The memes just keep cropping up. The movie is fantastic! The leads are magnificent! The director is amazing! The background score and songs are out of this world! The cinematography is breathtaking! Everyone and everything have come together in a wonderful synergy of almost absolute perfection in Irudhi Suttru, directed by Sudha Kongara and starring Madhavan and Ritika Singh.
Prabhu Selvaraj (Madhavan), an ill-mannered, drinking, debauching boxing coach (one of the best in India) is slapped with a false sexual harassment charge and exiled to Chennai to train new boxers. There he meets Madhi (Ritika Singh), a no-nonsense fisherwoman and sister of aspiring boxer Lux (Mumtaz Sorcar). Prabhu notices an aggression and passion in Madhi that seems to lack in others including Lux (as Lux wishes to become a police officer by means of sports quota). He offers to train Madhi who refutes his offer initially, only to take it up when he offers to pay her 500 rupees per day. And so begins the relationship (or, battle of egos to be more apt) of Prabhu and Madhi, both damaged (in their own way) and stubborn, which culminates in their redemption.
First up, Irudhi Suttru is a commercial movie. It doesn't pretend to be anything otherwise. But where it differs from the usual masala claptrap, is that it is devoid of the usual clichéd commercial elements such as a duet in Switzerland or the beating up of bad guys by the protagonist, book-ended with migraine-inducing punch-dialogues. It is quite rare to see such films from the Tamil Cinema industry. Moreover, the film relies on the intelligence of the viewers and does not take them for granted. The film, at 112 minutes, propels forward with its realistic characters, story and dialogues.
Huge props to Sudha Kongara on choosing the world of boxing as the subject and having done her homework (actually, all of the cast and crew have) on the politics and corruption in the sport (considered secondary in a country that worships cricket), yet keep the viewers captivated throughout. The film also beautifully captures the fragility of human relationships and the intricacies of human nature. It is a love story; no, not a conventional love story as we have come to know, but one which transcends and elevates the characters and the audience.
Madhavan is heartbreakingly magnificent as Prabhu, a boxer-turned-coach in love with boxing and still in love with his ex-wife who left him for another boxer. Though he is no saint (he is rude and his "words are poison"), he has an innate sense of righteousness. There are many layers to him and Madhavan has played the character with a zeal that is so refreshing. He understands the Coach and carries the movie on his bulked-up shoulders. Any other actor would have hesitated (or even refused) to play Prabhu (who gets verbally and physically abused by Madhi) who has no redeeming actions in the traditional sense. But it is Ritika Singh, who outshines everyone as Madhi, a raw, yet vulnerable fisherwoman with an attitude. She is cruel to Prabhu and she takes no crap from anyone. For those of us who are used to seeing 'heroines' dolled up and used only as romantic interests in films, Madhi is a breath of fresh air; she is a force of nature.
When it comes to the supporting cast, Nasser as the junior-coach, has some of the best lines and whenever he is onscreen one is left with a warm glow in a movie full of jagged emotions. Even though Radha Ravi is in the film for no more than five minutes, he makes an impact (the revelation of his relationship with Prabhu is quite funny and reflective). Zakir Hussain is effective as the slimy bureaucrat, Dev Khatri, yet his Tamil pronunciation leaves a lot to be desired. Mumtaz Sorcar stands out in that one scene where she demands Prabhu on why he chose to coach Madhi instead of her and breaking down when Prabhu reveals that Madhi is simply a better boxer than her. Kaali Venkat as the good-for-nothing father and Baljinder Kaur as the long-suffering mother are excellent.
The dialogues (Arun Matheshwaran) are hard-hitting and effective and more importantly, is as real as the no-frills-no-nonsense-screenplay (Sudha Kongara, Sunanda Raghunathan and Madhavan). And it is beautifully elevated by Santhosh Narayanan (music) and Sivakumar Vijayan (cinematography). The songs do not feel out of place and instead, help move the story forward (special mention: "Ey Sandakaara" and the hauntingly beautiful "Usuru Narambula"). The camera takes us on a journey from Hisar to Chennai to Himachal Pradesh and is one with the inherent nature of the movie.
Some of my favourite scenes:
- "Samuel aakiya naan..."
- 'Punch' Pandian on why eating liver with alcohol is healthy
- 'Punch' Pandian to Prabhu: "Nee nallavanya"
- Murali: "Naa antha odi pona kazhuthaiyoda..."
- The 'Adrian' moment in the end where Madhi leaps into Prabhu's arms
Irudhi Suttru is a one-of-a-kind movie (for lack of a better word) and a rare gem among the sewage one is used to expecting in the mainstream Tamil Cinema. It is a knockout which floors one, yet one feels great afterwards; a rarity.