Movie buffs around the world have a popular misconception that Bollywood is a synonym for Indian cinema. 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 1,500 movies per year in different languages. 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 around the world. Netflix boasts an extensive collection of Tamil movies in all genres, catering to the taste of every audience.
25. Maamannan (2023)
Written and directed by Mari Selvaraj, this political action-thriller film is set in Salem district, Tamil Nadu. The movie revolves around ‘Maamannan,’ an MLA from the Dalit community who has worked his way up from being a cadre of the SSMK party. The central plot focuses on Maamannan’s strained relationship with his son Athiveeran alias “Veera,” a skilled practitioner of Adimurai, an ancient martial art form. Veera refuses to communicate with his father due to the emotional and physical trauma he endured due to a casteist attack during his childhood.
The film stars Vadivelu in the titular role, alongside Udhayanidhi Stalin as Athiveeran (Veera). It encapsulates the complexities of caste dynamics prevalent in modern-day Tamil Nadu. This poignant storyline sheds light on the challenges faced by individuals marginalized by society and highlights their journey toward self-discovery and empowerment. You may watch the film here.
24. Doctor (2021)
‘Doctor’ is an action-thriller comedy film directed by Nelson Dilipkumar. The movie follows the story of Varun, a military doctor who embarks on a mission to rescue his kidnapped fiancée, Padmini. Along with his friends, Varun uses his intelligence and medical knowledge to outsmart the kidnappers and save Padmini, uncovering a larger criminal operation in the process. The film stars Sivakarthikeyan, Priyanka Arul Mohan, Vinay Rai, and Yogi Babu in significant roles. Feel free to check out the movie here.
23. Kadaseela Biriyani (2021)
Kadaseela Biriyani is a crime-comedy drama film directed by Nishanth Kalidindi. The movie revolves around three brothers who plan to murder their father’s killer. As they set out to execute their plan, they face unexpected consequences and moral dilemmas that challenge their resolve and family bonds. Ram, Vasanth Selvam, Hakkim Shah, and Dinesh Mani star in this action-packed film, which explores the themes of revenge, family, and the consequences of actions. You can check out the film here.
22. Beast (2022)
‘Beast’ is a comedic action-thriller film directed by Nelson Dilipkumar. The movie follows the story of Veera Raghavan, a former RAW agent who finds himself in a shopping mall taken over by terrorists. As the terrorists take hostages, Veera must use his skills and intelligence to save the hostages, including his love interest, while also dealing with his traumatic past. The ensemble cast includes Thalapathy Vijay, Pooja Hegde, Selvaraghavan, and Yogi Babu. You can watch ‘Beast’ here.
21. Etharkkum Thunindhavan (2022)
‘Etharkkum Thunindhavan’ is a captivating action-drama film written and directed by Pandiraj. The film follows the story of Kannabiran, a lawyer who takes on a crime syndicate involved in women trafficking. As he delves deeper into the case, Kannabiran uncovers shocking truths and faces personal and professional challenges that test his resolve to bring justice to the victims. Suriya, Priyanka Arul Mohan, Vinay Rai, and Sathyaraj play significant roles in the movie. You may watch the movie here.
20. Annaatthe (2021)
Translated as “Big Brother,” ‘Annaatthe’ is a Tamil action film that revolves around Kaalaiyan, an honest and upstanding village president. Although Kaalaiyan holds morality and ethics above all, he is pretty proud of his position and refuses to bow to anyone, resulting in a massive feud with the rival leader, Nattadurai. Gradually, the movie reveals how Kaalaiyan’s sister, Meenatchi, means the world to him, and the leader gets ready to find her a groom. Although fate fixes Meenatchi’s marriage with Nattadurai’s younger brother, she falls in love with a fellow student and attempts to run away. Nevertheless, Kaalaiyan gives in to his sister’s demands and somehow manages to contain the situation. However, the decision comes back to haunt Meenatchi, and thus, with his sister in danger, Kaalaiyan sets out to face whatever trouble he has to to keep her safe. You may watch ‘Annaatthe’ here.
19. Nitham Oru Vaanam (2022)
‘Nitham Oru Vaanam’ is a romantic drama film that tells the story of Arjun, a young man with OCD. He leads a reclusive life until he meets Janani, a girl about his age who he believes understands him. The two of them grow close, and talks of marriage begin to float around. But Janani abruptly ends the relationship and goes back to her former boyfriend, leaving Arjun heartbroken. His therapist suggests two stories for him to read. As he tends to imagine himself as a character in the stories he reads, the sudden and cliffhanger endings of both of those stories frustrate Arjun to no end. His therapist reveals to him that those characters he read about are real people and encourages him to go meet them, hoping that Arjun will find answers for his pain and heartbreak in the journey as well. You can stream the film here.
18. Don (2022)
The film’s title ‘Don’ refers to the eponymous character, Chakaravarthi “Don” Ganesan. The story begins when Don is already an established filmmaker. As he hurriedly heads to college, the narrative shifts to the past, and we see him in his school days when he meets and falls in love with Angaiyarkanni or Angu. Don’s father wants him to become a civil engineer and pretty much forces him to enroll at BEC (Best Engineering College) in Coimbatore. Although Don and Angu parted ways after school, they reunite in college after he helps her reconcile with her father. Don’s hope for an easy and fun-filled college life is dashed when he meets Bhoominathan, a disciplinarian professor. As the film progresses, Don finds ways to rebel against the people who hold positions of power in his life and develops a deep love for filmmaking. You can stream ‘Don’ here.
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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. You can stream it here.
