Reimagining masala cinema for an audience hooked to OTT apps. Soorarai Pottru ticks all the boxes that make a film a memorable watch.
I remember the first time my best friend from school took a flight, she said with disdain ‘Munish, every Tom, Dick and Harry is flying these days. The airport looks no different from a railway station. I swear I saw people carrying jholas in the plane’. Many years later when I myself took a flight owing to an emergency, I saw what she was talking about. Flying was no longer a luxury that people in my parents’ generation thought it to be. The common Indian, with their jholas, their mundus, their bagful of fried savouries were all traveling in an aluminium can up in the air.
A carrier that even sold air tickets for as low as one rupee
This, however, would not have been possible had it not been for a courageous few. Captain Gopinath, a retired Air Force officer, was one of them. He pioneered low-cost aviation in India with his brainchild Air Deccan. A carrier that even sold air tickets for as low as one rupee. He made flying accessible for the millions of Indians who could not afford the premium prices charged by carriers at the turn of the century. He made the commercial airlines sit-up and take note. He made them cave in to the competition, which ultimately led to several cheaper airlines. Soorarai Pottru that translates into ‘Praise the brave’ is actually a paean about this retired IAF officer who dared to make low-cost flights a reality in India.
Suriya plays the retired Captain in this gripping story- the self-proclaimed Socialist who takes out the pyre of the village outcast; who leads an agitation demanding a railway station in his village, and never, ever gives up. He is the angry young man of 2020. He fights with his father, disobeys his senior in the Air Force, doesn’t shy away from wringing the neck of a Babu who has been testing his patience time and again. But Suriya as Nedumaaran, however is not just a beefed-up alpha male. He has a vision as chiselled as his biceps. He wants to make flying a cheaper, more viable option for the millions of middle-class Indians, and he has substance to back his dream. He knows the aviation industry like the back of his hand, makes a perfect pitch to shrewd Venture Capitalists and slyly manages to get a meeting with the President himself.
If Suriya shines through the film, the female lead – who plays his wife is just as good, if not better. Her character is the perfect example of what female representation in movies should be like. She isn’t the fair, petite actress who is cast only to amp up the heat quotient of the film. Instead she is a fierce, feisty feminist. She rejects a marriage proposal, sets terms for her engagement with Suriya, supports her husband financially till his passion project takes off and runs a business like a Boss. Director Sudha Kongara yet again succeeds in creating an impactful female character.
The film is yet another testimony to the fact that there are more than enough splendid stories out there across the length and breadth of the nation that need to be told and re-told
The film’s plot is as nuanced as its cast. It is a roller coaster of emotions. The opening sequence where Suriya’s plane is denied permission to land despite a fuel emergency hooks you to the edge of your seat. You know that this is a part of a larger, sinister plot – which reveals itself at various points through the film, keeping the viewer engaged. Paresh Rawal plays the Machiavellian tycoon with such perfection that I wanted to throw something every time he came on screen. Then there is an entire village that comes ahead to back their son’s passion project with whatever little that they have, a sequence that left me sobbing.
Soorarai Pottru is a brilliant adaptation of a story of a man who dared to dream is yet another testimony to the fact that there are more than enough splendid stories out there across the length and breadth of the nation that need to be told and re-told, it’s a fine example of the craftsmanship of a superstar, it’s a case study on how to make female characters stand-out in a male character led film and another reminder to myself that language is just a barrier when it comes to good cinema.
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