A man who left his family years ago returns as a trans woman; a young couple not going anywhere in their marriage have to suddenly contend with a dead body in their house; youngsters who get together to watch 3D porn have to deal with not just one but two broken TVs. These are just some of the whacky characters inhabiting the crazy world of Super Deluxe, Thiagarajan Kumararaja’s second film, coming almost eight years after his earlier noirish fable, Aaranya Kaandam.
Super Deluxe, set over 2 days in Chennai, is off-the-wall, cheeky, wickedly dark and deliciously audacious with the world and characters it creates and director Kumararaja and his writing team take this one step further with the bizarre situations they conceive for the film’s characters to deal with. The film also deals with a variety of issues like adultery, porn, societal morality, gender identity and blind religious faith and it has to be said that Super Deluxe undoubtedly starts out with a bang. It has us silently applauding and we are hooked immediately as the various storylines are expertly set up through some smart transitions from one narrative to the other. What’s more, the film’s narrative flow has its crests and troughs even surprising you in places. But… Yes, there’s a but. The film slowly starts to unravel as scene after scene is stretched to almost breaking point, especially in its second half, leaving you to rue that while certainly the film has its many moments, what could have been a cracker of a 2-hour ride finally plays out almost painfully over 175 long minutes even if all story threads are wrapped up neatly by the end of it all.
The cast mostly performs strongly and proves to be one of the film’s assets. Vijay Sethupathi once again scores highly as the trans woman, Shilpa, returning to his family after years and bonding with his little son. It is a delicate act without once falling into the pitfalls of going overboard. Sethupathi brings out the female side of his character deftly with barely perceptible tiny gestures and glances to create a memorable character. One only wishes he had more to do in the film. As also Fahadh Faasil who otherwise is spot on as the man thrown into a most bizarre situation not of his own making. Samantha as his wife, sadly, is the weakest link in the film. While it is gutsy, no doubt, for a mainstream Tamil heroine to take up a role of a cheating wife, her performance leaves a lot to be desired with her balloony lips (botched lip job?) getting far more attention from the viewer than her acting. She does acquit herself reasonably in the warehouse sequence though, which otherwise seems to go on and on and … on. Ramya Krishnan is reliably efficient as a former soft-core porn actress while the youngsters looking to feed their hormones are good too. Gayathrie Shankar gives a lovely performance as Vijay Sethupathi’s wife emoting beautifully with her silences as she comes to terms with her husband’s new identity, while Ashwanth Ashokkumar, as his non-judgemental little son (as against the adults of the family), is absolutely delightful. Director Mysskin is so-so as the Tsunami survivor turned evangelist.
On the technical side – while it is refreshing to see a film trying to cater creatively and cinematically to each department of filmmaking, all of it doesn’t quite come off. The Production Design to go with the OTT world and its characters is much too lurid and the ‘Orange and Teal’ camerawork jars at times. The sound design includes a quirky enough background score by Yuvan Shankar Raja with some interesting references thrown in to help layer the film. And while it is always easy to sat the film needed to be trimmed, we have to understand that an editor is bound by the way the material the filmed as he or she works to give the film an overall rhythm and pace. Nevertheless, one has to say that the 175 minutes length does tell on the viewer’s patience.
Though not succeeding entirely, Super Deluxe needs to still be seen as a fine effort, which hopefully will pave the way for more path-breaking efforts not just in Tamil cinema but all over the country as well. As for Thiagarajan Kumararaja, he once again proves that he is a filmmaker of much, much promise and one now waits expectantly for what he serves up next. Hopefully, whatever it is reaches us a lot quicker than eight years this time.
Oh as a post script. One has to commend the Censor Board for not bleeping out any four-letter words out as it would pretty much have killed the film otherwise. One only hopes it continues to show this sort of maturity more often.
Tamil, Thriller, Action, Drama, Colour