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Dear Thiagarajan Kumararaja, thank you for showing us women power without excess melodrama, and for bringing us lives like ours.
Women playing a vital or meaty role in a movie is not a new feature in Tamil cinema. And in films like that, one surely can find both realism and melodrama. But, the truth is, in most cases, the realism is always overshadowed by the melodrama.
For instance, movies like Paruthiveeran, Mynaa, Kaadhal, Virumaandi and so on, have very strong roles for women and do portray them realistically; nonetheless, the story is larger than life, and has to include one of these -murder, rape, accidents, and/or death. I am not saying that these tragedies do not exist in an ordinary person’s life, but are these the only parts of our lives that can exist to show ‘strong women‘?
Whenever I watch movies like these, I always have only one question in mind; cannot a story be made that revolves around the domestic problems and the simple aspirations of everyday middle-class life?
Super Deluxe from Director Thiagarajan Kumararaja came in as an answer to my question. Here the female roles not only show women from the middle class, but they also have challenges and they face the challenges with poise.
(Some spoilers ahead…)
The movie has four different stories that are loosely connected. There is Vaembu (Samantha) and Mugil (Fahadh Fassil), a couple who try to get rid of a dead body and in the process come to understand each other. Another story is about Jothi (Gayathrie Shankar) and her husband, who is a transwoman, Shilpa (Vijay Sethupathi) – here the challenge lies in how society sees a transgendered woman and how Jothi handles the transformation.
The third story is about a bunch of teenage boys which leads us to one more story about a yesteryear porn actor Leela (Ramya Krishnan) and her husband Arputham (Mysskin).
Super Deluxe is among the first few movies in Tamil cinema where women openly talk about their priorities and try to own their actions. When Vaembu talks of why she is not being able to get along with Mugil, she whispers the number of boyfriends she had before marriage – a refreshing rarity in an industry that still places ‘first and only love’ at a premium.
Again, at least for me, this was the first time I had seen such a mother (Leela); mothers in Kollywood is always portrayed as next only to God, but here Leela frankly admits to her teenage son that she willingly became a porn actor because of her aspirations to be an actor. If the aforementioned scenes seem to picture women to be very gutsy, then the initial dialogues between a teary-eyed Jothi and her partner Shilpa will tell you how people have the right to make their own choices for their lives.
Another unique aspect of this movie is how the director has pictured feminism. All his female characters are gentle, yet bold, grounded and practical. It was both storytelling and acting at its best when Shilpa emerges from the police station calm and collected after retaliating against the bad cop.
Usually in Tamil cinema, if there is a dialogue that reflects a nihilistic philosophy, it would be given to the male protagonist and the woman would just be there to support him (I would like to remind my patient readers about the protest scene dialogues from Kabali as an example). But here Leela’s dialogues about God enlighten Arputham (who is otherwise a religious nut) to live a practical life.
A good story is not just about individuals. It mirrors societal reactions as well. In Super Deluxe, you will see a dejected mother-in-law, a shocked wife and a happy son when Shilpa returns home after quite a long time. At the most crucial time, she is helped by a constable and a flower seller, revealing that not everybody will treat a transgendered person with a cynical or judgemental attitude.
Super Deluxe is a slow movie but filled equally with entertainment and philosophy. If you have a keen eye for painting, the slow-moving camera will inspire an idea or two. And if black comedy is your thing then this movie is sure to entertain you.
A Very Happy Super Deluxe journey to you all.
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