Sundaram Master Movie Review : Harsha shines as an unlikeable character in an unlikely drama 

Sundaram Master Movie Review : Harsha shines as an unlikeable character in an unlikely drama 

Sundaram Master is sincere at the cost of being simplistic 
Rating:(3 / 5)

Right off the bat in Sundaram Master, we get to notice how entitled its titular character is. He is played by a competent Harsha Chemudu, who is in tune with the film's multiple tonal shifts. At a pelli choopulu scene, we expect the girl to do the rejection, given Sundar’s rotund appearance. The girl's sister also whispers in the girl's ear, “He is very ugly akka, please say no.” But the tables are turned, as she waits expectantly while Sundar makes demands for dowry, rejecting her casually because her family is offering less than another prospective party.

Cast - Harsha Chemudu, Divya Sripada, Chaitu Babu

Director - Kalyan Santhosh 

Before we even notice Sundar’s selfishness, we catch ourselves thinking, “Who does he even think of himself to behave the way he does?”. And in that moment, our inherent biases reveal themselves to us. Would we be okay with a protagonist crassly demanding dowry if he was good-looking? Probably not, but we would at least expect some sort of character development later on in the story. We, as an audience, are ready to give that benefit of the doubt to a conventionally good-looking protagonist than Sundaram. 

The likes of Harsha, who appear onscreen more often as the hero’s best friend, are expected to be good guys. The funny guys. At the very least, they are expected to be men who do not reject women who look much better than them. They are expected to be men who are desperate for a woman's attention. Even outside of an arranged marriage meet-cute set-up, Harsha is also seen behaving the same way with Myna (Divya Sripada), a woman who is seen nursing a crush on Sundar. Long story short, our well-coddled expectations of how a hero should look are shattered the same way our expectations of how a hero should behave in Sundaram Master

It is the protagonist's shades of grey that propel the events of the story forward. After getting handpicked by the local MLA to teach English to an isolated tribe in the village of Miryalametta, Sundar heads off with gusto, vying for an increased dowry package and a political position offered as a reward. The villagers of Miryalametta seem to be inspired by the uncontacted Sentinelese tribes of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Director Kalyan Santhosh mines comedy out of the world-building he develops out of this fictional tribal society. How do the tribals speak English? Why do they need an English teacher if they can speak English? Why was Sundar, a social science teacher, specifically selected for the job? What do the tribals do in times of death? Who do they worship? The suspension of disbelief required for keeping up with this chain of fictional trivia isn't enough when we get a revolutionary who looks like Brahmanandam, enters the picture at one point. But, given how we are not placed smack in the middle of a tribe in every other film, we keep going.

We get a bunch of comedy sequences that seem fairly inoffensive as long as one ignores political correctness. Once the film shifts gears from comedy to drama, the character design of the entire tribe gets increasingly questionable. The way Sundar’s character is designed is in stark juxtaposition with the Miryalametta tribe’s overly simplistic ways. What came off as quirky and cute at first quickly reflects as naivete in the latter portions. Sundar’s intentions are obviously less than noble but why are the tribals so oblivious to his plans? Sundar's scam-like designs are as flimsy as they come and fall apart without much resistance, only to be left with an overdue coming-of-age story. 

As Sundaram Master wobbles its way to its 121-minute runtime mark, we get a hastily assembled final act where Sundar realises the follies in his character and gets inspired by the tribals’ goodness. We also get some overarching commentary on the evil of materialism, which makes this film a lot more interesting than what we initially expected it to be. Despite an odd hiccup here and there, Sundaram Master stands on its feet as a heartfelt drama, ably supported by its lead actor, Harsha.

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