Sarpatta Parambarai – My Flash Review

Frankly I had no clue as to what the title referred to or the background till I watched this Pa.Ranjith’s film which was premiered on Prime Video this week. The interest to watch was of course due to being a “Pa. Ranjith film”. This outing follows his two back to back average films that too with the Superstar. I must say that with Sarpatta Parambarai (SP), Ranjith makes a strong comeback as a quality film maker.

The film is about the intense rivalry spanning generations between clans around boxing in North Madras. It is clear that the story is based on real life events and characters mostly that too in the 70’s. So, it is another sports drama where the screenplay follows the journey of an underdog in the most predictable sequence which is Struggle – Qualification – Setback – Hard work – Accomplishment.  As I mentioned, the sport involved here is “Boxing” which apparently was popular in North Madras due to the British legacy and the hero is a struggler who dreams of winning the glory for his clan which, he eventually accomplishes after a roller coaster ride.

As I mentioned, the screen play and the sequence of events for most parts are predictable. Also predictable is the characterisation of the people around the hero. So we have an elderly past his prime coach who is grumpy and frowns all the time (I wonder if we will ever have a relaxed and smiling coach in a sports drama). We have few friends and well-wishers around the hero and we also have few who have an axe to grind though being part of the same team. Reminded of Lagaan? I sure was. In spite of this familiarity, if the film keeps us hooked on, it is only because of the native and raw portrayal of the milieu in that period. Hats off to Ranjith and his co-writer Tamizh Praba on this score.

Director Ranjith is far more sure footed in this film because of the subject chosen and setting, I believe.  It is obvious from the making that a lot of research has gone into the story and screen play for the film. With Kabali and Kaala, I was of the opinion that Ranjith was confused as to the treatment of the story line.  He makes amends here. The film is peppered with trademark Ranjith symbols like Ambedkar statues, Buddha idols and lines like “Our time has come”. Equally not missable is Ranjith’s politics.

The cinematography of Murali. G is top class that too for a film where there is no opportunity for showcasing eye candy stuff. Not just the North Madras setting but the boxing bouts have been showcased extremely in a real manner. Just that I found the lighting bit dark in certain scenes making it difficult to follow what’s happening on the screen.  The set design is also brilliant again adding to the “real” quotient of the film. Santosh Narayanan’s music sounded repetitive to me after Karnan both in terms of background score and songs but gel well with the flow. Overall the film is extremely very well made in terms of technique.

A film like this has a whole lot of characters and hence casting is key. For me, the top picks are Pasupathi as the head coach of the Sarpatta Parambarai with a political leaning and John Vijay as an Anglo Indian – Daddy Kevin. Both nail their respective roles with their body language, emotions and dialogue delivery. A bulked up Arya as the hero is earnest in the portrayal of a North Madras youth but he is not a Dhanush. The female characters as typical in Pa.Ranjith’s films are written strongly and the actors do justice to the same with their performances. Most of the supporting cast do their jobs very well.

For close to three hours, the film is way too long. While the narrative in the first half is easy in its pace, in the second half suddenly runs away with some quick jump cuts which seem like after thoughts to reduce the length of the film. When you have too many characters, it is normal to showcase few of them as quirky. While that works in the case of Kevin Daddy, the character of Dancing Rose, a boxer who does dancing steps while in the ring didn’t work at all for me.  The other thing I found odd is the general over the top and loud acting by almost every character that comes on screen. 90 percent of the lines in the film start with a screaming “Aei….”

Sarpatta Parambarai is a watchable film in spite of its length and predictability. Watch it for the real portrayal of an interesting and unknown vignette (at least to me) of the 70’s Madras. But is it an epic film? Sorry, No.

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