Sarpatta Parambarai

Sarpatta Parambarai

Naive protagonist rises, falls, and rises again. A simple arc. Almost by-the-numbers, with a whole bunch of genre tropes included. But Pa Ranjith infuses so much life into the smallest of characters and events of the screenplay, making this an absolutely immersive watch from start to finish. He makes it really dense, by citing the milieu at crucial junctures, and also giving proper motivation for every character’s conflict. There’s genuine grit in their decisions, also boosted by the terrific ensemble.

Now here’s my biggest takeaway: this film deserves the big-screen experience. Or at least those immaculately mounted boxing sequences do. It’s been made by a filmmaker who clearly understands the absolute need to elevate specific moments with multiple aspects of the medium, in order to rise above broad beats of writing. The craft is truly electrifying. G. Murali’s frames do the elegant floating, while editor Selva R.K.’s come with the sharp stings. It’s a spectacle.

Delivering an enjoyable film in spite of the limited capabilities of his lead actor, proves Ranjith’s mettle as a director. He’s using the form very well, and I only see him growing in strength with every film. Going back to the leading man Arya, he surely looks the part and his physical frame is convincing for the arena the film has set itself in. But his monotonous dialogue delivery is exposed during emotionally weaker moments of Kabilan. It’s still important to note that the character plays to Arya’s range for most parts. Kabilan isn’t someone with depth and shades that go beyond the story that we’re witnessing. He’s a naive, angry young man who lets his emotions take control of his actions. Maybe a more seasoned actor would’ve brought in another layer to this person. The impact of violent childhood trauma, maybe? But that’d have only been an add-on to the multiple, engaging dynamics that Ranjith has already designed around Kabilan. Who’s he fighting for, and who’s he fighting against? This question has multiple political answers for this beneath the personal – “oneself”, and this isn’t said out loud, but merely captured with the reactions to his final win, and with the usage of elements that direct the final imagery of the film in a certain way.

The highest point of the film for me is when a woman questions its own subject – clans. Why do you stake your pride in a clan? Posing such a question right before the climax, in a film with the central conflict rooted in this very patriarchal pride, takes it to the zone of being self-aware in its outlook. I sincerely hope Dushara Vijayan’s lively portrayal of Mariamma catches more eyeballs in the industry.

The final act has a few instances that could’ve done with more drama, like Rangan Vaathiyar’s (a predictably amazing Pasupathy) return to Kabilan’s game, and Vetriselvan’s in-time arrival for an action block. The exhilarating pace of the narrative doesn’t let these niggles cause much of a dent in the overall impact of the film.

The more I think of the positioning of some characters and their stories, it’s hard to not draw parallels to the identity politics of our state. With the vantage point of a working class man, and the setting of clans that have heterogenous caste and class identities, Ranjith paints the story of a system filled with external factors that can bring an underprivileged man down, but packs all of it inside a story that makes the hero and us believe that he is his only enemy. That gives us a rousing individual arc to root for, and at the same time it’s a very clever way to package his bigger socio-political ideals. Intentional or not, that’s how I’m choosing to make sense of it. This one’s a solid winner.


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