(These are transcripts of Anna M.M. Vetticad’s video reviews aired on Rajya Sabha TV on September 1, 2019.)
Hello and welcome to this new film review segment in Colours of India. My name is Anna M.M. Vetticad.
On this show we are celebrating the great diversity of Indian cinema. And so today, I will speak to you about the Tamil film Super Deluxe and the Malayalam film Thanneermathan Dinangal.
Super Deluxe is directed by Thiagarajan Kumararaja and has a large cast packed with stars.
This is a film with a multi-strand narrative. Its four strands – or sub-plots if you prefer to call it that – are connected in unexpected ways.
The first strand features an unhappily married couple played by Samantha Akkineni and Fahadh Faasil. The two are trying to get rid of a corpse without being caught.
The second strand is about a little boy awaiting the return of a father who abandoned him years earlier. When the Dad finally comes home, it turns out that he is now a trans woman who goes by the name Shilpa.
Shilpa is played by Vijay Sethupathi.
The third sub-plot involves a group of teenaged boys off to watch a porn film in secret.
The fourth stars Ramya Krishnan as a woman who works in porn films.
Super Deluxe has a beautifully balanced tone. On the one hand it is extremely funny. On the other hand it is extremely sensitive while dealing with serious subjects like compatibility in marriage, the marginalisation of the LGBT+ community, sexual violence and the hypocrisy of men who want their OWN mothers to be devis though they take OTHER women lightly.
I could not relate much to the switch to fantasy towards the end of the story about the porn-watching boys, but there is SO MUCH to love in this film.
The performances in Super Deluxe are top-notch. The one that has got most attention since its release is Vijay Sethupathi playing a trans woman. Now in an ideal world, TRANS actors would play TRANS characters. Indian cinema has not yet got to that stage, with rare exceptions like last year’s Malayalam film Aabhaasam which starred the trans actor Sheetal Shyam. What we have in most of our films is MALE actors playing trans characters. Till we get to a more evolved stage in our casting, it is worth pointing out that a major male star playing a trans character seriously risks denting his ‘macho’ image in our patriarchal society. So this too is perhaps worth celebrating as a baby step forward since our society prefers to pretend that the trans community does not even exist.
One of the most moving aspects of Super Deluxe is the little boy Raasukutty’s absolutely non-judgemental response when he finds that the man who fathered him is in fact a woman.
Raasukutty is my personal hero. And his non-judgemental mother is my heroine.
Super Deluxe is now streaming on Netflix.
It is funny, it is brave, it is thought-provoking, and frankly, it is an act of social rebellion as much as it is a film.
Thanneermathan Dinangal literally means Watermelon Days. The title comes from the large quantities of watermelon juice that the hero consumes at the food kiosk next to his school. He goes there on a regular basis to pour his heart out to his gang of friends.
Mathew Thomas plays the teenaged hero Jaison who is struggling with multiple teenaged problems. He is in love with his classmate Keerthy, played by Anaswara Rajan, who is not interested in him. He is being tormented by the school bully. He is struggling with exams. And as if life is not tough enough, a new teacher starts picking on him and him alone.
Thanneermathan Dinangal is sweet without being sugary.
The lead actors are cute without being overly cutesy.
And although it is hilarious, it does not trivialise the problems of teenagers.
In fact the beauty of this film is that it plays out so naturally that it feels as if real people allowed the filmmaker to place cameras around their homes and school to capture what is going on in their real lives.
This is a thinking comedy. In a country where we are used to commercial cinema showing men stalking women that they like and portraying that stalking as a legitimate form of courtship, Jaison and Keerthy from Thanneermathan Dinangal hold out a lesson for filmmakers. In fact one of the most striking aspects of this film is a young girl telling a young boy that she likes him BECAUSE he did not pester her when she turned down his romantic overtures.
Thanneermathan Dinangal is one of those rewarding films that is thoroughly enjoyable and also has a very important point to make.
Link to the video of these reviews aired on Rajya Sabha TV:
A longer review of Thanneermathan Dinangal by Anna M.M. Vetticad was published on Firstpost on August 11, 2019: