When Soorarai Pottru was announced in 2018, it drew a lot of eyeballs. Suriya and Sudha Kongara – It was an interesting mix; a director fresh out of the success of a trilingual series (Irudhi Suttru was simultaneously made as Saala Khadoos in Hindi, and later as Guru in Telugu), and an extremely successful actor whose film choices in the recent past began to seem…confused. Apart from the occasional films which held promise (like 24), Suriya’s work post-2010 was mostly underwhelming; more so because of the audience’s expectations. After all, he had quite ruled the roost in the 2000s. (Kaakka Kaakka, Pithamagan, Ghajini, Vaaranam Aayiram…remember?) Anyhow, this announcement hyped me up – because here was a director who’d pulled off an intense story, featuring a Madhavan we’d never seen before. Maybe she could produce a similar result with Suriya as well?
After multiple delays (special mention to Coronavirus), Soorarai Pottru finally released today on Amazon Prime Video. Has it managed to live up to the extreme hype generated by the promos? Nope, I’m not going to make you read the entire article to get the answer to this question. The answer is a simple Yes. If you’re an impatient Suriya fan, stop right here and just go watch the film. But if you’re not, allow me to tell you why you should watch this film, with five tangible reasons that stood out. Here goes!
An incredible story based on true events
The plot of Soorarai Pottru is inspired by the life of Capt Gopinath, the founder of Air Deccan. Back in the late ’90s, when flying was still a luxury, this man had a vision: to make the common man fly. Often hailed as the pioneer of low-cost flying, his journey towards creating the airline company wasn’t a smooth one; it was rather marred by competition, influence and red tapes. As the title suggests – Soorarai Pottru translates to “salute the brave” – it’s a story of pure grit. And if this story doesn’t inspire you, I don’t know what else will!
A deftly written screenplay
Anyone who has watched the promotional material of the film would know that it’s a story of trial and tribulation; a classic ups-and-downs success story. This template has the risk of being a predictable affair. However, in this case, the screenplay keeps you hooked, because you don’t know when and how the ups and downs happen. Except for a few portions in the first half, the film otherwise moves ahead with an evenly slick pace too.
Sincere performances by the cast
Be it the physical transformation to play a 19-year old, or the conscious effort to not repeat his trademark mannerisms, Suriya has put forth his most sincere performance in a decade. As Nedumaran Rajangam, he ably carries the weight of the years of struggle (and in a meta way, the weight of the film) on his shoulders.
The ensemble cast does a good job in making the film rooted and believable. Aparna Balamurali shines in a beautifully written role (more on this later). The standout performer, however, is Urvashi. In a pre-interval flashback sequence (essentially the soul of the film), she delivers a heart-wrenching performance that is a far cry (no puns intended) from her recent comedic work. Here’s to hoping that this film paves the way for more dramatic roles from this veteran actor!
Paresh Rawal as the antagonist managed to get me irritated – half at his character (he’s done a neat job), but also at Tamil cinema’s obsession with casting Hindi actors as villainous corporate magnates. Why daaa?
Sudha Kongara’s rare feat
At no point in Soorarai Pottru does the viewer get “star vehicle vibes”. Maybe because it is a started-from-the-bottom story? But well, Shivaji The Boss was also a started-from-the-bottom story, remember? I think it has got to do with the writing of the hero.
Nedumaran is not invincible. He cannot physically fight down security guards and beat the villain to a pulp. He is constantly cheated, misled and let down by people. In a broke situation, he asks his wife for a loan (albeit hesitantly). The fact that director Sudha Kongara was able to utilize the actor in Suriya without giving much leeway to unnecessary “mass” (that may have diluted this film) is a huge achievement.
The writing of Bommi (Nedumaran’s wife, played by Aparna) also deserves a mention. She is not your usual on-screen village belle, the subject of our mass hero’s platonic romantic interest. Bommi is smart, enterprising and opinionated. She runs a business of her own. Though it’s a bakery, she considers her business at par with her husband’s airplane business and has no qualms in supporting him against all odds (social and financial).
A kickass soundtrack
GV Prakash comes up with a super addictive array of songs. The songs in the first half – especially “Veyyon Silli “- are accompanied by aesthetically pleasing frames. While these songs slow down the proceedings a bit, their placement in the second half feels more organic. There is a “pever song” in every inspiring movie ever made; and here, Thaikkudam Bridge’s Urumbu is revamped as “Aagasam” and works best within the film’s setting. “Naalu Nimisham” is another well-conceived, short track that is bound to stay with you post the viewing.
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While it is ironic that Soorarai Pottru (which talks about reducing economic disparity) released on a premium platform that not everyone has access to, it is indeed a commendable nod to the future scope of the OTT space, and how it may become more accessible and mainstream with regards to entertainment consumption among the masses.
I did have my doubts about the film (which was clearly mounted on a big scale, meant for big screens) working on the small screen. One obvious drawback while watching the film on my television was that I did not receive the best auditory experience. Considering how sound plays an important role in an aviation film such as this, it would work best if you can enhance the output with good-quality speakers or headphones, if possible. But otherwise, the viewing experience was an engrossing, fun one. At the end of the day, when a story has its heart in the right place, it all comes together, I guess.
Let us know your takeaways from the film, in the comments below!