Subu, the writer-director of Sutta Kadhai, has a superb eye for the absurd. The film is filled with borderline-surreal non sequiturs, some of which are downright Monty Pythonesque. A cop (Balaji Venugopal, who with his pencil moustache resembles a swashbuckling Ranjan-era villain) steps into the scene of a murder and gets down to his interrogation. His first question: What is your national bird? Elsewhere, another cop (Venkatesh Harinathan) asks the dead man’s offspring what the father was doing before he died. The answer: He was living.
We get comedies all year round, yet I manage — at most — a smirk, a grin, whereas I burst out laughing at the scene where the policeman played by Nasser sits down to demonstrate the drinking habits of people in Russia, Canada, South Africa... And the bits featuring re-enactments of scenarios from the Sambasivam Crime Comics are a scream. (The casting of the fearsome “Killer Kabali” is a sight joke in itself.)
The tea shop whose signboard in Tamil and English features slightly different names (Paradise/Paradesi), the obese man who asks his daughter if he is wearing a belt, the drunk at the bar who keeps slamming into a door... I could go on. The problem is that there’s no connective tissue. No, scratch that. The problem is that the director feels compelled to connect these bits through a “story,” and the plot, even at an hour and forty-five minutes, is a major drag.
We want more of those absurd sketches, and we’re saddled, instead, with a tribal woman (Lakshmi Priyaa) who wants to avenge her father, a quack (named Oliver Twist!) peddling potency pills, and a nutso “king” (MS Baskar) who’s a little too trigger-happy. Most unforgivably — especially given a sensibility so out-of-the-box — we get the old song-and-dance in a bar.
Still, I wouldn’t want to be too hard on a film that milks laughs from the ubiquitous P James. In a comedy culture that hinges almost entirely on one-liners, you’re grateful for something different, even if it’s only some of the time.
Genre: Absurdist comedy
Cast: Balaji Venugopal, Venkatesh Harinathan, Lakshmi Priyaa
Storyline: A murder investigation... or something.
Bottomline: A drag of a story livened by some great absurd bits.