him, it is unclear where it is coming from. The walls of ‘Makkal Maaligai’ had a bigger story to tell and where could it have come if not from there? Be it giving him the early warning signs or life-threatening ones, the walls always had something to say. When it couldn’t take it anymore, it killed the person who built it and crumbled it to dust – completing its painful story, and purpose and creating a new path for its people. Truth alone triumphs in every tale, but here, it is “Veerame Jayam”
Cars in Parking
In the middle of rage and ego, the two cars of the protagonists – Eshwar (Harish Kalyan) and Illamparuthi (MS Bhaskar) take a hit. More than human value and emotions, it is life investments like cars and jewellery that hold significance in a middle-class household. For Eshwar and Ilamparuthi, sharing a parking space sparks the furore in the two houses, breaking peace piece by piece like their cars. In Vadivelu’s tone, “Salli Salli ah norukiteengale da”. The conflict becomes so intense that they are on the verge of killing each other. The cars are a part of the family itself. Just like any other human, they need to be bathed, fed, and insured for their life. Eshwar and Ilamparuthi are ready to go to any extent to keep their babies safe, just like they would do to any member of the household.