Tamil Features

Best Tamil Films of 2021: Boxing Rings, Time Loops and Social Justice

With December coming to an end, the number of years the world has lived with the Covid-19 pandemic has gone up to two.


Despite being deeply affected by the world coming to a standstill, Tamil cinema has managed to stay afloat, largely with the help of OTT platforms. This medium has also facilitated a rise in parallel cinema with indie films such as Maadathy and Sennai premiering online.

At the same time, mainstream cinema has also thrived with a variety of Tamil films getting releases – from star-studded blockbusters to content-driven stories.

Silverscreen India brings you this list of films from 2021, complied in no particular order, which stood out from the rest.


When Vijay-starrer Master was released in theatres early in January for Pongal, the film came as a ray of hope for the otherwise gloomy cinema halls in Tamil Nadu. Despite opening in theatres allowed to function with only 50% occupancy, Master grossed close to Rs 113 crore within two weeks and became the undisputed saviour of the Tamil film industry in 2021.

The film, celebrated for its star value and mass entertainment, also became a rage on social media. When the global online database IMDb unveiled its list of most popular Indian films and web series of 2021, Master stood at the number one spot. The film was also revealed to be Twitter India’s most tweeted film of the year and found a place among Google’s top trending movies in the country as well.

Master is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.



Mari Selvaraj’s second directorial Karnan depicts the harsh reality of caste oppression in rural Tamil Nadu. It is loosely based on the caste violence that took place in Kodiyankulam village in Tirunelveli district in 1995.

Led by actor Dhanush, the film about a village’s uprisal against systemic violence opened to much acclaim. Silverscreen India called the film a “powerful anatomy of a rebellion.”

The success of the film even led to the announcement of a second collaboration between filmmaker Mari Selvaraj and Dhanush.

Also featuring actors Rajisha Vijayan, Lakshmi Priya Chandramouli, Gouri G Kishan, Natarajan Subramaniam, Lal, and Yogi Babu, Karnan is available on Amazon Prime Video.


Sarpatta Parambarai

A sports period drama starring Arya, this Pa Ranjith film revolves around boxing clans that existed in North Chennai in the 70s. Speaking about the film ahead of its release, Ranjith had said, “When I was researching for my film Madras (2014) in North Chennai, I came to know that two of the main sports played there were football and boxing. I found out that boxing culture existed in the area even during the pre-Independence era and this made me want to make a film about it. North Chennai is often stereotyped in Tamil cinema. I wanted to erase that and provide a new narrative.”


Sarpatta Parambarai earned praise for its unique characterisations, with the character Dancing Rose, played by Shabeer Kallarakkal, standing out in particular. Shabeer was praised for his unique take on the character and for his footwork, which was inspired by boxer Naseem Hamed’s style.

Sarpatta Parambarai premiered on Amazon Prime Video and is available for streaming on the same platform.



This political satire is led by Yogi Babu. The actor-comedian plays a Dalit barber called Smile, who later adopts the name Mandela. Smile, who is otherwise ignored, gains prominence when his vote becomes the deal-breaker during caste-divided local elections.

Mandela marks the directorial debut of Madonne Ashwin. In an earlier conversation with Silverscreen India, Ashwin said that the film first took form as a seven-minute short called Ward Enn 325 in 2011 before he decided to explore it further as a feature. “Films don’t create revolution, but they are thought-inducing,” the filmmaker added.

Mandela can be streamed on Netflix.



A black comedy starring actor Sivakarthikeyan, Doctor is the second film of director Nelson Dilipkumar. The film features the actor best known for his comic sense as a stoic-faced doctor on a mission to save children from a human-trafficking network, all whilst being surrounded by a bunch of wild characters. Silverscreen India‘s review of Doctor makes a special mention of the screenplay.

The film entered the 100-crore club 25 days after its release.

Doctor is currently streaming on Netflix.



