Every film has something (or things) going for it, but the standouts are the episodes by Krishnakumar Ramakumar, Akshay Sundher, and Thiagarajan Kumararaja.
Modern Love Chennai is easily the best thing to come out of the Tamil OTT space. This is not to say that I liked every single short in this six-episode anthology equally, and I will talk more about that later. This is about the fact that – for the first time since the anthology wave hit us – you sense a unifying aesthetic running through every single short film. Yes, every episode is adapted from the “Modern Love” series in the New York Times – but it’s not just that. It’s also the fact that all episodes are strongly centred on women. It’s also the ceeative vision and the low-light cinematography across the stories, and the presence of rain (like a repeating “guest role”) and the colour palette, with a shade of green that’s seen on a wall in one episode and on a young girl’s bicycle in another episode. You can see how creative producer Thiagarajan Kumararaja and his core team have pushed every single contributor: even with different directors with differing sensibilities, there’s shared DNA right through.
There’s also a lot of Ilaiyaraaja love, from the hat-tip to songs like Uravugal thodarkathai, Engengo sellum en ennangal, En iniya pon nilave, Ninaivo oru paravai… to his own new compositions and background scores for this anthology. But let’s get to that later. For the first time in an anthology, you feel that even the episode order makes sense. Usually, you could pick any of the six films and watch it first – but here, there’s a progression of moods. We start with a simple, affecting drama: Rajumurugan’s Lalagunda Bommaigal. In Episode 3, we pause for some lightheartedness in Krishnakumar Ramakumar’s Kaadhal Enbadhu Kannula Heart Irukkura Emoji. This acts as a palate cleanser, because the next three episodes are deep dramas, concluding with the emotionally and structurally dense Ninaivo Oru Paravai, by Thiagarajan Kumararaja. And for the first time, you see someone taking full advantage of the freedoms offered by the OTT space. When you know you don’t have to cater to “all audiences”, you can make exactly the films you want, with exactly the themes you want.
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