Director: Sudha Kongara
Cast: Suriya, Aparna Balamurali, Urvashi, Mohan Babu, Paresh Rawal
After a slew of major to minor disappointments, the post-Covid OTT revolution, especially in the South, seems to have finally taken flight thanks to this ‘inspired-by-many-true-events’ biopic directed by Sudha Kongara, and starring Suriya. Based on the early life of Air Deccan Founder Capt GR Gopinath (Retd), the film takes pages off his biography Simply Fly, to paint a moving portrait of a man whose entrepreneurial spirit is lifted, not just by his dreams alone, but that of an entire village.
But for a film about a dream taking flight, it literally begins with a crash landing. The ‘inauspicious’ start continues even after the opening credits when we get a role-reversal of sorts with the ponnu (Aparna Balamurali as Bommi) and her family, travelling by train to see her paiyan (Suriya as Maara) in a lovely ‘Paiyan Paakal’ ceremony. And the first time their eyes meet? Let’s just say it involves a lot of music, some wild dancing and a…corpse.
Switching back-and-forth between three timelines, we slowly piece together a series of incidents that come together to explain the reasons that went behind a small-time villager’s impossible dream to make flying accessible to all. In fact the non-linear structure works wonders to give us just enough information at the start, only for these bits to come back later, providing solid emotional pay-offs.
Soorarai Pottru’s screenplay, written by the director herself, is loaded with so many incidents and events that they would have been enough for two films. And that works because it’s not likely that one can predict the pattern of this film, even if you’ve seen several biopics. Especially when it’s a biopic about a businessman, you sense that it’s about a man’s undying ambition, which will finally take him through to his dream…which is to make money. But over here, the word ambition never comes to mind. It feels more like determination because the real reason he wants to start such an airline is explained with a series of incredible scenes and at the best possible time in the screenplay.
Even Maara’s relationship with Bommi is among the best love stories we’ve seen in a while. More than a relationship, it feels like a partnership among equals. And the scenes that show us their progressiveness is done with so much style and character (her conditions to marry him DESERVE to be announced with a mic) that you feel it in your gut when you realise that all of that is not merely a facade. Even Suriya farming (I’m looking at you, Kaappaan), actually means something in this screenplay.
But it’s not just the romance or the drama. Every major emotional note hits hard. Right from a very Raju Hirani-like scene involving elderly people to certain simplistic solutions to complex problems, we never leave Maara’s side through the two-and-a-half-hour runtime. And this holds true even during the multiple obstacles. Conditioned by other biopics, it’s not possible to NOT give up on Maara’s dream even when we all know the happy ending of this piece of history.
Beautifully shot by Nikhet Bommi, the burnt golden visuals of the film give you the sense of suffocating bureaucracy even in large government buildings and in the skies. GV Prakash Kumar’s songs too never let go of the film’s energy, providing a rousing score for the film’s most inspirational moments.
Among the performances, Aparna Balamurali gets great scenes and a really loveable character in Bommi, which she really owns, even in the emotional scenes. Paresh Rawal (speaking in Tamil) proves to be a formidable bad guy, even if he gets some of the film’s weakest scenes. But the real surprise was Mohan Babu, who really kills it even with his limited screen time.
It’s likely that you feel that too much happens too quickly to be able to register it all. Things such as clunky CGI and why a man named Goswami would speak in Gujarati are questions that pop up, but do not distract, just like a caricaturish portrayal of a beer baron named Ballaya.
Finally, it’s Sudha Kongara’s direction and Suriya’s performance that make everything worth forgiving. Suriya’s strong suit is the earnestness of his characters and there’s no one else you can see as Maara. We cry when he does, and we feel the joy when we see it in his eyes. He also gets money shot scenes where Bommi observes him as though he is a man of great ‘beauty’ and as the audience, we can’t help but agree with her (and the other Bommi’s frame). It’s a film that Suriya truly deserves, and one of life’s big regrets is that I won’t ever be able to see the last scene phone-call on the big screen. The film might take a while to take off, but it certainly soars when it does.