Director: Ramprakash Rayappa
Cast: Mysskin, Suseenthiran, Vikranth
If I say Ramprakash Rayappa has made a major leap as a filmmaker with Suttu Pidikka Utharavu (SPU), it may not sound like much, given that his earlier films were Tamizhuku En Ondrai Azhuthavum and Pokkiri Raja. They came with interesting premises: the former was a ticking-clock thriller, the latter was a riff on superhero movies (the superpower, here, is yawning). But they were killed by the Kollywood-isms, the need to have songs and comedy and romance. The director doesn’t make that mistake here (should I say, he doesn’t SPU-n-feed you?), and the result is a very watchable thriller that opens with a bank robbery. Sometimes, you get a feel about a film from the very beginning. I got that feel here. Over a black screen featuring the credits, we hear sounds of a bank in business. Tokens are being issued. Transactions are underway. Suddenly, the decibel levels go up, and we get the first image: a man crashing through one of the glass doors.
The ensuing chaos is captured well. The action (choreographed by Dinesh Kasi) moves down the various floors of the building, as the four robbers (in handkerchief-masks) attempt a getaway. They get to the car park, and run into Ibrahim (Mysskin), a cop known for his maverick ways. A shootout ensues, and the action spreads out even further, through the adjacent lanes. Finally, two of the four — the gentle Ashok (Vikranth), the more vicious Selva (the director Susienthiran, in an impressive acting debut) — find themselves contained in a Slum Board neighbourhood, whose tightly packed houses and Lego-like terraces provide innovative opportunities for cinematographer Sujith Sarang. The excellent location shooting imbues SPU with a genuine sense of place. There’s also a genuine sense of danger, with curious commoners trying to catch a glimpse of the excitement (or foolishly braving danger, trying to capture these scenes on their smartphone cameras). It’s a nice, mocking touch for the social-media era.
The dog that strays from its owner, the little girl who runs out of her house and gets sucked into the mayhem, the annoyingly hammy cop — every loose strand comes together, even if some of it doesn’t hold tight after the film
But it’s not overdone. Nothing is. If we get unbelievably foolish cops, we also get smart ones. If we get evil Muslims (terrorists), we also get good ones. The only track that sticks out weakly is the media satire. Is there anyone who can surprise us, anymore, about what TV channels will do for TRPs? A newbie reporter Ashwin (played by a newbie actor, Rithish) gets trapped in this neighbourhood, and does his bit with a local girl named Bhuvana (Athulya Ravi). This angle feels inserted just so we can get a whiff of standard-issue Kollywood. When Ashwin asks Bhuvana for a sound bite and she says she doesn’t look good enough for TV, he reassures her: “Summa paathaale kiss pannra maadhiri irukku unga lips-um kannam-um!” Like any self-respecting Kollywood heroine, she seems pleased. You almost wish for Ibrahim’s order to come true. Losing his cool when he sees live footage from this neighbourhood on a TV set, he barks: “Shoot down one of these media guys and report it as collateral damage.” I laughed.
Even with small flaws, SPU keeps you interested, invested — especially with Mysskin around
Ramprakash Rayappa may have improved as a storyteller, but he still has a way to go as a director. The film could use better staging, more finesse. The tension slackens every now and then, and not every red herring works. (I thought back about a car that spins out of control when the driver sees a little girl, and I’m not sure about that development now.) But there’s a very effective twist at the end, and SPU keeps building towards it. Even the plot point about Ashok’s daughter, who needs treatment in a hospital that demands a lot of money, doesn’t end up as sentimental as I first thought it was. (I’d dismissed as standard-issue Kollywood melodrama. It isn’t.) The dog that strays from its owner, the little girl who runs out of her house and gets sucked into the mayhem, the annoyingly hammy cop — every loose strand comes together, even if some of it doesn’t hold tight after the film.
In other words, even with small flaws, SPU keeps you interested, invested — especially with Mysskin around. His brusqueness as an actor works very well for this character, and I wished there was more of him. I laughed when a senior cop threatens him: “You will be transferred to Gujarat!” (Somehow, the idea of Mysskin let loose in that state is… funny!) I laughed when, after a fracture that leaves his arm in a sling, he orders the fussy doctor out of the room where he’s discussing the crisis with his men. This is when you know what a sharp cop Ibrahim is. As the doctor leaves, he snaps, “This is a confidential matter. Don’t go outside and blab.” When Ibrahim slaps one of the bank robbers during the shootout in the car park, it doesn’t feel like a choreographed stunt. It feels like a brick landing by you. Best of all is the sight of a man named Ibrahim who saves the day, possibly the first Muslim saviour after Vishwaroopam. Given the state of the world today, it’s near-inevitable that the terrorists are portrayed as Muslims. We need an Ibrahim to right the balance.