Connecting the dots: Moments from Sarpatta that address different facets of basic human connections.
Spoiler alert: This article is a break down article and is laden with spoilers. Kindly watch the movie and then read this to have a better experience.
Yes! Most of us have watched it and admired it, few of us have criticised it, but all of us were influenced by it, in one way or the other. The journey of Kabilan from a daily wage worker to a boxer to a thug and finally back to a clan saving boxer is an inspiring one. It can be related to our lives too. We raise, we fall, we stand again and keep moving despite all the resistance caused by multiple external factors. The only difference is that, quite a few of us accept the defeat and give in to the vicissitudes of life, letting the course determine the destination. It takes steel like mettle to fix a destination for ourselves and make our own path towards it, despite the multitude of challenges thrown into this journey.
I can’t but stop drawing parallels to another movie on similar lines, Sultan. A nobody from a remote place entering the sporting arena and raise to unimaginable heights in a short span, and then falling prey to the vagaries of a different life until their beloved ones knock some sense into their thick skulls and thereby prompting them to become their better version, which existed in the past, it all seems too similar, but no! Sarpatta has its own soul and emanates an earthen fragrance, that makes it unique and wonderful.
Human connections! What can be told of them? That’s perhaps one of the most complex subjects to study. We connect to different people at different levels. We also connect to the same people in different ways at different times. We connect to two different people in the same manner, and the permutations and combinations list goes on. If there is only constant in this whole range of dynamic connections, it is our connection with ourselves. The connection with the self stays the same over time, and is bound to change in two situations. It changes when we have scaled great heights of unimaginable achievements (pride), or when we fall into the steep valley of failures (shame). Kabilan’s character is a textbook reference here. From being the proud disciple of Ranga Vathiyar and knocking-out a well-established boxer like Dancing Rose within two rounds, to a drunkard with a well bloated tummy, who had to be protected by his wife from an attack and lost his touch with the skill, the journey from fame to shame, from confidence to confusion and from fit to fat (All of them portrayed extremely well by Arya!!!) is evident. While This has to do more with a single human, let us try to dig in to this complex matrix of human connections and decipher it thread by thread, making it somewhat meaningful to us.
The Guru and the Disciple connect: The connect between Kabilan and Ranga Vathiyar is a very unique one. There are neither any motivational speeches nor emotional breakpoints. The stoic nature of Ranga Vathiyar is perfectly complimented by the ever eager to learn nature of Kabilan. However, two scenes in the movie demonstrate the nature of the relationship they have. One is the instance where Ranga Vathiyar witnesses the might of Kabilan and proposes his name to take on their prime competitor Vembuli from Idiyappan clan, on behalf of the Sarpatta clan. This is as unexpected and brave move from Rangan, as he is placing the pride of the entire Sarpatta clan and his own personal respect at stake. The nature of unflinching faith reposed on the disciple by the preceptor is straight-up mind-boggling. When he says “It takes only few moments for a teacher to recognise talent in a disciple!”, it hits at another level.
Life is not a path of roses. We all see Kabilan falling from the summit of victory into the valley of personal misery and drown in the sea of toddy within no time. However, when he says that he is ready to mend his ways and get back into the ring, Rangan straight up rejects him and refuses to train him further. When Kabilan finally regains his boxing groove and the required fitness and takes up the clash of titans with Vembuli , he feels the absence of his Guru. And when Rangan comes to the arena, it doesn’t take much time for both of them to become that dear disciple and a disciplined coach once they were. The elation in Rangan’s face is evident when Kabilan lands the killer punch to close the fight and resurrect the respect of Sarpatta clan. The way Rangan seamlessly transforms from a resenting coach to a supporting anchor is a treat to watch!
Dancing Rose and Vembuli : Vembuli and Dancing rose share a brothers-in-arms relation. While Dancing Rose is known for his elegance, Vembuli is famous for his brute force. Yes, two personalities with a stark contrast, but they share a beautiful bond. The highlight of this connect is revealed when Vembuli wants to have a re-match with Kabilan. Rose is aware of the fact that Vembuli resorted to unfair means in the previous match-up, causing some serious turbulence in Kabilan’s life. Rose tries to counsel him and says something to this effect: “An unfair win is more shameful than a loss!”. He also shoos away the perpetrator of the first attack on Kabilan, who is about to approach Vembuli again, before the second fight. And when Vembuli loses to Kabilan in the finale, Rose walks up to him and says “This is the display of real sportsmanship and you didn’t lose in that!”. (A big shout-out to the writing department for penning such good dialogues).
Couple’s connect: Two pairs stand out in the movie. One of them is obviously Kabilan and Mariyamma. Other one is the couple of Vetriselvan and Lakshmi. The scene, where Lakshmi defends her husband in front of in-laws, trying to narrate her husband’s unseen pain to them, one can feel the pain felt by a spouse, when his/her counter-part is going through unspoken turmoil. (Great Job there by Sanchana Natarajan!). I quite like the way Mariaymma’s character was penned. From a fresh and shy bride to a commanding and caring wife, the character arc looks complete. I rooted for the scene where she chides Kabilan (who returns late and gets ready to head out again) for a while and says “Am hungry! Shut up, stay home and feed me!”. The next moment we see both of them bonding over a meal. This actually displays the quintessence of married couples lives. A clash that looks like a war gets sorted out within no time. All it requires is a drop of love in an ocean of patience. Amazingly convincing job by Dushara VIjayan . I think she would have lost her voice when she was dubbing for the disheartened outrage scene (Picking up a drunk Kabilan and facing goons). That looked and sounded so real while watching.
Mother and son: Anupama Kumar! What a wonderful portrayal of Bhagyam and writers! What a wonderful character penned for Bhagyam! It is a very balanced portrayal. Bhagyam is vulnerable but strong, short-tempered but kind and reprimanding but loving. I was in splits when she warns ‘Daddy’ (His bonding with Kabilan is also a treat to watch) that she would poison his food if he encourages her son towards boxing and next moment she says his wife that food is ready! While everyone in the movie is passionate about boxing, Bhagyam has an objective approach on that. She witnessed her husband taking the wrong route with his skill that led to his untimely demise and becomes very protective of Kabilan, ensuring that he doesn’t end up on the wrong side of the fence like his dad. But as the situation becomes upside down and Kabilan also divulges from the righteous path, she does the right thing by encouraging her son to don the gloves and go punching again. She says “I was afraid that this game would take the righteous man in you away, but now, boxing is the only thing that can put you back on the right track!”. How true it is! Boxing is just a skill and the man who possesses the skill is in-charge of the direction in which the skill needs to be used.
Movies like Sarpatta come once in a blue moon. watch it and remember every bit of it, because such stories become the bed-time stories that we narrate to our kids few years down the lane.
“Victory is not about winning in game. Victory is about winning over your previous self…”