Some Musings on the Tamil Film Super Deluxe

It has been more than a year since the release of the Thiagarajan Kumararaja Tamil film Super Deluxe. But I suppose one can indulge in some thoughts about it after having watched it recently on an OTT platform.

Movie Poster on Wikipedia

Spoilers Ahead

For those who are reading this and haven’t yet watched the film but are planning to there are disclosures about the ending of the film ahead that may spoil your enjoyment of it.

Plot

The film strings together the stories of an unfaithful wife, three teenagers whose hormones are running high and a transgender who has returned home. It is crazy and fast paced and hurls and jolts the viewer from one story and set of characters to another and back without any mercy. It feels like a roller coaster ride.  Part of the film’s attraction lies in this suddenness. It’s as if the director says ‘come along now and don’t be faint hearted for life itself is chaotic and sudden, so why should I prepare you in any way while jumping from one story to another’. As a viewer one is curious to know how the stories will ultimately be woven together for one feels they must be connected and this is another aspect of the film that keeps the viewer interested.

The film begins with a wife, Vaembu (Samantha Akkineni) inviting her lover (Rengarajan Rajagopalan) to her home as he tells her over the phone he is sad and she wants to make him feel better. Things go out of hand and they have sex and the man dies while in bed and she tries to figure out what to do with the corpse while her husband is on the way home from his acting class. Things spiral out of control and turn chaotic from there. The husband Mugil (Fahadh Faasil) though hurt by her infidelity takes initiative and refuses to allow her to surrender to the police and together they try to dispose the body and that is just the start of their misadventures together.

The second story strand concerns an adorable boy Raasukutty (Ashwanth Ashokkumar) who is waiting eagerly for the arrival of his father Manickam (Vijay Sethupathi) who has been away these many years. Finally, when the father does arrive he is no longer a man but a woman and calls himself Shilpa. The child in all his innocence asks the father to accompany him to school so that he can ‘show him off’ to his friends who relentlessly tease him for being a test tube baby. They set out for school together and a whole lot of unpredictable things happen to them.

The third story concerns a set of curious teenagers who want to watch a porn film. They skip school and gather in the house of Thuyavan (Abdul Jabbar), one among them. But Soori (Naveen), part of the group is in for a shock as when the film starts he finds that his mother Leela (Ramya Krishnan) is in it. In anger, her smashes the TV and runs out of the house with the intention of murdering his mother. Thuyavan, meanwhile is terrified because he fears his father and wants to replace the smashed TV with a new one before he returns home from work. His friends join him and together they try to make money to buy a new television and in the bargain get involved in a whole lot of sticky situations. In between we encounter Soori’s father Arputham (Mysskin) who has become a godman and a believer and peddler of miracle cures after being the lone survivor of a tsunami.

How the three stories join together in a manner of speaking and are resolved forms the rest of the film.

Pluses

The most striking aspect of the film is the chaos. It is crazily deliberately consciously chaotic and this wows you and keeps you glued to the screen. Then it’s the colours. Somehow the colours hit you between the eyebrows and make you sit up and take notice. It is the use of colours that raises the quality of the film to another level altogether. The colours are intentionally kitschy lurid and bright most often and hence blend with the film’s theme marvellously. They add to the chaos.

Then there are the sterling performances by the actors. Topping the list is little Ashwanth Ashokkumar as the innocent Raasukutty who waits for his father’s return. The child is sheer pleasure to watch and his talent is humbling. Vijay Sethupathi excels as the transwoman Shilpa. His whole body language exudes a pent up misery and we know exactly how much trauma Shilpa has gone through merely by looking at him.  Fahadh Faasil is excellent as the betrayed husband and his Tamil comes as a pleasant surprise. I loved the scene where he ‘enacts’ the part of the wronged husband. That could have easily gone out of hand. Samantha Akkineni as the unfaithful wife is a skilful portrayal and she succeeds in bringing out a certain innocence which is central to this character. That was something considering the fact that the film begins with her character cheating on her husband.

Mysskin as the godman Arputham was a little tiresome. But maybe the scenes showing him pleading with God for his son’s life were themselves too long drawn out. Bhagavathi Perumal too goes a little overboard as Berlin the sweet talking villainous police officer. But again, the scenes before the two rapes, one off screen and the other attempted were also too long drawn out.  

Questions

Given that the film deals with the chaotic nature of life; in fact it keeps reinforcing this aspect from time to time, should it have such a pat ending? Everything is tied up too neatly in the end. The villain dies, the couple are reconciled and the transwoman is cosily ensconced in her home with her wife and child.

Should it be so obviously preachy? As when Leela turns to the camera and says that people judge those who act in porn films harshly but they don’t have any problem with those watching them. True. Society by and large is hypocritical having one set of rules to judge women and another set to judge men. But the point could have been made with more subtlety instead of having Leela say it, and in so many words.  

Should it reinforce stereotypes? In large parts of India transgenders are tolerated because people fear the power of their curses. They believe that if they are blessed by transgenders they will prosper and that their curses are potent. Shilpa reacts aggressively to the policeman’s lack of interest when she wants to register a complaint about her missing child. She goes ballistic and, overcoming the two policemen who restrain her, touches his head and curses him. Later in the story the police officer (villain) dies. Doesn’t this reinforce the stereotype?  

What purpose does the inclusion of the alien serve? The introduction of the alien doesn’t blend well with the rest of the film and sticks out like a sore thumb. To story tellers, aliens are but plot devices. If they are introduced, they must serve a purpose. What purpose does this alien serve in the telling of the story? The alien (Mirnalini Ravi) and the person she clones have a pointless high sounding conversation about the endless nature of the universe and the chaos that is life for the benefit of the audience. Even without the alien the point is well made.

Must Watch

All said the film certainly should be one in your must watch list. That such a film should be made at all, and that too in Tamil, where most of the films are about larger than life muscular heroes setting the world right helped along by insanely beautiful clingy dancing lady loves, is in itself a huge step forward.  And one definitely looks forward to the next film from director Thiagarajan Kumararaja.

Credits

Name of film: Super Deluxe

Directed by: Thiagarajan Kumararaja

Produced by: Thiagarajan Kumararaja, S. D. Ezhilmathy, Kumaresan Vadivelu,                                     Sathyaraj Natarajan, Swathi Raghuraman

Screenplay by: Thiagarajan Kumararaja, Mysskin, Nalan Kumarasamy, Neelan K. Sekar

Starring: Vijay Sethupathi, Fahadh Faasil, Samantha, Ramya Krishnan

Music by: Yuvan Shankar Raja

Cinematography: P. S. Vinod, Nirav Shah

Edited by: Sathyaraj Natarajan

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