South Indian films of 2021 that you can't afford to miss on OTT platforms

Best South Indian Movies 2021
(Image credit: Various Production Houses)

To say that 2021 was the year of southern cinema would be overstating our case. The fact remains that movies made in the four south Indian languages gained new followers through the OTT platforms. Add the social media euphoria around some of these movies into this mix, and one can safely say that south cinema ruled yet again. 

Of course, this isn't meant to pull down Bollywood flicks of 2021, given that we did see some memorable movies from this neck of the woods as well. We had Pagglait, Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui, Uddham Singh, and Kaagaz, before culminating in the blockbuster 83, a story that Indians across generations cannot ever forget. 

We present here a list of 12 movies from amongst many more that had watched over the past 12 months. We strongly believe that each of these movies can be on a must-watch list during the first weekend of 2022. The list comprises three movies from each of Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada with one extra title that could, in the true sense of the word, be said to transcend languages and cultures. 

Jai Bhim (Tamil)

Jai Bhim

IMDb Rating: 9.4

Director: T.J. Gnanavel

Actors: Suriya, Liji Mol Jose, Manikandan

Platform: Amazon Prime Video

The story of a tribal man's arrest for a petty crime and his wife's efforts to get him out of jail forms the crux of this movie. That it is based on a real life incident adds to the gravitas. Knowing that the protagonist, shown as a firebrand lawyer, ended up as a judge in the Madras High Court, makes it even more real.

Drishyam 2 (Malayalam)


IMDb Rating: 8.6

Director: Jeethu Joseph

Actors: Mohanlal, Meena, Murali Gopy

Platform: Amazon Prime Video

Just when you thought that a movie-buff managed to evade the arrest of his family members using tidbits from movie plots, karma returns in the form of a senior cop who believes that they've been fooled. If you thought the first edition kept on you tenterhooks, catch the second one as there's no getting away from it. 

Cinema Bandi (Telugu)

Cinema Bandi

IMDb Rating: 8.1

Director: Praveen Kandregula

Actors: Vikas Vasistha, Sandeep Varanasi, Rag Mayur

Platform: Netflix

A drive lays his hands on an expensive camera in his auto rickshaw and starts to get ambitious about making a movie on his village. The idea is to get the attention to the travails of his drought-hit village and the tough conditions. The audacity of the plot is the main protagonist of this movie and makes it worth a watch. 

Yuvarathna (Kannada)


IMDb Rating: 6.7

Director: Santhosh Ananddram

Actors: Puneeth Rajkumar, Sayyesha Saigal

Platform: Amazon Prime Video 

The story line isn't what made the movie popular. It tracks the life of the head of a college that is facing closure due to the government's move to privatise education. The battle against the political system is what the movie is all about. However, it was the untimely death of its leading star Puneeth Rajkumar that led fans to the movie.

Aarkariyam (Malayalam)


IMDb Rating: 6.9

Director: Sanu John Varughese

Actors: Biju Menon, Parvati, Sharafudeen

Platform: Amazon Prime Video

When a couple returns to their village to beat the Covid-lockdown and an impending financial crisis, little do they realize that their home isn't what it appears. Nor is the girl's retired father the righteous school teacher that he appears to be. The narrative stays on edge as the father-in-law and son-in-law bond to save the love of their lives. 

Karnan (Tamil)


IMDb Rating: 8.2

Director: Mari Selvaraj

Actors: Dhanush, Lal, Rijisha Vijayan

Platform: Amazon Prime Video

The story is set in a decrepit village in Tamil Nadu where Karnan has to battle both the caste demons and some of his own. Arrayed against him is a system that works on broadening the caste divide amongst the authorities and the proletariat. The role played by the protagonist's fellow villagers is what makes life tougher for him.

Kotigobba 3 (Kannada)

Kotigobba 3

IMDb Rating: 6.7

Director: Shiva Karthik

Actors: Sudeep, Aftab Shivdasani, Madonna Sebastian

Platform: Amazon Prime Video

The story of a modern-day Robin Hood who robs the rich and feeds the poor cannot be a novelty by any stretch of imagination. It is the gravitas that leading man Sudeep lends to the character that has resulted in the makers considering it as a franchise of the future. It is a true potboiler embellished by Sudeep's acting chops. 

Love Story (Telugu)

Love Story

IMDb Rating: 6.7

Director: Shiva Karthik

Actors: Sudeep, Aftab Shivdasani, Madonna Sebastian

Platform: Aha

Once again the story isn't unique nor is the treatment. What makes the story of this boy and girl setting out of their village to chase their city dreams is the caste factor at play. Of course, the subtle chemistry of Sai Pallavi and Naga Chaitanya also worked as did their interpretation of the two characters from diverse backgrounds. 

Puksatte Lifu (Kannada)

Puksatte Lifu Pursotte Illa

IMDb Rating: 9.1

Director: Aravind Kuplikar

Actors: Sanchari Vijay, Achyut Kumar, Matangi Prasanna

Platform: Zee5

The movie did not get enough publicity early on, but the story itself was unique and involved the travails of a simple key maker living in the gullies of Bangalore. How his life turns topsy turvy after getting associated with a bunch of crooked cops is what makes up the rest of the movie. 

Nayattu (Malayalam)


IMDb Rating: 8.1

Director: Martin Prakkat

Actors: Kunchako Boban, Joju George, Nimisha Sajayan

Platform: Netflix

The story of three cops on the run from their own comrades due to some politically motivated events made for an edge-of-the-seat thriller. The movie depicts the chasm between the corrupt and the not-so-corrupt cops in the country without taking sides or attempting to find middle ground. Everyone does what they think is right. 

Mandela (Tamil)


IMDb Rating: 8.5

Director: Madonne Ashwin

Actors: Yogi Babu, Sheela Rajkumar, Sangili Murugan

Platform: Netflix

This is the story of a man with no identity, not even a name. He does odd jobs at his village and is a barber too. What happens when his attempts to secure a voter card in his assumed name forms the rest of the story. The satire flows when two sons of a local leader seek his vote to oust the other from power. 

Pushpaka Vimanam (Telugu)

Pushpaka Vimanam

IMDb Rating: 6.6

Director: Damodara

Actors: Anand Devarakonda, Geeth Saini, Saanve Megghan

Platform: Aha Video

The movie explores the life of teacher at the local government school who appears to have high aspirations around conjugal bliss. However, his life turns to dust when the newly married wife elopes and he is left fending inquisitive friends. His attempts to connect with other women forms the crux of the film. 

The Great Indian Kitchen

The Great Indian Kitchen

IMDb Rating: 8.3

Director: Jeo Baby

Actors: Suraj Venjaramudu, Nimisha Sajayan

Platform: Amazon Prime Video

Misogyny is language agnostic. And this movie really made us sit up and recognize it. The manner in which a kitchen is used in Indian households to subjugate the woman made most of us uncomfortable as we would have witnessed something similar. And possibly condoned it when it occurred because the perpetrator was a close relative.

A few honorable mentions

  • Sarpatta Parambarai (Tamil) - Amazon Prime Video
  • Joji (Malayalam) - Amazon Prime Video
  • Kala (Malayalam) - Amazon Prime Video 
  • Jathi Ratnalu (Telugu) - Amazon Prime Video
  • Operation Java (Malayalam) - Zee5

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Raj Narayan

A media veteran who turned a gadget lover fairly recently. An early adopter of Apple products, Raj has an insatiable curiosity for facts and figures which he puts to use in research. He engages in active sport and retreats to his farm during his spare time.