Saani Kaayidham(Amazon Prime Video)
Starring Keerthy Suresh, K Selvaraghavan
Written and Directed by Arun Matheswaran
For a film about a young woman who is viciously gangraped and whose husband and little daughter are burnt alive, the word “thrilling” would not be appropriate.
Saani Kaayidham , which means something cheap pulp paper, grabs you by the neck and squeezes the breath out of you until you beg for mercy. It is a relentlessly violent film with no respite from the bestiality that empowered men feel over underprivileged men and specially women.
That the film’s protagonist Ponni happens to be a police constable doesn’t help her escape the brutal violation she faces. It is a horrific prolonged sequence of torture echoing the bloodcurdling yelps and screams of Shekhar Kapoor’s The Bandit Queen.That was 38 years ago. I guess nothing has changed for the oppressed. If anything, they are now manhandled even more viciously.
Each day we read of Dalits being thrashed, humiliated.Given the transfixed scenario, the morbid male gaze is put under a startling scrutiny in this sterling saga of settling scores.Not a flabby moment in the sinewy narrative.The ‘thriller’ format is a deceptive ruse used deliberately by writer-director Arun Matheswaran(whose debut film Rocky a year ago was equally violent) pulls out all stops to render a symphony of savagery.
A lot of the violence is hard for the audience to endure. The director seems to tell us , ‘Think how hard it must be to endure for the victim.’
Keerthy Suresh lives every heartbeat of her character Ponni. She expresses the grief rage and determination to seek revenge with such authority that we are swept into her violent universe. Selvaraghavan(Dhanush’s brother) gives the second master-performance while all the despicable goons are played by actors who understand the dynamics and politics of evil and oppression with disturbing clarity.
The action sequences are brutally stark and direct. I especially liked the one in a narrow lane where Ponni mows down dozens of goons.
Shot in striking colour and pale black-and-white(the latter to show Ponni’s happier days) Saani Kaayidham has one rather oddly positioned ambivalent character, a blind adolescent boy who may or may not have been among Ponni’s rapists. You so wish that he hadn’t.Innocence in this crime-infested drama is hard to come by.