Releasing in November after facing several hurdles, this Silambarasan-starrer turned out to be a huge hit with the audience and critics alike. The political thriller deals with a time loop concept, something rather new to Tamil cinema. It was particularly lauded for its screenplay by director Venkat Prabhu and the performance of SJ Suryah as the antagonist Dhanushkodi. Silverscreen India’s review called the film an “entertaining, largely gripping time-loop thriller,” and noted that “Venkat Prabhu sticks to the central plot and only provides diversions of the quirky kind that mostly add to the entertainment without detracting from the core thriller.”

Maanaadu was also widely appreciated for its editing by KL Praveen. The film was his 100th one as an editor.

Maanaadu is set to stream on SonyLIV from December 24.


Jai Bhim


Inspired by events that took place at the Madras High Court in the 90s, Jai Bhim is about a lawyer who fights for justice for people from the Irular tribal community. Suriya, who plays this lawyer, also produced the film.

While Jai Bhim got a largely positive reception, it also fell victim to a slew of controversies. However, this film, written and directed by TJ Gnanavel, still surpassed The Shawshank Redemption (1994) to become the highest-rated movie on IMDB.

Jai Bhim premiered on Amazon Prime Video and is available for streaming on the same platform.




Silverscreen India termed this hour-long film “short in length, long in depth.” Starring actor Vijay Sethupathi, his daughter Sreeja Vijay Sethupathi and actor Regina Cassandra, it is helmed by debutant filmmaker Karthik S and revolves around a family and the dog that they adopt. Mughizh revolves around loss, trauma, and coping. Director Karthik earlier told Silverscreen India that the film can be characterised as a family’s journey. “Here, each member finds a new fragrance (mughizh) that will change the prism through which they view life forever,” he said.

Mughizh is currently available on Netflix.


Koozhangal (Pebbles)

Koozhangal (Pebbles), which has been selected to represent India at the Oscars 2022, is directed by PS Vinothraj. Backed by Nayanthara and Vignesh Shivan, the film revolves around a man and his son in a parched rural region in Tamil Nadu. The duo set out for a neighbouring village to meet the boy’s estranged mother who had left them in protest of the man’s alcoholism.

The film won the Tiger Competition Award at the 50th International Film Festival of Rotterdam, becoming the second Indian film and the first Tamil film to win the honour. “Everyone who watched the film at the festival liked it. We knew we were going to win something,” said Vinothraj in a subsequent interview with Silverscreen India.


Thangam – Paava Kadhaigal

Headlined by Kalidas Jayaram and Shantanu Bhagyaraj, the segment Thangam from the Netflix anthology Paava Kadhaigal is a rare Tamil film that features a trans person as its central character. The Sudha Kongara directorial is set in a village in Coimbatore district in 1981. Kalidas plays Sathar, a trans woman, while Shantanu essays her childhood friend Saravanan. Sathar refers to the latter lovingly as Thangam and nurses more than just feelings of friendship for him. The short also touches on issues of caste and the perils of a Hindu-Muslim romance.

The anthology is available on Netflix.




Helmed by Halitha Shameem, Aelay revolves around the rocky relationship between an ice cream vendor and his son. The film opened to positive reception from critics. Speaking to Silverscreen India earlier, Halitha said, “Love may be glorified in films. But in reality, there are a lot of problems when it comes to relationships. When movies like Kumbalangi Nights are made, we are told that it is okay to have a family like that.”

Aelay is streaming on Netflix.


Sivaranjiniyum Innum Sila Pengalum

An anthology from veteran filmmaker Vasanth S Sai, this film is adapted from Tamil short stories by Ashokamitran, Jeyamohan, and Aadhavan. Set in Chennai at different time periods, Sivaranjiniyum Innum Sila Pengalum talks about the patriarchal society that has existed through time and shows how women bear the brunt of it. Starring Lakshmi Priya Chandramouli, Parvathy Thiruvothu and Kalieswari Srinivasan, the film has been widely celebrated. It premiered at the 2018 MAMI film festival in Mumbai, but only got a wide release on SonyLIV this year.