The aim is lofty, the theme, noble. It is in execution that director Anbazhagan falters a little. Still, Saattai (U) is worthy of notice. Sparing the rod isn’t enough — understanding the psyche of students is imperative, is one of the messages that Saattai imparts. Punishments should lead to productive results is another. But cramming in too many aphorisms for parents, teachers and students to take note of and follow in life, makes the entire exercise preachy. Saattai is at times obviously sermonising.

Teacher-taught equations have been the fulcrum of many a film. But here, the maker delves into newer areas, talks of the importance of reviving certain practices of yore in the classroom to help hone the memory of students, extend their attention span, and other such. In these aspects, Saattai is different. However, at times, the screenplay seems to allow issues to dangle without solutions being offered.

Dayalan (Samudirakani) is an upright teacher at a Government School in the village. His struggle to disprove the notion that such schools cannot contribute to the wholesome development of students is the crux of Saattai. But why Dayalan isn’t worldly wise, is a question only director Anbazhagan can answer.

After playing a traitor who implicates the gullible without qualms in Subramaniapuram and a dignified cop in Easan admirably, Samudirakani is seen in the role of a school master with a mission in Saattai. And once again he does justice. Kani commands respect and his subtle expressions make him a perfect choice for the part.

Probably because you expected the same spontaneity he crafted to perfection in Mynaa, national award winner Thambi Ramaiah’s loud and crude villainy in Saattai is a disappointing cliché. He plays Singamuthu, the supercilious and cantankerous assistant headmaster. When the character goes on stage with a knife hidden in his waist, the climactic sequence gets contrived, and at that point Dayalan’s magnanimity and the eventual outcome become guessable. Junior Balaiah, the soft and honest headmaster of the school, seems to have been created to balance the protagonist and the anti-role effectively — the actor does a neat job. Classmates Yuvan and Mahima comprise the lead pair — Yuvan could work harder on his expressions. On the other hand, Mahima makes quite an impression, particularly in the emotional scenes. The suspense in this segment has also been well-handled. Karuthapandi, who is slowly gaining a foothold in light-hearted roles, is his energetic self once again after Paagan.

Anbazhagan highlights the general apathy of teachers, both male and female, in Government Schools, with such insight and precision that you are amazed at his keen observation!

Director Solomon and Imman made a hit combo in Mynaa. This time too, Imman has come up with some scintillating tunes for producer Solomon. The melody of ‘Sahayanae’ in Shreya Ghoshal’s voice and Ramesh Vinayakam’s ‘Izhappadharkku’ are examples.

Going in for a salient subject and keeping commercial elements at bay are commendable — director Prabhu Solomon deserves accolades for launching his production house with a film that’s purposeful, sensitive to the problems of adolescents, and sensible. But the docu-feel that surfaces now and then could have been avoided.

Saattai

Genre: Drama

Director: M. Anbazhagan

Cast: Samudirakani, Thambi Ramaiah, Yuvan, Mahima

Storyline: A conscientious teacher who goes all out to redress matters in a Government School in a village. It isn’t going to be easy.

Bottomline: A commendable effort that would have worked better with less number of messages.

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Tamil Cinema ReviewsOctober 18, 2011