Movie buffs around the world have a popular misconception that Bollywood is a synonym for Indian cinema. But the Indian film industry is rather an umbrella term that comprises Hindi films, regional movies, and art cinema. Being the world’s largest filmmaking nation, India produces more than 1500 movies per year in different languages. Netflix, which reaches around 125 million subscribers in 190 countries around the world, made its Indian entry rather late, in January 2016. And when it happened, the in-house curators were as perplexed as the non-Indian moviegoers watching the world’s second-most populous nation’s cinematic realm.
Netflix took its time to list some of the best flicks from the prominent regional film industries like Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, and Bengali, fighting a tough battle with rivals like Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar, and Voot. While other streaming platforms are far ahead with impressive regional content, Netflix is yet to catch up. But the world’s leading streaming platform has managed to list some of the best picks from regional cinema.
Based in Chennai, the capital city of Tamil heartland, Tamil Cinema, which is fondly called Kollywood, has a wide reach across the nation as well as among the Tamil diaspora in the U.S., Singapore, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Japan, the Middle East, parts of Africa, Oceania, and Europe. So with all that said, here’s the list of really good Tamil movies on Netflix that are available to stream right now.
20. Nibunan (2017)
‘Nibunan’ meaning “expert” is an action thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat. The film directed by Arun Vaidyanathan features an ensemble cast of Arjun, Prasanna, Vaibhav, Varalaxmi Sarathkumar, and Sruthi Hariharan. ‘Nibunan’ was received very well by the critics and the audience. A police officer and two of his subordinates are on a mission to track down a meticulous psychotic serial killer. The film’s base plot is based on the 2008 Noida double murder case. On this hair-raising journey, they uncover some terrible secrets while the officer himself battles Parkinson’s disease. Yet another story of a law enforcement officer taking laws into his own hands; this requires the viewers’ discretion.
19. Nila (2016)
Set beautifully in the night time against the urban backdrop, this film is widely praised for its cinematography, acting, and powerful direction. The absence of conversations between the characters conveys much more than what is being said. It subtly throws light on socio-economic differences and male entitlement. ‘Nila,’ directed by Selvamani Selvaraj is a story of a cab driver who meets his childhood friend out of the blue; she is the passenger in his cab. The narrative plays with the boundaries of love, lust, friendship, and maturity. The reason that Selvaraj wanted to make this film was because of the “compelling” story and its setting. He describes the film as “atmospheric.”
18. Mugamoodi (2012)
‘Mugamoodi’ is Kollywood’s foray into the superhero bandwagon. Written and directed by Mysskin, who has been hailed as a cult filmmaker in Tamil Cinema, ‘Mugamoodi’ first-of-kind movie in Indian regional cinema. The movie features the life of Anand, a simpleton who is fed up with the injustice and corruption reigning in society. Being a martial arts specialist, Anand turns towards his Kung fu skills and a mask to raise a vigilante called ‘Mugamoodi.’
In between, he falls for Police Commissioner Gaurav’s daughter and tries to impress the girl with his martial art skill. When her father Gaurav messes up with the Kung fu master-turned local don, Angusamy, a.k.a. Dragon, and his rampaging gang, Mugamoodi, he gets the deadliest enemy of his life. Now, he has to save his love and his own life from the dreadful tricks of the dragon. The movie has lightning Kung fu fight sequences and is dedicated to the legendary Bruce Lee.
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17. Mersal (2017)
Written and directed by Atlee Kumar, ‘Mersal’ features one of the biggest stars in Tamil Cinema, Vijay, as Maaran, a doctor who declares war against corruption in the healthcare sector. When he is mistakenly arrested for the murder of his colleague, Dr. Arjun Zachariah, Maran discovers that the real killer is a doppelganger. Maaran goes deep into the mystery and finds out that the real culprit behind the murders is a magician named Vetri. The plot thickens when Maaran and Vetri realize that they are estranged twin brothers. Both the doctor and the magician form an extraordinary sibling pact to join their skills to hunt down the man behind their legendary father’s brutal murder. ‘Mersal‘ offers the thrill and excitement of a revenge drama with peppy numbers to appease hardcore Vijay fans. The movie also became one of the top-grossing Tamil movies last year.
16. Petta (2019)
This action-packed film stars the Southern superstar of international repute, Rajinikanth. ‘Petta’ follows the story of an elderly man hired as a hostel warden who comes across an unruly bunch of youngsters connected to the underworld. The story then takes us back to Petta’s past and reveals his motivation to do what he does. The cast of the film includes the rising star of Indian cinema, Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Singaaram. Like Rajinikanth, Siddiqui is soon gaining international popularity and has even been praised by well-known critics for his raw and convincing performances. Rajinikanth’s films are a genre by themselves and if that is what you like, you will definitely find ‘Petta’ very entertaining.
15. Mr. Chandramouli (2018)
‘Mr. Chandramouli’ tells the story of a talented boxer and his dad. Raghav, played by Gautham Karthik, is a boxer who wants to make it big in the boxing ring. He looks forward to hitting a good sponsorship deal. Raghav lives with his loving and carefree dad Chandramouli, played by Karthik, who supports him in his dream journey. But the father-son duo entangles with the evil plot of a greedy business tycoon. Chandramouli and Raghav’s love interest, Madhu, played by Regina Cassandra, are killed according to the businessman’s scheme. Now Raghav is on a rage to hunt down the real mastermind behind the killings; even the revenge comes at a cost of his boxing career.
