Super Deluxe: A Technical, Humourous & Philosophical Masterpiece
Movie Review by Trijai Nerthi (Rocheston Certified Movie Critic)
It is safe to say that Super Deluxe is Thiagarajan Kumararaja’s masterpiece. Scene by scene, frame by frame, he breaks film grammar, he refuses to play by the rules and etches out characters who are just as grey as the story. Through Super Deluxe and its fascinating characters, the director crosses the moral fine line that the society has drawn to tell you that no one is plainly good or bad, it’s all about the perspective and their circumstances. This is a brave film that crushes misplaced faith, questions our perceptions on equality and puts forth its otherworldly metaphors through a character who believes only kindness can eventually save us all. There’s something in Super Deluxe for everybody, so, it doesn’t matter if you like philosophy or dark humor, it doesn’t matter if you like pop-culture references or happy endings, the film is inclusive enough to keep you engaged from the start to the finish.
Super Deluxe unravels four stories that run parallelly. You are introduced to the lives of Jothi (Gayathrie) & Rasukutty (Ashwanth Ashokkumar) and how their world is toppled when an estranged family member returns home as a transwoman, Shilpa (Vijay Sethupathi). You meet Vembu (Samantha), whose infidelity to her husband Mugil (Fahadh Faasil) is now under the microscope due to the sudden death of her lover. You come across three hormonal teenagers (Naveen, Vijay Ram, and Jayanth) who invite chaos and meet with shocking revelations on a seemingly normal day, and lastly, you are taken into the life of Arputham (Mysskin) whose near-death encounter drove him to change his faith and become a staunch believer and healer, playing the role of god’s minion. The troubling circumstances these characters meet with and the manner in which it changes their lives forms the crux of the film.
One of the first thoughts that came to my right after I saw Super Deluxe was if only our society was as inclusive as a Thiagarajan Kumararaja film. The outlaws of the society, the ones that are looked down upon, the ones that can’t be cast into one-size-fits-all boxes take the center stage in Super Deluxe and it is simply a beautiful sight to see them thrive. The finesse of the film can be analyzed and apprehended by two divisions: It’s Avant Garde perspective and It’s technical confidence.
The Avant-Garde perspective here is brought to life by the director’s innate ability to challenge the society’s outlook by giving you proclaimed amoral beings who find a way to seize the day. It also goes on to break blind perceptions of faith. There is a brilliant scene where Arputham questions Shipa’s tryst with Tsunami and how she managed to survive the natural disaster. In this scene, one of the character’s blind faith is shattered and in the next immediate scene, the proceedings leave him confused. So, the director’s agenda here isn’t to criticize theism, instead, it is his intention to remind you to never follow any faith or belief without question. This is the kind of clarity that goes on to indicate the amount of confidence and control a creator has over his craft.
As for shattering our cinema and society’s obsession with Black versus White stereotyping, the director gives you characters who are written with a predominant grey area. Each and every one of these characters has committed mistakes. But does that make them bad? Does that make them plain good? No. As they say to err is human, the director here, takes it a step further to tell you that it is no good or bad, a man is simply a product of his circumstances and reactions, just one good deed or one bad one doesn’t define him. This is conveyed to you throughout the film. For instance, the headmaster at Rasukutty’s school refuses to even address Shilpa, he simply dismisses her. Whereas, an old lady vendor outside, tells Shilpa that what these people are doing isn’t right but sadly this is how the world works. By this time, you feel for Shilpa and connect with her. Shortly after, the skeletons in Shilpa’s closet is brought out in the open. Do her mistakes imply that she should be punished forever? Fortunately, this is not that kind of film. This strong and critical commentary is also evident in the scene in which Mugil asks Vembu “You think you are Virgin Mary? As though your purity can magically open doors.” As soon as he makes this comment, the doors of the elevator open. This feels like such a tight slap against male chauvinism and patriarchy.
Director Thiagarajan Kumararaja takes his decision to break misconstrued notions of faith and morality a step further by treating each of these characters and their journey with the philosophical streaks of existentialism. If existentialism had been served raw in this film, it could’ve been rather heavy. This is where the director’s technical confidence comes into play. He wraps this existentialism in enjoyable amounts of dark humor and pop culture references. This gives the film a light-hearted treatment through which it becomes easy for audiences from all walks of life to consume what the film is trying to say. The screenplay though three hours long is tied together by unexpected plot twists that surprise you every now and then and characters whose eccentricities keep you guessing for a good while. This is why Super Deluxe is one of the most commercial films that have ever come close to perfection.
Each and every actor in Super Deluxe function as the backbone of the film. Since the film is character driven, it would’ve been tough to stay invested in the story if not for their brilliant performances. Vijay Sethupathi has poured his heart and soul into his portrayal of Shilpa, a transwoman. This is most definitely the bravest and most authentic performance Tamil cinema has seen till date. To surrender oneself completely to a character whose emotional palette is just as complex as her gender association is a herculean task and Sethupathi conquers this task by stepping into his character’s shoes quite sincerely. From the way he moves to the extreme burst of emotions he brings out, the actor is truly a revelation. Samantha plays Vembu daringly. She challenges society’s popular and unfair notions of a woman’s fidelity. She captures her character’s wavering reactions especially well in the scenes involving a warehouse. As Rasukutty, Ashwanth is endearing, honest and warm. The character’s innocence is captured well by the child actor. As Mugil, Fahadh Faasil delivers his best work in Tamil cinema. He brings out the chauvinism underlying in his character while also portraying his metamorphosis brilliantly. Mysskin’s role as an eccentric believer is tailor-made for him and the actor/director eases through it with utmost conviction and authenticity. As Leela, Ramya Krishnan is as bold and unapologetic as ever. She brings out different shades to a mother who would swoon over her child but also bring him face to face with reality when needed. As the corrupt police officer Berlin, Bagavathi Perumal essays his role earnestly. This is truly the actor’s best work. His investment in the character drives you to detest Berlin.
Technically, Super Deluxe is spectacular. The art department, sound engineers, cinematographers, and music director work in unison bringing alive the correct canvas to suit the distinguished vision of the director Thiagarajan Kumararaja. The art department and the choice of locations and props make you feel as though each of these stories is taking place in neighboring areas. The sound engineers phenomenal work contribute by layering the screenplay effectively. The sound of a prop and the atmospheric music make the setting much more convincing. Cinematographers P.S Vinod and Nirav Shah give the film’s visuals a slightly contrasting and saturated theme that compliments the characters psyche. Editor Sathyaraj Nataraja’s work contributes greatly to the film’s style. The rhythm of each cut, especially the ones that build tension and reveal them are simply astounding. There is one scene involving a TV set that stands testament to this.
On the whole, Super Deluxe is a masterpiece. It is philosophical, humorous, light-hearted, heavy and a film that is bold to break the rules and bolder to stand by its social commentary.