Pattathu Arasan Review: A Poorly Written Revenge Saga That Unfolds On The Kabaddi Ground

Sports films positioning themselves as masculinised chest-thumping dramas aren’t new. But A Sarkunam’s film goes a step further, cramming its feature with every melodramatic cliche in the book
Pattathu Arasan Review: A Poorly Written Revenge Saga That Unfolds On The Kabaddi Ground

Director: A Sarkunam

Cast: Atharvaa, Radikaa Sarathkumar, Rajkiran, Ashika Ranganath

In one of the film’s better-written sequences, we see a lush betel leaf farm tended to by patient hands. The opening montage, which plays out to Ghibran’s soothing melody about ancient practices that binds generations, takes us through the life cycle of a betel leaf – from that of a small sapling to a striking green heart-shaped leaf ready to be sold in the market. And as quickly as the lauds begin, it stops. For, in the next shot, a surly betel leaf vendor (Atharvaa) at the market breaks the bones of state-level Kabaddi players for insulting his grandfather and shortly after, sits them down (literally) for a history lesson on his exploits!

To its credit, Pattathu Arasan has just the right premise for a banging melodrama. The film opens with the venerated village figure and kabaddi player Potthari (Rajkiran). In a sweet black and white flashback, a de-aged Rajkiran shows us how he skipped and manoeuvred his way around on a Kabaddi ground, going on to teach his secrets to many generations of players from his village. But when his love for the sport accidently kills one of his own, his family is torn apart into two. Chinnadurai (Atharvaa) and his mother (a brilliant Radikaa Sarathkumar in yet another mother role) ostracised from the family due to an altercation involving a young Chinnadurai. But when he grows up, he wants to make up for what his impulsive adolescence did to the family. And with kabbadi in its forefront, the opportunities to delve in the genre are ripe. But the film does nothing with it. 

For one, it commits the cardinal sin of melodrama 101– and treats the ‘family sentiment’, a genre-favourite narrative, with indolence. By this point, we all know actor Rajkiran’s prowess for excelling in cliched, saccharine films. And in this film, too, he is cast as the on-brand village and family patriarch with a tough exterior and the heart of a softie. But the film’s writing does him and his stage-acting quality no justice, making him a caricature of the characters he once played in rural dramas.

It also doesn't help that its one-note villains are still stuck in an era that reeks of misogyny and cheap gimmickry. The more interesting villain here is the Whatsapp University, which is cleverly utilised in the film to cause the upheaval of a young man’s career. But any sort of intellect that the film conjures up disappears instantly when sinister moustachioed men with maniacal laughter take over the screen.

The film is also very confused with how it wants to position itself. On the one hand, it depicts kabaddi as a sport dripped in machismo (for context, every time a village wins a match, the men parade themselves to the opponent village, deriding their masculinity), and on the other, it introduces us — out of nowhere — to a female kabaddi player (Ashika Ranganath), who changes the course of the film. But when the film establishes the name of the only lead female character in the movie, well after 90 minutes into runtime, tokenism rears its ugly head. And its allegiance becomes clear. 

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