14. Metro (2016)
‘Metro’ is an action crime thriller directed by Ananda Krishnan featuring Bobby Simha, Shirish Saravanan, and Sendrayan. Violence is a predominant feature of the film but the director stood his ground and did not want to censor it. This gory film is not for someone looking for the run-of-the-mill action. The film centers around one of the most common crimes in the Indian cities- chain snatching. The plot of the film takes us through the underworld of chain snatching as well as the deep impact of it on a family. Arivu (Shirish) is a journalist who takes it upon himself to bring down a chain-snatching gang without realizing that he will have to fight his own brother for this.
13. Kabali (2016)
‘Kabali’ features one of the biggest superstars in Indian Cinema, Rajinikanth in the titular role, Kabaleeswaran. Set in the diaspora of the Tamil population in Kuala Lumpur, ‘Kabali’ closely follows the racial tensions and social hierarchy within the gang war between Kabali and Tony Lee, portrayed by Winston Chao, a local kingpin. Kabali is elevated as a revolutionary figure who fights for the rights of Malaysian Tamils. But his enemies join hands and put him behind the bars on fraudulent charges.
The movie turns into a revenge drama when Kabali returns from prison to settle scores with all those who were involved in a vicious conspiracy that ruined his family. A vengeful Kabali wages a personal and ideological war on his enemies simultaneously with guns blazing and unidentified dead bodies. ‘Kabali’ earned positive reviews for its balanced storytelling and searing political rage against racial demons lurching within modern societies.
12. Mehandi Circus (2019)
When two people fall in love, it is not just about the two who are involved; social implications shadow their love story which has the potential to destroy lives. The story of Mehandi (Shweta Tripathi) and Jeeva (Madhampatty Rangaraj) is tainted by caste differences and jealousy. Set in the 1990s, ‘Mehandi Circus’ is Saravana Rajendran’s directorial debut. He brings to life the fading art of circus of which Mehandi is a part. Jeeva is the owner of a music shop in Kodaikanal where Mehandi’s circus troupe comes to perform. The circus troupe used in the film is Kamala Circus from Gujarat. The film’s color palette makes the scenes spectacular and conveys a sense of nostalgia.
11. Sarvam Thaala Mayam (2019)
Tamil Cinema has a rich tradition of musicals and the 2019 flick, ‘Sarvam Thaala Mayam’ is the latest entrant. Written and directed by renowned cinematographer Rajiv Menon, the movie has also released as ‘Madras Beats’ in some countries. The musical drama follows the chain of events unfold when the worlds of a renowned Mridangam maestro Vembu Iyer, played by veteran actor Nedumudi Venu, an expert Mridangam maker Johnson, played by Kumaravel, and his son Peter Johnson, played by G. V. Prakash Kumar, collide. Peter is a die-hard fan of the Tamil cinema superstar, Vijay, and is also an aspiring mridangam player. The movie garnered positive reviews for its rhythm and subtle portrayal of the regressive caste system still prevailing in the society. The movie has the original score and background score rendered by Academy Award-winning composer, AR Rahman.
10. Goli Soda 2 (2018)
‘Goli Soda 2’ is a sequel to the 2015 hit movie ‘Goli Soda’ directed by Vijay Milton. Unlike ‘Goli Soda,’ the sequel received mixed reviews. Made on a small budget, ‘Goli Soda’ was one of the blockbusters in 2015. The movie garnered rave reviews for its stunning portrayal of the class dynamics in the society, told mostly through debutante actors. Like its predecessor, ‘Goli Soda 2‘ tries to draw a picture of class difference prevailing in society through the lives of four youngsters from different classes. Their dreams of making it big in the worlds are shaken by the class prejudices. The movie sheds light on the grave identity crisis of youth hailing from underprivileged classes to mark their places in the mainstream of modern Indian society.
9. Spyder (2017)
‘Spyder’ is another AR Murugadoss directorial which is made simultaneously in Tamil and Telugu. Both versions have the Telugu superstar Mahesh Babu in the lead role. ‘Spyder’ also has the surprise characterization of director SJ Surya as Heath Ledger’s Joker-like psychopathic villain, Sudalai. Mahesh Babu plays a cunning intelligence officer who comes in between the deadly scheme of the villain. He has to save the city and its innocent inhabitants from the imminent danger before the psychotic serial killer, Sudalai unleashes horror. Sudalai loves to hear people’s scream of pain and suffering and plots a deadly scheme to stage his death opera. The cat and mouse game ensues reveals the inner demons of both the cop and the villain.
