Soorarai Pottru: A good take-off, yet...

Spoilers ahead...

Of late, we have not received much good content on OTT. Especially for Tamil cinema. We had a disaster called Silence (click last month. Then we got a not-so-bad-definitely-not-great Putham Pudhu Kaalai (Read the review here With Soorarai Pottru this void is also filled. Yet, not completely.

The film is about Nedumaran Rajangam (Suriya) who aims to start a low-cost airline. It's about the why behind this thought, the struggles he faces and the ultimately happily-ever-after ending. A very well-known rags-to-riches story that we have read, heard, told and even watched in so many different colours and shades. Yet, this film is different. All thanks to the director Sudha Kongara who is also the writer of this film. It is really interesting how a well-known and made-many-times story translates on screen and yet evokes the exact same emotions that would have been otherwise impossible if read on paper. Power of the visual medium?

Taken from the pages of GR Gopinath's Simply Fly, this film clicks almost all the checkboxes of a well-made entertainer. However, I would be in the minority when I say that the film doesn't fire all its cylinders. Let me explain. All the rags-to-riches stories have a template. A young guy (single/married with at least one kid) has a phenomenal dream. He struggles to find a footing (mainly because he doesn't know the ways of the world or because he has moved into a new city with no support). Unexpected help arrives (this is when a heroine is introduced, generally). His idea materializes slowly. There are practical difficulties. Failure. There is some more failure. Intermission. Things start to fall in place slowly. Another setback and finally the hero achieves his dreams and "lives happily ever after". Throw in a few songs - a duet with the heroine, a motivation during the struggle, a pathos song at a loss and a celebration at the end and the film is complete.

As you can see, the change that can be brought about in the story is only at the screenplay level. Sudha does a phenomenal job of that. We see three different Suriyas across three different time periods. The narration is non-linear and that cuts down on a truck-load of boring storytelling. The main characters of Nedumaran (Suriya), Rajangam (Poo Ramu), Pechi (Urvashi) and Sundari a.k.a Bommi (Aparna Balamurali) are very well-written. The scenes where Nedumaran and Sundari meet are some of the most comic and yet the most effective scenes in the film. Take for instance how they both meet.

The bride-to-be goes to meet the potential groom as he denies to come and see her. Reason: He says that he won't go looking for the girl he wants to marry like going to a market and buying cattle. She (Sundari) even drags along her family to do this which is reluctant and scolds her for her rash behaviour. Even the first meeting of both of them involves a lot of singing and dancing... with a corpse. This is a never-seen-before first meeting and a far cry away from the "Annalum nokkinal anniyum nokkinal" (the Tamil version of the Tujhe Dekha to ye RR in the background) template that is generally followed in Tamil cinema. In fact, the song is not a duet but a philosophical song about how we don't take anything with us when we die.

Suriya is in sublime form and owns every frame he comes in. Aparna in just her third Tamil Film proves to have a knack of choosing the right scripts. Check out her 8 Thottakal and Sarvam Thalamayam. She is very confident in and is definitely going places if she continues this approach. Sundari is arguably one of the most well-written female leads in Tamil Cinema, reminiscent of the KB era women. Take for instance the scene where she reveals to Maara about her pregnancy. In the scene prior to that, both of them fight and he insults her for knowing nothing about the airlines business. She storms out of the frame. After sometime Marara calms down and goes looking for her. But she's not there in the house. He searches every place he thinks she would go to (her happy places) but in vain. This segment reminds me of the long sequence of shots where Madhavan as Karthik goes looking for Shakti (in a completely different context - but the pining and longing is the same). Interesting how one film reminds you of another though poles apart in the story, writing, and everything else cinematically! Anyways, heading back, Maara finally finds her in their own house. He hugs her and she says, "This is my house Maara. Where would I go?" He looks at her in disbelief. She further says, "I would have made you run another 50 km... If I were not pregnant" Maara says, "Does anybody tells such a thing like this?? Can't you ever speak like a normal girl?" to which Bommi replies, "No Maara, I can't. This is me" I can't imagine another happy-cum-poignant-cum-interesting scene in any other film.

The depth of the relationship which has been so beautifully portrayed in the husband and wife scenes (take another scene where she comes into his office with a business proposal and he hugs her. She says, "Do you hug everyone like this who comes to you with a business proposal?") is not shown in that much depth when it comes to the father-son relationship (I am again taken back to Vaaranam Aayiram where this relationship is so very well explored). In fact, the last scene when we see both the father and the son in one frame, the son storms out of the house with the father saying, "Don't come even to burn my corpse." There is another scene where he longs to talk to the dad from the Air Force base but is not able to. The scene where he misses his dad's funeral (the prior scene where he tries to gather money is an acting pinnacle for Suriya), therefore doesn't hurt as much as it hurts when he struggles to borrow money from his wife.

The villains - Paresh Rawal and others - are too monochromatic and are boring. The obstacles they enforce on Maara's progress are definitely huge but when they come to us in the frame, they don't intimidate us. All such wants are well-covered up by the brilliant background score by GV Prakash Kumar. He does a splendid job even in the songs. The choreography, especially in the Veyyon Silli and the "Hero introduction" song is very stylish and yet rustic. Niketh Bommireddy's camera work is noteworthy here. Almost the whole film runs in a golden brown colour palette and that only adds to the emotions in each frame of the film which keeps hitting the highs.

Watching Suriya in a film with a military hairstyle would inevitably take you back to the days of Vaaranam Aayiram or even Kaakha Kaakha. Gautham Menon with his intelligent makeover has done that for us. Similarly, when it comes to intense scenes for Suriya I believe we would remember Soorarai Pottru for a long time to come.

On a whole, this is definitely a good film. You can see the effort gone in from Sudha's end which is touted to be her dream project. However, this film would have been a great one too if the maker had allowed it to breathe. Especially in the scenes like the one where he gets money from his village mates and the one where he gets to know that he is going to be a father soon. Probably this film would have worked better on the big screen. I don't know. But what I would have liked is more breathing space in this engaging drama.

Soorarai Pottru is streaming on Amazon Prime. Watch it share your views, people!

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