Sarpatta Parambarai Review: Probably The Finest Pugilistic Film India Has Made

Everything flows organically in the script. Everything is just right most of the way. Arya and Pa Ranjith have much to be proud of.

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Sarpatta Parambarai Review: Probably The  Finest Pugilistic Film India Has Made

If we overlook one glaringly fractured episode in the narrative, Sarpatta Parambarai is probably the finest film on the rise, fall, and redemption of a  boxer that we’ve seen in Indian cinema. And I don’t see anyone coming close to bettering that score for a very long time. Though boxers and oxer shots run through the course f the  3-hour film ere is one of that posturing in the ing or the hero. For a  sports film, this one is refreshingly liberated of self-congratulation. Instead, Murali G’s camera envelopes the characters into a kind of cloistered kinship based on ancestral pride and the sporting spirit. Not much of the latter is visible as Kabilan (Arya) climbs out of his junior artiste’s destiny in the pugilistic hierarchy to become the local champ. Jealous elements don’t hide their lack of grace in this film. They are, what they. What we see is what we get. And what we get is a  deeply satisfying,  courageous and humane story that we will carry with us for a very long time.

The story is set in North Chennai during the  1970s when  a state  of  emergency was declared  across  the country.  Tamil Nadu stubbornly maintains its autonomy. The politics  of the region serves as  a  solid backdrop for  the  clashes that happen in the  boxing ring when all  pretence  of decency is  abandoned as  the fighters get down to basics, hurling verbal and physical blows  in a show  of  crass sportsmanship that the  film’s mood captures and reifies  brilliantly  in  its characters’ restless energy,none more so than  Kabilan.

 In the author-backed role of Kabilan, Arya is a  revelation. I’ve seen his earlier  works. Nothing  he has done  in  the past  can ever equal the power  and  glory  the  self-destructive  streak and  the  redemptive strength  that pull  his character  out  of his  self-made abyss into a tentative light  at the end when in the final fight in the ring, he defeats his main adversary. His wife and mother who hate his boxing ambitions are there to cheer him on. The power  of cinema is  to  sway and  derail  negative emotions.

One  of  the  many unadulterated  pleasures  of watching Sarpatta Parambarai is to see  Kabilan’s absolutely endearing relationship  with his  wife. As  Mariyamma, Kabilan’s  wife  Dushara  Vijayan is  a  firecracker, reducing her athletic husband to a cowering whining figure with her possessive affections. Pasupathy as Kabilan’s coach is  intimidating in  his self-righteous fury. One minute dismissing Kabilan as  a wastrel with one flick of his  wrist, massaging his  injured protégé’s hand the next.

If the husband-wife relationship rings true, the guru-shishya tradition is here taken into a zone of insulated adoration where the protégé hero-worships his guru  blindly. Arya manifests all the roles and emotions of his character with  majestic  authenticity and an empowering rawness. He is childlike in his  stubbornness and  a  true hero in his  selfless  quest for  victory in the boxing ring.

Pa Ranjith  loves to shoot mob rage. This, we’ve seen in his earlier (far inferior) works like Kabali and Kala. In Sarpatta Parambarai rival factions confront one  another in the ring and on  the streets with a corrosive disregard for  decorum. The narrative  shows  a thin  line dividing the sportive spirit from  criminal  activities. It  hops and skips  between  rage  and compassion, abandoning neither emotion  long  enough  for us  or the characters  to get comfortable  in the  other  emotion.

I have a  major  quibble with the way  writer-director Pa Ranjith  rush-speeds  through the  episode which shows  Kabilan’s descent into  an alcoholic mess. The  graceless  rush is obviously to cut down on the playing time which is  close to three hours. But it jars. The  period  drama  never jars. The political mood of the 1970s and the  sartorial and  linguistic norms  of  the era  are  never pushed into  the  narrative.  Everything flows organically  in the script. Everything is just right most of  the way. Arya and  Pa Ranjith  have much to be  proud of.

Written  &  Directed  by Pa Ranjith, Sarpatta Parambarai gets 4 stars. 

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