8. Taramani (2017)
Taramani takes us through a journey of people discovering their best versions after diving into the darkest parts of themselves. What circumstances compel us to be when no one is looking makes us reflect on who we really are and who we want to be. This story takes us through love, attachment, sexuality, blackmail, possessiveness, forgiveness, integrity all at once. Directed by Ram, the film introduces the debutante Vasanth Ravi in the lead role along with Andrea Jeremiah and Adrian Knight Jesly. The performances by the lead actors have been appreciated while Ram’s voiceovers may have been considered “preachy.” However, it does leave us with a somewhat accurate idea of people’s “conservative” mindset even in an urban place like Chennai.
7.Kannum Kannum Kollaiyadithaal (2020)
The story of two friends, who con people by posing as app developers and their misadventures as they find love, makes the film a fun watch. All four actors in the film have been given enough space which makes the film even more special. ‘Kannum Kannum Kollaiyadithaal’ was shot in Delhi, Goa, and Chennai by the much-appreciated debutante director, Desingh Periyasamy. The entertainer does not come across as preachy and nor does it hold guilt over any of the characters for what they have done. However, it does leave us with some “life lessons” through this funny yet filled-with-twists story.
6. Anjaan (2014)
Set in the narrows alleys of Mumbai underworld, ‘Anjaan’ follows a handicapped man named Krishna who travels all the way to the metropolis in search of his brother, Raju Bhai. The brother goes missing under mysterious circumstances and Krishna learns that Raju Bhai was actually a daredevil gangster. To make circumstances more chaotic, there are people still roaming around to kill Raju Bhai. Now, Krishna has to find the dubious connection between the disappearance of his brother and the dreaded don Imran Bhai, and also save himself from the machetes and guns mistaking him as his criminal brother. Directed by N. Linguswamy, ‘Anjaan’ features the heartthrob of Tamil cinema, Suriya in double roles, both as Krishna and Raju Bhai.
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5. Solo (2017)
Bejoy Nambiar’s bilingual flick, ‘Solo’ is an anthology of four segments with the South Indian heartthrob Dulquer Salman playing four different characters. The movie has an interesting plot structure based on the four elements of nature — Earth, Fire, Wind, and Water, each narrated with different manifestations of Lord Shiva, the Indian god of destruction. Each segment is introduced with a short graphic of Shiva and a poem connected to one of the four elements. The movie, which was made in Tamil and Malayalam simultaneously and intended to cash on Dulquer Salman’s immense fan following as an angry young man, however, met with a mixed response upon release.
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4. Super Deluxe (2019)
This unusual and unique film by Thiagarajan Kumararaja weaves four stories together. This film by Kumararaja was made after eight years of his previous work and has been received very well by critics and viewers alike. The four stories see their characters going through ups and downs of life while reflecting on faith, love, acceptance, and personal values. The fact that the film does not push any judgments on the characters is widely appreciated in addition to the very strong performances by the actors. This is the director’s second work and it has already created waves in the Tamil film industry. Technically the film is very sound and the cinematographers P.S. Vinod and Nirav Shah have also been appreciated.
3. Puriyaatha Puthir (2017)
‘Puriyaatha Puthir’ is a tense psychological thriller featuring the sensational actor Vijay Sethupathi in the lead. Directed by Ranjit Jeyakodi, the movie follows Vijay Sethupathi’s Kathir, a music director based in Chennai. Kathir is smitten by love at first sight spell when he sees Meera, a gorgeous music teacher. They start an affair that plunges into a whirlpool of cybercrimes within no time.
All of a sudden, Kathir starts receiving Meera’s private photos and images from an anonymous source. When Kathir’s friends and Meera become subjects of viral photos and videos, Kathir has to find the culprits behind the photos and videos. ‘Puriyaatha Puthir’ keeps the viewers on the edge of the seats for most of the running time and has a stunning performance from Vijay Sethupathi.
2. Sila Samayangalil (2016)
Also known as ‘Sometimes’ this film narrates an unusual story of seven strangers who go to a clinic to get tested for AIDS and their anxiety as they learn that one of them is infected. It is human nature to be curious and to imagine possibilities or an alternative reality. As each of the characters reveals their story through conversations varying in-depth, we start to empathize with the characters and what they are going through. The film also highlights the stigma that surrounds AIDS and how it affects people whether they actually have it or not. This is shown tactfully as the characters do not have inhibitions judging one another although they are all standing in the same spot. The entire film is set in the waiting lounge of a clinic; therefore the portrayal of the characters and the strength of storytelling carry the film on its shoulders.
1. Merku Thodarchi Malai (2018)
Directed by Lenin Bharathi and produced by Vijay Sethupathi, ‘Merku Thodarchi Malai’ is a story of Rangasamy (Antony) a daily wage laborer whose dream is to own a piece of land and live off farming. This widely acclaimed film has been screened at multiple film festivals and even won multiple awards. The legendary Ilaiyaraaja’s music enhances the beauty of the film.
The movie’s title which translates to “Western Ghats” is a story showcasing the brutal reality of the landless laborers. It brings to life the multilayered conflicts that shroud land ownership- be it the conflict between man and nature, or men of different classes, or the tussle between corporate and the indigenous communities. What is special about the film is the fact that ninety percent of the actors belong to the villages where the film is based; Lenin himself hails from one of those villages. In his interview with The Wire, Lenin shares that his mother was a laborer on an estate, and his father was a part of the Communist movement.
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