If the hinted substories evoke just enough curiosity, while the viewer in you continues to focus on the main plot as it unfolds, only to go back home to eschew on those incomplete substories and imagine the many layers of these stories based on several subtexts and untied knots thrown at you, then you know the director and the scriptwriter have done a fantastic job of creating a classic movie. “Irudhi Suttru” falls into this category and that’s exactly why I loved “Irudhi Suttru” by Sudha Kongara.
Sudha manages to touch upon several substories that could have taken their own forms, diverting the viewer’s attention from the main plot, while also giving additional dramatization scope for her to make the movie more meandering & more of an emotional rollercoaster. Instead, she chooses to leave all of them unexplored – the substories or subtexts or social issues I mean, leaving the viewer with a more difficult job of choosing to build on them, if needed and as needed.
Here is a list:
1) sexual harassment 2) sports infrastructure in India 3) general favoritism, political influences and overall corruption that ail sports administration in India 4) poverty and proselytization 5) sibling rivalry 6) women empowerment 7) the really heartwarming relationship between Radharavi and Madhavan, about which you have no clue till the last 10 minutes or so, and that too you get a whiff of it through a lighthearted one line exchange 8) Indian women boxers & what motivates them 9) etc. etc.
And no, none of the above is elaborated in the movie. They all are for the viewers to infer and build upon. To some extent, that is as much of a respect Sudha places on her viewers, as it is about her own conviction that the movie would work better if she takes a high road.
But, the movie is really about 2 characters. The story is as predictable as any sports movie, specially one that involves a passionate coach spotting a talent from the crowd, who is completely unaware of anything related to the sport that he/she has been spotted for. Madhavan as Prabhu, a retired boxer, but a passionate coach, is known for straight talk and for blowing his fuse off when confronted or put in dishonest situations. He prefers telling the truth & speaking his mind out in all circumstances – not giving a s**t to anyone or in any situation and he continues to dare his politically motivated fellow boxing federation officials, including the chief. Prabhu gets transferred to Chennai from Hissar due to a past rivalry between him and the federation chief and one which now has manifested into more of a “me or him ego clash” for the chief.
So, Madhavan rides his bike to Chennai where he spots Madhi, a fisherwoman girl, who he believes has all that it takes to become a champion. However, she (Ritika Singh) is boisterous, unruly and completely disrespectful of authority, while her sister is the one who is more focused on building a boxing career just to enable her find a police job (her only life aspiration). Once the backdrops of these two characters are established, it is very easy for the viewer to imagine how the story pretty much ends – sort of. Right? And the director definitely doesn’t want to deprive you of a chance to feel good about yourself at the end of the movie. So, in may ways, this is not a new story. At least the flavor of it.
Yet, it is a completely new movie, because of all the wonderful characters that come together to make up so many unique incidents that build one upon on another and follow a sequence organically, to transport the viewer a climax, which brought me a lump or two.
Madhavan couldn’t have found a better role to announce the breaking of his hiatus. He lives the character of an occasionally drunk, irreverent boxing coach, who doesn’t give two hoots about political corruption that ails the boxing federation. In fact, he tries to face these issues head on in his own rude & ruffled way by giving counterpunches.
Ritika Singh, a debutante, makes you travel with her right from the first moment you see her on screen. It’s not necessarily her beauty or cuteness, but the “life” she manages to bring onto screen. Her character is so alive, and so lovely & she makes everything about Madhi likable (North Madras slang included).
Nasser plays a junior coach and I don’t know if anyone else could have played that part better. All the other supporting cast members proved their worth all around.
Santhosh Narayanan’s OST worked big time in this movie and I thought his music alone moved many scenes very coherently. Needless to add, the songs had already become popular before the release of the movie and that again is largely due to the rugged, unfurled style he decided to adopt for this movie. Hats off to him.
In the end, Irudhi Suttru/Saala Khadoos is all about zeal, love and respect.
I highly recommend the movie, not for feminist reasons (which are also good enough reasons to go watch), but more for the sheer brilliance of the director, her vision of the script and for some top of the line casting.
Don’t hold any punches when it comes to making this movie an undisputed champion in the box office.
Note: It probably should be spelled “Irudhichchutru” to be precise..but I decided to refer to the movie as “Irudhi Suttru” because that seems to be the filmmakers’ preferred way of spelling it.