Adutha Saattai Movie Review: Too many sermons take the sting out of this whip
Despite decent performances from the primary cast, the film is weighed down by the unending lectures and repetitive staging
Martin Scorsese’s biggest grouse against the Marvel “Theme Park” Universe was that there was no “revelation, mystery, or genuine emotional danger”. He found the films in MCU to be “sequels in name but remakes in spirit.” If Scorsese were from Tamil cinema, he’d, no doubt, have similar hot takes about the Samuthirakani Cinematic Universe (SCU) too.
Cast: Samuthirakani, Thambi Ramaiah, Athulya Ravi
Director: M Anbazhagan
Just like the Marvel films, the SCU too deals with sequels and spin-offs. When we first met Samuthirakani’s Dhayalan and Thambi Ramaiah’s Singaperumal in Saattai (2012), which spoke in detail about parenting and quality of school education, none of us knew the kind of beast we had awoken. It then lead to the Samuthirakani-directorial, Appa, which spoke in detail about parenting and the quality of school education... again. To keep things interesting, Adutha Saattai talks about the quality of education in an...arts and science college, which is named Appa College of Arts and Science. Novelty, much? But then, it is not just the repetition that is a deterrent.
After a point, Samuthirakani's unending moral science lessons become overbearing. Knowing this franchise is not showing signs of stopping, especially with Appa 2 on the way, here's an 8-point blueprint to make things easier for other filmmakers who want to be part of the SCU, and for fans to know what's in store.
Step 1: Name your protagonist and antagonist, Dhayalan and Singaperumal
Step 2: As a writer sourcing for ideas, follow trends on social media
Step 3: Have two groups of teachers — the cool role models and the villains who don't care about children (Don't you dare have a middle ground)
Step 4: Go all Bala-mode on the kids and hit them with one issue after the other (Refer Step 2 for ideas)
Step 5: Develop a community exercise that unites all the students despite various hindrances in the form of social ills, social status, etc... It is important that Samuthirakani, armed with monologues, is at the forefront
Step 6: Insert a tragedy for its sake
Step 7: Write in a half-baked change of heart for the villains that people will buy anyway
Step 8: Check Step 2 and see if any trends have been left out. Add any to the post-climax portions.
To be fair, adhering to this mindnumbing template doesn't necessarily make Adutha Saattai an uninteresting film. There are glimpses of ingenuity hidden beneath the lectures. In Adutha Saattai, we see students forming a 'Maanavar Naadaalumandram' to not just raise problems but also provide solutions. Many of these solutions are impressive and even inspiring. However, before we wholeheartedly appreciate the inventiveness, Samuthirakani comes up with a random whip-cracking of a sermon in an attempt to solve the problem of sexual harassment. Oh well.
Talking about random sermons, here's a fun exercise. Name an issue that is plaguing Tamil Nadu? Caste, poverty, environment-damaging mining projects, police atrocities, NEET, student suicides, bonded labour, sexual harassment, Sri Lankan Tamil issue, branding dissenters as anti-Indians, green revolution, water scarcity or unclean toilets... Dhayalan talks about every single one of these with conviction. Just when other characters seem to be growing on us, Samuthirakani whips out another random sermon in an attempt to solve casteism. Oh well.
In between all the sermonising, there is a well-sold, matured romance between Samuthirakani and his colleague, set to the tunes of Justin Prabhakaran. While the kids do put up a zealous performance, the driving force of the SCU has always been Samuthirakani's underplaying and Thambi Ramaiah's melodrama, and both National Award winners live up to their tag in Adutha Saattai.
Dhayalan is the Batman of SCU. He does not have superpowers, but is socially responsible and wants to keep society safe by shaping "edhirkaala India." A sermonising and overbearing guardian. A watchful but unbearably talkative protector... You get the idea.