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Savarakathi Film Review: A Delightful Drama of the Absurd

Planning to watch Savarakathi this weekend? Read our review first

Gautaman Bhaskaran |

Updated:February 10, 2018, 1:20 PM IST
Savarakathi Film Review: A Delightful Drama of the Absurd
A still from the film
There is nothing new about proxy-directing a film. Many leading actors have done it in the past – only that they would never admit it. And the just-opened Tamil work, Savarakathi, credits G R Adithya with direction, and his elder brother, Mysskin, with writing. Probably, the story is Mysskin's as well. Whatever that be, it is a Mysskin movie – out and out – with the helmer, known for films like Onaayum Aattikkuttiyum and Pisasu, playing one of the two pivotal parts (the other by Ram, whose Thanga Meengal was a delightful watch).

There is little doubt that Mysskin – who, once inspired by the protagonist, Prince Myshkin, in Dostoevsky's novel, The Idiot, changed his name from Shanmugha Raja to Mysskin – loves Western literature, and mostly likely European cinema. His Thupparivaalan (2017) was a take on whom he calls his favorite literary character, Sherlock Holmes. Now, I could not miss the strong resemblance that Savarakathi has to Serbian auteur Emir Kusturica's movies like Black Cat, White Cat, Life is a Miracle and others.

Kusturica is a legend of course, and his cinema of the absurd is magical and mesmeric. A mind-boggling number of colors, a sheer variety of characterizations and vivid vibrancy fill his canvas, and out of this rumbling run of events, I have seen great stories emerge, meaningful and mighty. There is nothing frivolous about Kusturica's creations.

Mysskin comes somewhat close to this kind of cinema in Savarakathi, aided by his brother. As the ruthless Manga, Mysskin out on a day's parole from prison, clashes with a foolish barber, Picha (Ram), as he rides his rickety motorbike with his heavily pregnant wife, Subhadra (Poorna), and two young children to attend the marriage of his physically challenged brother-in-law (getting secretly wedded to a rich girl). Picha's bike hits Manga's plush car at a traffic junction, and the barber gets into a war of words with the outlaw. Manga's bruised ego pushes him to chase Picha for a whole day – till the parole ends.

Mercifully, the chase fraught with hilarity does not – like much of Tamil cinema – slip into the shoddy and the silly. Humor has a certain class here, and attracts smiles rather than laughs. The events race, and include the most outlandish: Watch a pregnant Subhadra escape from a hospital, where Manga had forcibly carted her, by jumping over several parapet walls, watch that part where Poorna's brother hurries the marriage registrar to complete the paperwork quickly and watch Ram who after pretending to be a strongman, cowers before the towering, heavyweight of a Manga. There is a lot more of the unexpected here.

The dark comedy kept me engrossed – certainly the first half, with Mysskin, Ram and Poorna putting their best foot forward. Poorna was a revelation to me. As the highly hysterical and stone-deaf mother of two and expecting the third, she is marvelous as a woman who has no clue why the bad men are chasing her family.

However, the second half of Savarakathi had my attention wavering, and I think Mysskin's script here veered into the pathos, and I could see that he had clearly run out of situations. Why cannot a film be just 90 minutes – the time enough to hold one's bladder (and attention), as Alfred Hitchcock once famously quipped. Yes, men like Mysskin must meander into this such mood, and maybe bring about a dramatic change in the Tamil movie scene.

I am going with three stars out of five – for riveting performances and the delightful drama of the absurd.

(Gautaman Bhaskaran is an author, commentator and movie critic)

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