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Upperstall Review





Tamil, Action, Drama, 2012, Color

The areas around Usilampatti are notorious for honour killings. Boys falling in love with girls in this area or trying to marry a girl against traditional family wishes are punished with brutal murder. Sundarapandian (Sasikumar) is the son of a neighboring village big wig, Ragupathy (Naren), who is generally liked by all in the village. He is mischievous, rough, a Rajinikanth fan, at the same time protective towards young girls and is a favorite of all the old ladies in the village. His father has two wives, who are sisters, and they all love him. Sundarapandian basically hangs out with his friends Murugu (Soori), Arivalagan (Inigo Prabhakaran) and others. Arivalagan falls in love with a college going girl, Archana (Lakshmi Menon), who is from Usilampatti. But the girl ignores him. Sundarapandian, decides to help his friend Arivalagan and he - along with his other friends - too travels in the same bus that she does, to help Arivalagan's love affair. It so happens there is another person Bhuvanesh (Appu Kutty) from Usilampatti, also is in love with Archana. He too has been traveling in the same bus for many more months than Arivalagan, trying to draw Archana's attention. Paranjothi (Sounthar Raja) who is a common friend from Usialmpatti, informs Sundarapandian about Bhuvanesh's love for Archana and wants Arivalagan to withdraw. Sundarapandian decides, that Arivalagan will withdraw for a month while Buvanesh will try for one month and if Archana refuses him, it will be Arivalgan's chance to try. But in all this, Archana falls in love with Sundarapandian, who apparently has expressed his love for her a few years back which she had turned down. Arivalagan reluctantly accepts Sundarapandian and Archana's love but Bhuvanesh creates problem in the bus for Archana. This results in a fight and Bhuvanesh gets killed. Sundarapandian surrenders to the police taking full responsibility. Meanwhile, Archana's family decides to marry her off to her elder sister's brother in law, Jagan (Vijay Sethupathi), as per their family agreement. Sundarapandian gets released on bail. When Paranjothi's men attack him, Sundarapandian manages to fight back. To stop further bloodshed, Sundarapandian's father brokers peace with the Usilampatti villagers and manages to convince them to withdraw the murder case. Ragupathy also meets Archana's father (Thennavan) and convinces him for marrying Archana to Sundarapandian. Now when everything seems to settle down, Paranjothi still harboring anger and Jagan who was to marry Archana collude to murder Sundarapandian, just before his marriage...

Sundarapandian is yet another fine effort from the Sasikumar production staple, coming after Subramaniyapuram, Pasanga and the disappointing Easan and Poraali. Though the credit goes to the debutant director of the film Prabhakar for excellent casting and handling of actors, it must have been a difficult and challenging task for Prabhakar, to direct Sasikumar in the lead role for this film, as he has been an associate director to of Sasikumar earlier. Moreover the film is produced by Sasikumar himself - he credits himself as Director Sasikumar, just to ensure nobody forgets him!

The film has very obvious shades from Subramaniyapuram (and Naadodigal), which catapulted M Sasikumar to stardom, as a Director, Producer and Actor. Here too, Sundarapandian too talks about the rustic rural life of youngsters, friends hovering around one heroine, with associated exaggerated violence. In Subramaniyapuram, Sasikumar played the supporting role as a friend of the main character, while in Naadodigal and this film he plays the main character. With this film, Sasikumar comes across as a highly ambitious filmmaker/actor and seems to have mastered the technique of being a Producer and Actor at a young age, irrespective of whether it is his own direction or his associate's direction.

Though the film is entrenched and promotes a fake macho culture in the garb of tradition, it does work well with its story line and narrative structure with some excellent scenes. The film starts with a lengthy voice over establishing the dangerous battle field of Usilampatti's neighborhood, where lovers are murdered in the name of honour killings and then like a Rajini film opening, establishes Sasikumar, as the hero of the village and the film with even an introductory song. It was strange, to see the Raijni style acting, shots, walking mannerism, choreographed for Sasikumar. But then he is a Rajini fan and just like we accept Rajni, we will accept him as our hero, with no questions asked! The film's beginning scenes where our characters are interacting with girls and women of the village, does reek of some 3rd rate potential porno film, but thankfully, it soon settles down to an interesting story line.

The goal is simple, a wild un-harnessed young girl, has to be tamed and make her fall in love with our hero. The route taken by the story line is interesting. Lakshmi Menon as Archana, carries off her role with absolute grace. Her shades of disgust, anger, love, fear, worries, playfulness, her daring spirit, all comes across wonderfully helped by brilliant screenplay and dialogues. The girl who plays the friend of Archana in the bus too has done an excellent job. Similarly, the relation between Sundarapandian and his main friend Murugu is brilliant. Soori as Murugu plays the perfect side kick for our hero and it seems Tamil cinema has mastered this equation of sidekicks both for our hero and heroine with some brilliant acting and dialogues in many films. Soori is sure to follow the footsteps of Vadivelu and Santhanam.

Most of the beginning scenes happen in the bus, which are well done. All the boys seem to migrate towards the girls in the bus and it takes a Sundarapandian's presence to restore order in the bus. However, it has to be said he comes across as the biggest rogue at the way he treats Archana's friend, when he confronts her on the street, to announce his friend Arivalagan's interest for her. But then this is accepted as our heroes are machos and our girls too are portrayed as if they like that secretly. If Sundarapandian can treat Archana's friend like that, then his side kick Murugu can also treat the old ladies similarly. It was absolutely in bad taste the way the dialogues and the so called comedy scenes of criticizing the old ladies, when all the ladies cry seeing Sundarapandian coming home after he is released on bail have been treated. Both the father of the boy, Naren, and girl, Thennavan has given brilliant performances as big wigs in their respective villages, but contrasted with one's love for the daughter and the other's for the son.

The final climax scene violence and fight is extremely well executed, but it is difficult to accept the hero fighting back after all the blows he receives. Maybe the Producer wanted to try out a different end compared to Subramaniyapuram. The background score by Raghunanthan is very effective, thought the songs do not stay in mind. The cinematography by Premkumar is very effective and so too is the editing.

Though the film scores well in storytelling, casting, screen play, characterizations, it is stuck in style and form. The attitudes and value systems both in content and cinematic form, reek of conservatism and reinforcing it. It would be interesting to see what more can Tamil cinema churn out after trying out so many shades of the potent violence in so many films out of these rural Madurai and Theni districts.

Upperstall review by: RV Ramani





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