Sivakumarin Sabadham Movie Review: A rudderless, even if fairly self-aware, message film
The real-life problems of the weavers are hardly touched upon by this film that seems to believe it’s their crusader
Tamil cinema or Indian filmmakers, in general perhaps, suffer from their misunderstanding of what constitutes a 'wholesome entertainer'. They seem to believe that it’s a film that should have something of everything. This has resulted in horror films having comedy, children's films having item numbers, and love stories filled with social messages. And of course, some of them, to be fair, have been entertaining too. However, the tonal shifts of Sivakumarin Sabadham (SS), in its pursuit of being a complete 'masala film', leave us confused.
Cast: Hiphop Tamizha Aadhi, Madhuri, Prankster Rahul, Adithya Kathir, Elango Kumanan
Direction: Hiphop Tamizha
Half an hour into the film, I truly understood what Sadha in Anniyan must have felt like, seeing romantic Remo transform into a psychotic killer without warning. What begins as a sentimental scene in SS turns into forced comedy and then turns into action, before eventually returning to the original emotional point at which it began. The director duo seem to have found this idea to be their success formula, given how they keep repeating this over and over again through this film. The characters keep hopping from one emotion to another, but all it left me feeling was numbness.
Anyone who has followed the exponential rise of Hiphop Tamizha Adhi may be aware of the checklists in his films. He is usually a college student of the middle-class, a person whose love for Tamil and humanity is often spoken about. These films are usually filled with YouTube stars. When the relatable protagonist finally rises against the odds, the victory, in his previous successful films, have been celebrated by the audience as their own. Sivakumar here is an underdog, no surprises there, and looking macroscopically, the tale is also about his rise to prominence. But where Meesaya Murukku and Natpe Thunai worked, SS doesn’t.
On the paper, it is a serious story about a grandson's journey to reclaim the lost glory of his grandfather, once a renowned silk saree weaver. Typically, such stories are fraught with obstacles, but here, the major obstacle seems to be their insufferable ignorance. Had either of them asked some obvious questions in crucial moments, there might not have been any conflict in the first place.
The saving grace is the self-awareness of this film while it treads tricky territories. Sivakumar stalks Shruti, in the name of pursuit, but eventually realises his problem and apologises to her. The latter falls for the former after a cliched rescue scene from a villain gang. We find the transformation to be jerky… but so does Sivakumar! He confronts her and suggests that it is a momentary infatuation, but then lets her take the final call. The most memorable scene of SS belongs to this list, where Adhi turns meta and declares that he made Club La Mabbu La out of culture shock and now, is matured enough to respect the personal choices of people regardless of their gender. These are warm moments that speak of how this artist has evolved.
Adhi also shows massive improvement as a dancer, but still has some way to go in selling the emotional scenes. YouTuber Prankster Rahul gets a lot of screentime, but mostly, doesn’t add much to this film. Mayuri's Shruti, on the other hand, has vision and purpose in this film. It might, however, have been better to see her steer the plot actively, rather than getting reduced to a cheerleader for Sivakumar.
While films are an important medium of awareness and education, the silk weavers' angle in SS feels cursory. The war between the native weavers and the modern textiles is superficial and seems like an excuse to bring in a personal vengeance angle. The real-life problems of the weavers are hardly touched upon by this film that seems to believe it’s their crusader. Notice how we are getting a lot of superficial films about farmers? Well, we get a similar film here, but only, this time, it’s not farmers… it’s weavers.