The five best South Indian films of 2020: from 'C U Soon' to 'Soorarai Pottru'

The industry's biggest stars, such as Suriya and Fahadh Faasil, had some fantastic releases this year

A scene from the film 'C U Soon'. Courtesy Amazon Prime
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In India, Bollywood films get the lion's share of public attention, but fairly recently, the country has awoken to the brilliance of South Indian cinema.

There are four different strands that form the South Indian film industry and while each has its own trademark style – Malayalam-language films typically feature slice-of-life stories, while Tamil cinema boasts larger-than-life action flicks, for example – there are some unique and beautiful films that are worth your time.

In the UAE, a large number of South Indian films are released in major cinemas and subtitled in English, making them easily accessible to those who don't speak the languages.

This year, though, most films were released on streaming platforms, and we've picked the five best.

'Anjaam Pathiraa' (The Fifth Midnight)

A criminologist helps the police track down a serial killer with a penchant for killing cops in this Malayalam-language crime thriller by director Midhun Manuel Thomas. Featuring a gripping plot, thrilling climax and a stellar cast that includes Kunchacko Boban, Unnimaya Prasad, Sharafudheen and Sreenath Bhasi, this whodunnit will keep you guessing until the very end.


This Tamil-language psychological thriller, which is inspired by the Buddhist story of the demon Angulimala, follows a blind man who becomes part of a murder mystery after his lady-love is kidnapped by a man known to decapitate his female victims.

What makes director Mysskin's film particularly gripping is that the identity of the killer is revealed right at the beginning – yet not knowing what he is going to do next is what keeps you on the edge of your seat. A soundtrack by storied composer Ilaiyaraaja perfectly complements the often tense, disturbing and gritty film, which stars Aditi Rao Hydari, Udhayanidhi Stalin and Nithya Menen. Its unique supporting characters – a quadriplegic ex-police officer and a kooky teacher, for example – also make watching this thriller a unique experience. The film is currently streaming on Netflix.

'C U Soon'

Even the pandemic did not slow down the makers of this Malaylam-language film, in which technology (and the city of Dubai) has an integral role. A large part of the feature plays out over video calls, allowing the filmmakers total control over what they want and don't want to reveal.

Jimmy (Roshan Mathew) falls in love with Anu (Darshana Rajendran) online, and the former’s worried mother entrusts her internet-savvy nephew Kevin (Fahadh Faasil) with getting more details on the girl. Written and directed by Mahesh Narayan, this mystery drama will startle you with an ending you do not see coming. The film is currently available on Amazon Prime.

'Colour Photo'

Set in the late 1990s and inspired by a true story, this Telugu-language film is a tragic love story that tackles colourism and touches on the debate of fair skin versus dark skin – a topic as relevant today as it was in the 1990s.

Suhas stars as Jayakrishna, a poor dark-skinned boy who is ridiculed and discriminated against for the colour of his skin. At college, he falls in love with a fair-skinned rich girl, who reciprocates his love and, despite attempting to keep their relationship a secret, it does not end well when word gets out. An emotional film with amazing performances by a cast that is made up of several debutants, Colour Photo renders a strong message through a simple love story.

'Soorarai Pottru' (Hail the Brave)

Tamil-language film Soorarai Pottru is inspired by the life and struggles of GR Gopinath, founder of Simplifly Deccan, India's first low-cost airline. Tamil actor Suriya stars as Maara, who makes it his mission to make the common man fly by starting a low-cost airline, but despite trying his best, he makes several enemies along the way, who sabotage his attempts.

Popular Bollywood actor Paresh Rawal and actress Aparna Balamurali star in this Sudha Kongara-directed film that tugs at the heartstrings and takes you through a roller coaster of emotions. With a run time of two hours and 33 minutes, it may feel a tad long, but the film also boasts a great soundtrack. It is currently available on Amazon Prime.