Paava Kadhaigal is a Tamil anthology drama web series (translation: Sinful Tales) released in a 2020 on Netflix. It has four episodes directed by Thangam by Sudha Kongara, Vaanmagal by Gautham Vasudev Menon, Oor Iravu by Vetrimaaran and Love Panna Uttranum by Vignesh Shivan. With the various and unique stories, the series is quite dark and two of the stories have queer stories. The series stars Kalidas Jayaram, Simran, Anjali Sai Pallavi, Prakash Raj, Gautham Vasudev Menon, Kalki Koechlin, and others. It’s been two years since the release, so we have our write up loaded with spoilers!
“If I touch someone, they either take advantage of me or move away in disgust.” says Sarthaaj as he bids farewell to Sarvanan, the man he is head over heels in love with, to marry his sister. Set in 1981 in Kaadampalayam in Kovai district, this story is about a visibly feminine man who wants to get his sex reassignment surgery done and then marry Sarvanan. We see him eating betel leaves or paan to get a maroon shade to his lip.
Sarthaaj earns by delivering groceries to people and has collected enough to get a sex reassignment surgery. However, he gives this money to his sister and Sarvanan. There’s a scene where a bunch of men are running behind him calling him names and trying to harass him for his ‘feminine’ mannerisms and they end up killing him soon after his sister and Sarvanan’s departure. The mirroring of how the society, especially men, will either harass sexually or kill to get ‘rid’ of people who don’t fit into the binary is observed and it passes through like a sharp knife.
Sarthaaj knocks on every door before they get him but his family asking him to die shatters him completely. When his mother remarks, “Why were you even born?” his will to exist completely shatters. Sarvanan gifts him a lipstick on the night of departure which he later finds was tied to a metallic support in the river beside the village. To Sarthaaj, this meant the world. He knew that the restraint of his body will never let Sarvanan feel the same for him but this one gift wrapped with care from his love interest makes him happy.
*Please note that we have used He/Him as Sarthaaj’s pronouns because this is how he addressed himself.*
Love Panna Uttarnum
The second story in this anthology is quite a surprise towards the end (and also a mood spoiler, to be honest). This story is about caste and a homosexual relationship. Aadhilaxmi and Jothilaxmi are twin sisters and Aadhilaxmi wishes to marry a man who is not as ‘equal’ in status and caste according to her father. While he agrees to get them wedded, his peers pressurize him into killing both, his daughter and her lover, separately. Just when Aadhilaxmi dies, Jothilaxmi arrives with two of her friends and one of them is her love interest.
The story doesn’t combine caste and homosexuality but they are presented in two different cases. None of which the society accepts. When they found about Jothilaxmi having interest in a boy from Dharavi (a slum area in Mumbai), her friend turns the conversation stating that she is in a lesbian relationship with her.
The men derive ‘pleasure’ seeing two women kiss and ‘demand’ for more to prove that they are actually in a romantic affair. However, the father doesn’t agree to it as well and forces Jothilaxmi to send her friends away if she wants to see them alive. Her friends leave and after days of feeling caged, she asks her father to either kill her or let her go with her friends.
As her friends arrive, she escapes and on her way, she speaks over call to her father and discloses that she was actually in love with the man, B cube, from Dharavi and there’s nothing wrong with homosexual and intercaste relationships.
How we wish it was a real lesbian story but this in itself shows how people, especially men, think that a lesbian relationship can be a plus for them as they get two women together. Currently streaming on Netflix, these stories are dark and not for the light hearted.