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 Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Singaaram. Rajinikanth’s films are a genre by themselves, and if that is what you like, you will find ‘Petta’ very entertaining. You may watch the film here.
15. KD (A) Karuppudurai (2019)
‘KD (A) Karuppudurai’ is a family drama film helmed by Madhumita Sundararaman. The movie follows the story of Karuppudurai, an 80-year-old man who escapes from his family, as they want him dead so that they can inherit his wealth. On the run, he forms a bond with an orphan boy named Kutty. Together, they embark on a journey that explores the meaning of life, friendship, and family. Mu Ramasamy, Nagavishal, Yog Japee, and Badava Gopi star in this film, touching on the themes of family, friendship, and life. Feel free to check out the movie here.
14. Gatta Kusthi (2022)
Raised by his uncle Ratnam, Veera (Vishnu Vishal) is a chauvinist through and through. As he decides to find a bride, he comes up with certain conditions that a girl has to meet to be considered seriously. She can’t be more educated than him, must not have a career, must have long hair, and should be obedient. He couldn’t reach beyond the eighth grade and is not the high-valued candidate he thinks he is. Keerthi (Aishwarya Lekshmi), who is the polar opposite of everything Veera is looking for and is a wrestling champion, agrees to marry him out of desperation and because he refuses dowry. On the advice of her uncle, she wears hair extensions and hides her wrestling credentials, and that she is a university graduate. Hilarity ensues when Veera eventually finds out the truth. You can check out the film here.
13. RK Nagar (2019)
A political satire Tamil film, RK Nagar follows Shankar, a Chennai man struggling to make ends meet. Shankar believes that wealth is of no use to humankind and, thus, refuses to respect people of fortune. Meanwhile, Ranjini, a girl who abhors rowdy men, has a sudden change of heart and falls in love with Shankar after witnessing him chasing guys with a machete. This unlikely relationship soon blossoms as the couple gets to know more of each other and becomes comfortable. However, as fate would have it, a violent altercation between two rivals ends with a man murdered inside Shankar’s tailoring shop. The rest of the movie provides a healthy mix of romance and comedy as the investigation hones in on Shankar while he tries his best to clear his name. You can watch ‘RK Nagar’ here.
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 the 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. You may watch it here.
11. Sarvam Thaala Mayam (2019)
Tamil Cinema has a rich tradition of musicals, and the 2019 flick, ‘Sarvam Thaala Mayam’ is another entrant. Written and directed by renowned cinematographer Rajiv Menon, the movie has also been 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 society. The movie has the original score and background score rendered by Academy Award-winning composer AR Rahman. You may watch ‘Sarvam Thaala Mayam’ here.
10. Andhaghaaram (2020)
Translated as “Darkness,” ‘Andhaghaaram’ is a Tamil language supernatural movie that follows three seemingly unrelated individuals in Chennai. The first, Dr. Indran, is a doctor who was shot by a violent patient. Although the doctor survives, the patient massacres his whole family, leading to his license getting suspended. The second, Selvam, is a blind, honest man who lives with a severe kidney problem. However, being versed in the occult, he tries to get paid by capturing spirits in a seemingly haunted house. Finally, the third, Vinod, is a cricket coach who feels that he is to blame for gifting his friend, Pradeep, with a book on the occult, which appears to have given the latter some mental instability. As the movie progresses, it reveals how these three men live in different timelines and how the supernatural, or rather the spirit world, connects them. The rest of the movie is a thrilling watch as it reveals the current timeline and shows how the spirit world tries to use the living to wreak havoc on past wrongdoers. You can stream the movie here.
9. Spyder (2017)
‘Spyder’ is another AR Murugadoss directorial that 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 imminent danger before the psychotic serial killer, Sudalai, unleashes horror. Sudalai loves to hear people’s screams of pain and suffering and plots a deadly scheme to stage his death opera. The cat-and-mouse game ensues and reveals the inner demons of both the cop and the villain. You can stream ‘Spyder’ here.
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 are and who we want to be. This story takes us through love, attachment, sexuality, blackmail, possessiveness, forgiveness, and 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. You can stream it here.
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, 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. You may watch the film here.
6. Anjaan (2014)
Set in the narrow alleys of the Mumbai underworld, ‘Anjaan’ follows a handicapped man named Krishna who travels to the metropolis in search of his brother, Raju Bhai. The brother goes missing under mysterious circumstances, and Krishna learns that Raju Bhai is 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. Feel free to check out the movie here.
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5. Jagame Thandiram (2021)
‘Jagame Thandiram’ translated to “The Universe is a ruse,” revolves around Suruli, a gangster from Madurai, who owns a restaurant. Although Suruli wants to tie the knot as soon as possible, he falls victim to fate as his bride learns of his criminal background and runs away. Alone, Suruli turns to crime and subsequently comes under the notice of John, who takes him to London to join Peter Sprott’s gang. Once in London, Suruli helps Peter kill a rival leader, gaining his boss’s support and trust. Gradually, the gangster from Madurai begins to thrive and even falls in love with a Sri Lankan Tamil girl, Attila. However, when Attila tries to nurse him back to health after a violent altercation, Suruli catches her trying to poison him to death. The reasoning behind Attila’s actions then makes up the rest of the film as the chain of events threatens to rock the underbellies of both Sri Lanka and London. You can check out the film here.
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 the 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. You can watch ‘Super Deluxe’ here.
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. You may watch it here.
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 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. You may watch ‘Sila Samayangalil’ here.
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, men of different classes, or the tussle between corporate and 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 shared that his mother was a laborer on an estate, and his father was a part of the Communist movement. You can stream the film here.
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