OTTRegional Cinema

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

Amazon’s  Sarpatta Parambarai Probably  The  Finest  Pugilistic  Film  India Has Made

Sarpatta Parambarai (Tamil, Amazon Prime)

Director
Plot
A young man from the Black Town of 1970’s segregated Madras finds himself with the opportunity to redeem his boxing clan and himself from years of defeat. Can he do it? Will he be allowed to?

Rating: ****

Sarpatta Parambarai Review:  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  boxer shots  run through the course  of the  3-hour Sarpatta Parambarai  there is  none of  that posturing in the  ring  for the hero. For a  sports film this one is  refreshingly  liberated  of self-congratulation.

[tnm_video layout=”mnmd-post-media-wide”]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XTTAHt4VlUA[/tnm_video]

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 what get. And  what we get is a  deeply satisfying,  courageous  and humane  story  which  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 maintain  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  Sarpatta Parambarai’s mood captures and reifies  brilliantly  in  its characters’ restless energy,none more so than  Kabilan.

 In  the  author-backed role of KabilanArya 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.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 selfrighteous 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.

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