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Siraj Syed


Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 

 

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Super Deluxe, Review: Super? Yes. Deluxe? No.

Super Deluxe, Review: Super? Yes. Deluxe? No.

Four plots radiate through concentric circles and are destined to coalesce one eventful day. Initially, it might trigger memories of Shawshank Redemption (1994), Pulp Fiction (1994), 3 Deewarein (2003), Love Actually (2003) and even Ghode Ko Jalebi Khilane Le Jaa Riya Hoon (2018). Think again. There are so few movies that treat their subjects in a subversive, quirky and yet painfully honest manner that you might be doing grave injustice to Super Deluxe by comparing it with other films that skirt the criss-crossing stories genre. Though, in terms of quality, Super Deluxe, with an oddball title, does not fully live up to its title, it is not very far either.

Any details about the individual stories will result in spoilers, so let me just introduce you to the characters in this 175-minute Tamil film, with English sub-titles:

A recently married woman talks to her former lover on the phone. He sounds very depressed, so she calls him over, to console him, while her husband is away attending acting classes. He returns, to find her lover’s body in the refrigerator.

A group of boys rent a pornographic DVD. As soon as the film begins, one of them recognises his mother on screen and runs amuck. He finds it unbelievable and irreconcilable.

A woman is waiting for her husband who deserted her seven years ago. One day she learns that he is finally coming back. When the taxi arrives, a woman alights from it. To the utter horror of all who had gathered to receive the wife-deserter, and of his wife and son in particular, the woman turns out be her husband, who has undergone a gender-altering operation.

A priest who was miraculously saved during a tsunami attracts followers as a holy man, but his own son faces death after a serious injury. His wife begs him to collect money for his treatment at a private hospital, while he wants to believe that his God will shower benevolence upon him.

Like a turbo-powered pendulum, the narrative swings from black comedy to stark tragedy to situational humour to issues of Brahminism and non-vegetarian food to sex and spirituality to loathsome villainy to irrational hope to acceptance and closure. Super Deluxe begins with the Hindi song, ‘I am a disco dancer’ playing loudly, giving you no hint of what to expect next. (Thiagarajan will come back to the disco dancer, but in good time). First in the compendium is the story of the woman who invites her ex-lover home, and he dies in bed. The process of trying to dispose-off his body is reminiscent of Jaane Bhi Do Yaro (1983), in turn inspired by Pas de problème (1975), both rip-roaring comedies.

Written by director Thiagarajan Kumararaja (Aaranya Kaandam, 2011), Nalan Kumarasamy, Mysskin and Neelan K. Sekar, Super Deluxe is so named to attract viewers, with nothing in the film to justify the moniker. On the other hand, the film’s trailer, which has images from the film, has a voice over that may not make any sense and is recorded in the format of Chinese Whispers. This was done, according to Thiagarajan, to avoid getting audiences who might not relate to the film, and to entice the right kind of filmgoers. Quite unnecessary, though. The stories stand on their own as linear narratives and progress to acceptable conclusions. En route, the director stitches patterns that symbolise organic unity.

Some apparent themes running through the fabric of the tales are: there is justice in this world, sometimes divine, sometimes poetic; acceptance and tolerance are the greatest gifts of human psyche and we should not judge others merely by their acts and body make-up; many of us live by double standards, wherein we find it okay to indulge in something sinful or unlawful but are unwilling to accept similar indiscretions on the part of our dear and dear ones; a single act of turpitude should not condemn a loved one for life; there is no limit to the depths of depravity that an evil person will sink, if his body is possessed by a ghoulish soul.

Two of the layers in this multi-layered serving were not as impactful as the rest: the don who uses the youngsters to poison a victim in order to earn money and the appearance of a female alien, who clones one of the boys and keeps one of the two with her. Maybe there are references to contexts I am not privy to or maybe I am missing a couple of tricks here. The former is an attempt at comedy that is funny, but not of the calibre the rest of the film, while the latter seems a lesson in biology and splitting of cells, to reproduce like amœbae, quite out of place in film so deeply rooted in reality.

Vijay Sethupathi as Shilpa/Manickam, the transgender person, is a show-stealer and you wish you could do something to help him overcome the sorry circumstances he finds himself in. Samantha Akkineni as Vaembu, the woman who is saddled with the body of her ex-lover, is routine. Fahadh Faasil as Mugil, her husband, scores slightly better. The fact that he is playing an acting student is a good piece of characterisation. Ramya Krishnan as Leela, the mother who has acted in a porn film as well as a religious movie, but now has to deal with a medical emergency, with no money on her, offers a sharp contrast to her persona of glamour and glitz.

Mysskin as Arputham (Dhanasekaran), (Arputham means amazing/miraculous) the man who was miraculously saved in the tsunami by holding on to a statue of Christ and who converts to Christianity, plays a tormented soul, a bit over the top, though. Gayathrie as Manickam's wife, suffering in silence, is faced with a dilemma that only one in million would encounter, and she conveys a lot by underplaying. Bagavathi Perumal as Sub-Inspector Berlin (Berlin? Yes. Were they thinking of Hitler when they decided on this name?) is a part that has nothing to redeem itself. He is the most vicious and sadistic police officer you will ever meet, and Perumal spares nothing in delineating the despicable dastard. Ashwanth Ashokkumar as Rasakutty, Manickam’s young son, is a delight to watch. Not many child actors can appear so convincing without coming across as precocious. His ding-dong and drum roll immediately come to mind.

Super Deluxe has praiseworthy contributions from its behind the scenes team:

Music by Yuvan Shankar Raja (mood-building, judiciously used)  (Ilaiya Raja is thanked for the use of his songs in the background)        

Cinematography by Nirav Shah, P.S. Vinod (fluid, unobtrusive)

Film Editing by Sathyaraj Natarajan (slow, growing)

Art Direction by Vijay Adhinathan (right locales, right props)

Sound Department Tapas Nayak sound designer (highs and lows, as the story flows)

Visual Effects by Shangeeth Sathyanathan (sexy alien in human garb, double role with single vision).

Certified for Adults Only, Super Deluxe has no skin show but the f-word is heard in abundance.

Super Deluxe is a must watch for students of cinema. It is also one of the best films seen in the year so far. A little restraint on the villainy and better development of the two weaker segments would have put it right on top. Deluxe? No. Super? Yes.

Rating: *** 1/2

Trailer: https://youtu.be/3-Xq_Zz3nPA

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.


Bandra West, Mumbai

India



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