‘Super Deluxe’ review: an unusual film with an assortment of quirky characters

Fahadh Faasil, Vijay Sethupathi and Ramya Krishnan in a still from 'Super Deluxe'.  

The opening credits of Super Deluxe are reminiscent of Kumararaja’s earlier work Aaranya Kaandam, and are played over Senthamizh Paadum from Vaira Nenjam, if I remember correctly. The opening scene, too, reminds one of how Subbu was introduced in Aaranya Kaandam. There, the woman was treated like a piece of meat. Here, the woman feels pleasure. You hear the squeaky sounds of the bed. The camera slowly pans to establish every minute details of the room. All this happens over ‘I’m A Disco Dancer’ song, and the title card appears in a Kumararaja-esque style.

  • Cast: Samantha Akkineni, Fahadh Faasil, Vijay Sethupathi, Ramya Krishnan, Mysskin and Gayathrie
  • Director: Thiagarajan Kumararaja
  • Storyline: Six actors. Four writers. Two cinematographers. One unusual film.

In more than one way, Super Deluxe can be seen as a spiritual successor to Aaranya Kaandam. If the latter was about male impotency, Super Deluxe embraces the idea of sexual fantasies; Kumararaja delves deeper into the darker side of human mind, without being least judgemental about his characters. If Aaranya Kaandam tried answering what dharma is, Kumararaja takes it a notch higher in Super Deluxe and questions the concept of morality, and how humans derive their own boundaries, in a more exploitative way. It makes a comment about chaos theory and how meaningless life is. The film, in many ways, is the result of a confluence of four different world views (written by Kumararaja, Mysskin, Nalan Kumarasamy and Neelan K Sekar). And it’s amusing how Kumararaja connects interrelated themes and subjects within the confines of his milieu. He seems to rejoice the genre-hopping; the film begins as a black comedy and ends like a dramedy on life, sex and spirituality. And that's the least spoiler-free review one could write about a film that is overly layered.

At its heart, Super Deluxe is about four stories that are interwoven together, making it hard to guess who wrote what. Mugil (Fahadh Faasil) and Vaembu (Samantha Akkineni in a remarkable performance) are in a marriage of convenience. Something terrible yet insanely-funny incident happens to them and that triggers a series of unwarranted events. Their conflicting-yet-affectionate nature makes you wonder as to what would have happened to Chappai and Subbu (from Aaranya Kaandam) had they lived together. Elsewhere, a motley group of sex-deprived teenagers visit a CD shop to satisfy their quest for bittu padam. For some strange reasons, I kept thinking about Chittu and his gang from Aaranya Kaandam, and what if it was their coming-of-age story, before they discovered the art of seducing older women? Kumararaja never really explored the warring relationship between Kodukapuli and Kalaiyan, and brushed it off with a powerful “avaru en appa”. But he does in Super Deluxe, which comes in the form of Shilpa (Vijay Sethupathi) and Rasukutty. Shilpa is the most honest portrayal of a transgender in a long time. She’s humanised; we see why she’s rejected by society. We empathise with her when she says this about sexuality: Serupa maathi podra mathiri. We sense her helplessness when she’s assaulted at a police station. It helps that Vijay Sethupathi was chosen to play this complicated, dark character. He brings a certain vulnerability, especially when Shilpa meets Arputham (Mysskin). Which brings us to the shockingly-delightful story about Arputham and Leela (Ramya Krishnan in her boldest role yet).

Super Deluxe draws humour from the most unlikeliest places. When Shilpa demonstrates how transgenders earn money with a sharp clap, Rasukutty says, “Ae...super pa nee.” The film, in fact, makes a self-reverential joke about Aaranya Kaandam, when a gangster prods an important question: kadaisiya enna padam paatha? Remember the Kamal-Rajini banter? A deeply religious person turns blind eye to an important piece of information. His whole life has been a lie. And when he breaks open the sacred sculpture, he finds diamonds in it. It's a brilliant touch. Another filmmaker would have explained the why. Kumararaja doesn't.

No other filmmaker has probably romanticised the Tamil cinema universe with pop culture references as much as Kumararaja. Consider the scene where a character croons Vanithamani from Vikram before watching porn, or the one where a character drapes saree over the Maasi maasam song (It isn’t a coincidence that a doctor is named after MS Viswanathan). If Subbu went through a Baasha-like transformation in Aaranya Kaandam, a character here (ironically named Manickam) undergoes a similar transformation. There are inside jokes too. Arputham invents his own bible called Anjathey Nambu. Rings a bell? And these bits aren't added just to make them look cool.

In one of the earliest stretch, a character says, “Dai rascal! Enna maranthutiya?” For a moment, it felt as though Kumararaja was asking this question to us: it’s been eight years since he made a film. If Super Deluxe is what you get from a filmmaker who was in exile, then you don't mind waiting a few years from now till he comes up with his next eccentric film.

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Printable version | Jan 8, 2022 5:34:23 AM |

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