Super Deluxe is a Ferris wheel ride that I’ll remember for a long time. Filmmaker Thiagarajan Kumararaja throws many characters and situations at the unsuspecting audience; they are anything but ordinary in Indian cinema (especially in Tamil cinema). While men, from superstars like Rajinikanth to comedians like Vadivelu, have worn sarees on-screen to elicit laughter, only few have stepped into the shoes of trans-women (Sarathkumar, from Kanchana, comes to mind immediately).
Vijay Sethupathi, who plays a trans-woman named Shilpa, in Kumararaja’s film, has mentioned in interviews that he learns a lot from the characters he plays. He must have gained a truckload of insight from the life of Shilpa, for he’s perfectly poured femininity and vulnerability into a fictional character. I can’t think of another male star in Shilpa’s place. (Why couldn’t a trans-woman play Shilpa is a debate for another day!)
In the movie, Shilpa visits her family after running away from them as a man, husband, and father, named Manickam. Her family members don’t have a single clue about her transition, and, when they see “him” get down from a cab in a saree, they’re taken aback.
Shilpa isn’t the sort of person to apologise for deserting her wife, Gayathrie (Jyothi), and, son, Raasukutty (Ashwanth Ashokkumar). She manages to get out of the house soon after arriving as her son is adamant on taking his “father” to school. He wants to introduce her to his friends. His intention is to tell them that he, too, has a dad, and, therefore, isn’t a “test-tube baby”. He’s not bothered about his dad’s new gender. Though, he asks her several questions, he never ridicules her for becoming a woman.
These cops, who are hoity-toity on the outside, are rapists inside the walls of the police station. The pedestal they’re placed at gives them easy access to prey on sexual minorities
Shilpa, for her part, doesn’t dodge any of the bullet-like questions, as she’s happy to have finally found some time to bond with her son. However, on their way to the school, Shilpa gets dragged to a police station where she happens to encounter an evil Sub-Inspector (Bagavathi Perumal as Berlin). Berlin is so cruel that he comes up with a plan to get rid of Raasukutty’s presence from the station. He’s decided to take advantage of Shilpa and he will see to it that she listens to him.
When Shilpa sits on the floor hesitatingly, he tells her to go down on her knees with a sinister smile. She has been cornered; she can’t find a way to escape. He’s a cop for heaven’s sake. Where will she go?
This isn’t the first time a film shows the cops misusing their power. Even off the screen, we’ve heard of ghastly stories involving the policemen. But what sets Super Deluxe apart from Vetri Maaran’s Visaaranai, for example, is how it doesn’t make the men in khaki feel guilty about their actions.
Berlin enjoys taunting Shilpa–and later, Vaembu (Samantha) and Mugil (Fahadh Faasil) in another incident – for he knows no moral boundaries. Similarly, in Amazon Prime’s Made in Heaven, Karan Mehra (Arjun Mathur) is beaten black and blue by a cop in the police station for refusing to pleasure him. Karan is actually jailed for sleeping with men–he’s arrested under Section 377.
These cops, who are hoity-toity on the outside, are rapists inside the walls of the police station. The pedestal they’re placed at gives them easy access to prey on sexual minorities. I’m not saying that cis-heterosexuals are safer in their hands, but it’s somehow simpler for them to break down the members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
If Super Deluxe and Made in Heaven pick wicked cops to assault innocent people, Unfreedom’s Devraj Singh (Adil Hussain), a cop, goes to any extent to get his daughter, a lesbian (Preeti Gupta as Leela Singh), married to a man of his choice. When a monk spots two naked women – Leela and Sakhi Taylor (Bhavani Lee) – on the beach, he informs the police. Upon Singh’s arrival at the police station, where the women are behind the bars, you’d think that things are going to take a better turn, as the dad would end up lending a ear to his daughter’s pleas. None of that happens; instead, he threatens her with, “I’m offering forgiveness. You promise me that you will never see this whore again (referring to Taylor).”
Leela is shocked and hurt, obviously, but she rejects his proposal. In a bid to teach her a lesson, Singh lets his friends (meaning: cops) loose on his daughter. He looks on, without a pinch of remorse, as a bunch of men take turns to rape her. After some moments of yelling and shivering, she realises that her dad is a beast that won’t listen to her requests. So, she keeps mum and gazes towards her dad, who’s sitting only a few feet away from her.
As long as cops feel that they’re above the law, they’ll keep indulging in such horrible acts. And as long as minorities are made to feel like they owe the society an explanation, they’ll keep getting punished for simple acts of loving and living.