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Navarasa: A perfect blend of nine emotions ‘rasa’ served with cinematic brilliance!

Emotions are a way of life, and our life is certainly void without emotions or feelings. “Navarasa”, the nine-part Tamil anthology, truly manifests this idea into the screen. Created by Mani Ratnam, under the banner of Madras Talkies for Netflix, the series is created to support and uplift film workers during pandemic times by generating funds through this project.
With the world hit by the pandemic, there are many things we are missing out on for more than a year now, but one thing that is undoubtedly soaring high is the creative cinema our generation is witnessing through OTT platforms. Otherwise, who would have thought about nine outstanding directors coming together to make a series with the most stellar cast altogether and where natural acting, genius direction, and powerful story writing combines, we all know it will bring magic on our screens!

With the latest anthology releases in the past year, Netflix has become exhilarating for audiences of all ages and interest groups. From Lust Stories, Ajeeb Dastans, Ray to Tamil anthology Paava Kadhaigal, we have seen unique stories of love, life, and tragedies. Anthologies seem to be a win-win for both producers and viewers these days, with each tale lasting only 30-45 minutes of run time, it keeps the viewers engaged or at least gears up to wait for the next one in the slot and still doesn’t seem as long as watching a series for a stretch of 4-6 hours. “Navarasa” indeed works based on this idea because, like all other anthologies, this too has a few hits and a few misses, but wait, that doesn’t let you skip the best ones.

Emotions are a way of life, and our life is certainly void without emotions or feelings. “Navarasa”, the nine-part Tamil anthology, truly manifests this idea into the screen. Created by Mani Ratnam, under the banner of Madras Talkies for Netflix, the series is created to support and uplift film workers during pandemic times by generating funds through this project.

With the world hit by the pandemic, there are many things we are missing out on for more than a year now, but one thing that is undoubtedly soaring high is the creative cinema our generation is witnessing through OTT platforms. Otherwise, who would have thought about nine outstanding directors coming together to make a series with the most stellar cast altogether and where natural acting, genius direction, and powerful story writing combines, we all know it will bring magic on our screens! With the latest anthology releases in the past year, Netflix has become exhilarating for audiences of all ages and interest groups. From Lust Stories, Ajeeb Dastans, Ray to Tamil anthology Paava Kadhaigal, we have seen unique stories of love, life and tragedies.

Anthologies seem to be a win-win for both producers and viewers these days, with each tale lasting only 30-45 minutes of run time, it keeps the viewers engaged or at least gears up to wait for the next one in the slot and still doesn’t seem as long as watching a series for a stretch of 4-6 hours. “Navarasa” indeed works based on this idea because, like all other anthologies, this too has a few hits and a few misses, but wait, that doesn’t let you skip the best ones.

Have you ever thought about how would it feel to portray a particular emotion throughout a movie or even the idea of it? Interesting, isn’t it?

Navarasa attempts to bring such nine unique emotions through its characters and theme, unlike other series of the same domain, which primarily constitutes the stories based on a common theme like love or horror. Nine directors have made nine films, and each story focuses on one rasa such as anger, compassion, courage, disgust, fear, laughter, love, peace, and wonder. It is said that these nine rasas are experienced by every human at least once in their life.

The first short by Bijoy Nambiar, Edhiri (Karuna- Compassion), is about remorse, regret and compassion. Dheena (Vijay Sethupathi) kills an unidentified man with his wife Savithri (Revathi) as the witness of the crime. But will he get over the regret of killing him or live with it? The story leaves a very important life lesson for us, though the ending feels a bit incomplete.

The second, Summer of ’92 (Haasya- laugh) by Priyadarshan, is a trip down the memory lane of mischiefs done in school days filled with laughter and joy. The centre of attraction is Velusamy (Yogi Babu), a famous comedian who is invited as a chief guest at his school in the native village and reminisces about some funny incidents in his speech with some banal remarks like “you don’t need to be educated to be successful”. This short encapsulates a minor tragedy beneath the comedy, but the good part is, it ends on a good note, both unexpected and humorous.

The third one, Project Agni (Adbutha- Wonder) by Karthick Naren, proves he is a true fan of Christopher Nolan. The movie talks about time travel and fancy civilization theories in a conversation between a brilliant mind Vishnu (Arvind Swami), who wants to explore the universe beyond human limits and his scientist friend Krishna (Prasanna), who works at ISRO (Bow down to the creators for the relevance in the character’s names and the theme). This one is one of the good movies among the nine but lacks originality. The lines like “Future affecting the present and past and the changes in the past affecting the present” are directly taken from the famous Netflix series Dark.

The fourth one, Payasam (Bibhatsa- Disgust) by Vasanth, is nothing sweet as the title suggests. It is about family rivalry where the eldest man of the family refuses to attend his nephew Subbu’s daughter’s wedding out of jealousy as Subbu has become prosperous and a well-respected person in the community. The movie is the weakest link of the nine as the build-up goes stretched and boring, works only in the last 4-5 minutes, but jealousy is rightly felt and is relatable. ‘Disgust’, however, cannot be suited to this story.

The fifth short story, Peace (Shaantha – Peace) by Karthik Subbaraj, tries to put a question mark on peace in a poetic way. But it feels like yet another rendition of Jagame Thandhiram by Subbaraj. The plot involves army men in Eelam in the midst of firing from Sri Lankan men, while one of them goes beyond the limits to help a kid. The movie has nothing much to offer and is passable without any milestones.

The sixth short, Rowthiram (Raudra – Anger), is the directorial debut of actor Arvind Swami and involves a revenge plot with police officers and the accused young guy Arul (Sree Raam). The story is quite neat and engaging with intelligent storytelling, great cinematography and music by AR Rahman is the cherry on the cake. It plays with your heart to reach the mind and leaves you awestruck with the climax.

The seventh story Inmai (Bhayaanaka- Fear), is another masterpiece by Rathindran R. Prasad that doesn’t prelude into showcasing fear directly through horror in an obvious manner. Instead, it focuses on ‘something that is not there’ (Inmai). Set in Puducherry, the short stars powerhouses of talent Siddharth and Parvathy as lead pair with an aesthetic production setting. The two strangers’ bond over Islamic arts and calligraphy, but you never know how the past may come to haunt you in terrible ways.

The eighth story is Thunintha Pin (Veera- Valour), directed by Sarjun KM, where a newcomer in Army comes face to face with Naxalites in the forest. The highlight of Thunintha Pin lies in its compelling dialogues and exchange of words between Vetri and Comrade (Kishore), proving that courage is beyond just about possessing a weapon.

The last in the lot is Guitar Kambi Mele Nindru (Shringaara- Romance) by Gautham Menon, who has made several classic love stories. Kamal (Suriya) is a young musician who happens to meet Nethra (Prayaga Martin) during one of his recording sessions. They develop a spark instantly, and the classic first love moments follow. This short is indeed one of the most light-hearted movies of the nine but suffers from a cliched plot. Overall, this anthology of nine tales doesn’t live up to the mark as expected. Maybe expectations were already set high due to the notable cast, but despite a few short movies like Summer of ’92, Project Agni and Inmai, others have a less engaging plot for the mass audience.

Nonetheless, still not refraining from the fact that all of them have a different and unparalleled cinematic experience and great performances. A unique concept brought in the world of cinema. Hence, a must watch for all the cinema enthusiasts out there!

Rating: 3.5/

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