Cast: Vijay Sethupathi, Fahadh Faasil, Samantha, Ramya Krishnan
Director: Thiagarajan Kumararaja
As the first reels begin to roll in Thiagarajan Kumararaja's latest outing, Super Deluxe, after his last in 2011, Aaranya Kaandam, I was at once reminded of auteurs such as Pedro Almodovar and Emir Kusturica. The quirky scene where Samantha's Vaembu hides her lover's body in a refrigerator took me immediately to Almodovar's Volver, where Penelope Cruz's Raimunda does just about the same.
And the kind of colours which Kumararaja uses and the mishmash of events are very Kusturican – though I must dare say that the Tamil director's work does not have a similar energy. This does impede the flow of the narrative, and the last 45 minutes of the very long film stretching to nearly three hours, seem a bit of a drag.
Honestly, Super Deluxe did not engage me the way Aaranya Kaandam did, and I thought Jackie Shroff's performance as an impotent man there was his career best. This is, of course, not to deny credit to Super Deluxe – which is not just bold but experimental in a fascinating sort of way.
The movie is a ripping critique, scripted with biting sarcasm, of the plight of transgenders, the blind faith in religion and police cruelty, and Kumararaja does not flinch when he lets a top cop humiliate and harass a transgender, Shilpa (played by Vijay Sethupathi), and, later, blackmail a young Vaembu, forcing her to have sex with him in the presence of her husband, Mugil (Fahadh Faasil).
Super Deluxe has several tracks running, all seamlessly edited by Sathyaraj Natarajan to blend into one another. The inter-cuts have been handled brilliantly, and even the story of four boys on a robbing spree gels with the other essentially adult themes.
But what, in the end, catapults the film to a height much above the average is the wonderful, wonderful acting by Faasil, the husband who is thrown into a dilemma after he finds a dead body in his home refrigerator and his wife Vaembu confessing to have had sex with him a little earlier. As completely shaken by the twist and turn of events, Samantha portrays the helplessness of a woman cheated by life. But the ultimate honours must go to Sethupathi, who courageously disappears into the character of a transgender, but later realises how selfish he has been, ignoring the feelings of his young wife and little son. Both are utterly bewildered by Shilpa's transformation.
Super Deluxe could have been far more exciting had it been pruned by at least 45 minutes.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is an author, commentator and movie critic)
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