Director: Girish AD
Cast: Anaswara Rajan, Mamitha Baiju, Arjun Ashokan
Girish AD's second film, after the super-successful Thaneer Mathan Dinangal, is not much more than a gender role-reversal of Malayalam cinema's favourite obsession—the-college-days-nostalgic-trip-with-romance-and-heartbreak. With films falling in this genre, the point is hardly to show you events or people you've not seen before. It's the opposite with creators working overtime to make every character, every plot point and every item on the canteen menu feel relatable. With Super Sharanya, the idea is exactly the same, but it gives you the girl's side of the story of films like Premam, Hridayam or, dare I say, Arjun Reddy?
The way Super Sharanya replies to films like number three is what makes it somewhat super. Through Sharanya's gaze (a delightful Anaswara Rajan), we see how suffocating it is for a toxic college senior to be after you, even when it's being handled with humour. And it's not just this senior. It's a dude in every corner. Sharanya knows she's attractive but she also knows that this is making her life miserable, especially when a guy she bumps into sends her an Instagram request by stalking her hashtags. A classmate has a thing for her and dangerously, even a college professor proposes to her right in the middle of a viva exam.
The sticky situation these people put her through is hardly a joke and we feel her suffocation right through her college years when everyday things like having lunch in the canteen can turn stressful. This isn't just limited to classes either; for Sharanya, even a bike ride to her neighbour's place requires complex manoeuvres to avoid a set of shady men playing cricket there.
Super Sharanya falls in that sweet spot where these female characters are neither accessories to support men nor are their problems so big that there's no room for anything but misery. What this gives the film is a weightlessness and a set of lovely nothing moments, like how Sharanya wakes up in the middle of the night to simply munch on chips and nothing else.
The scenes set in the women's hostel is devoid of even a second of voyeurism, unlike the jokes we've heard in films like Chocolate. This is where the film's best, most funniest scenes take place. The hostel terrace automatically becomes a college-senior dominion, just like how the neatness of a room is as much a bone of contention as it is in the men's hostel. The comedy here is original and organic all thanks the performance and the setting and this is where you want the film to remain.
From a distance, Super Sharanya is a coming-of-age story of an ultra-sensitive paavam who cannot even pick a fight at a restaurant that serves stale food. In a lovely conversation with her lover, she recalls the littlest of incidents that caused a change in her mood. In a less sensitive movie, or even in a movie told from a man's perspective, this reason would easily have been trivialised to make Sharanya appear "high maintenance". But there's none of that here and you feel the dignity with which the film treats Sharanya. As a result, you take it seriously when phrases like panic attacks or mood swings are used to explain what she's feeling, even when they're used in light situations.
But there's only so much the film can do with these moments when the screenplay remains largely uneventful. I agree that a reason why the director's earlier film became so successful was the way it stays so far away from serious conflicts and that's pretty much the tone Super Sharanya takes. But at more than 160 minutes, you feel like the film just keeps floating, even though it doesn't really have anywhere to go.
More than a third act, the film just moves into one more misunderstanding, the kind we've seen in dozens of films before. And because these events themselves aren't particularly striking, it's very hard to understand when and how Sharanya transitions from the paavam to the confident person who makes her own decisions. Eventually, despite all the pleasantness, it's a film that feels pointless with nothing much to say.
By this point, we crave for the parts in the beginning where Sharanya's friendships kept things running along rather than her love story. Super Sharanya is likeable and light, but it's also a film you consume and forget without much to hold on to for later.