Director: Halitha Shameem
Cast: Samuthirakani, Sunaina, Nivedhithaa Sathish, Leela Samson, KravMaga Sree Ram
Let’s get this out of the way, Halitha Shameem is here and how. To be fair, this isn’t Halitha’s first film (Poovarasam Peepee is) but this is a truly remarkable moment in Tamil cinema and Sillu Karuppatti announces the arrival of a superb cinematic voice, the kind that is sorely missing. That it belongs to a woman has only made me giddy with contentment. (Bonus of course, that she puts the rom in the romcom so well). And that just a few weeks ago we had KD Ennum Karuppu Durai from Madhumitha, and before that Maadathy from Leena Manimekalai (still doing the festival circuit), and ahead of that House Owner from Lakshmy Ramakrishnan, means, at last women’s voices are emerging despite all the odds stacked against them. That all of these films eschew traditional Tamil cinema tropes and systems, in some manner, is noteworthy. And the traditional system (production, distribution, etc) must also ponder why this is so. (Sillu Karuppati is being released by Surya’s 2D Entertainment.)
Sillu Karuppatti is a delightful anthology, our very own, Modern Romance that opens tentatively and ends with a proverbial bang. The first of the four stories — Pink Bag, is a simple but effective short about teens from two different worlds, and how they come into each other’s lives perchance. In fact, this theme pervades all four shorts. Strangers or people who feel like strangers, shedding this feeling. There’s a lightness with which the stories are told, which can easily be mistaken for carelessness. But as the film unfolds, you realise that this is Halitha’s trickery. Just when you think you’ve figured this out, she catches you by surprise, there’s more. There’s more to everyone in this world than we think there is. In Pink Bag the boy is a rag picker, walking over mounds of dirt. And the other lives in a bungalow. There’s nothing melodramatic about the treatment of any of the characters. The hope and innocence here are infectious. There are no villains. It would be easy to paint this world black and white. Instead, Halitha uses story, character arcs, and wit to tell her tale.
The second story, Kaaka Kadi takes unexpected twists and turns, is dialogue-heavy, utterly charming and presents perhaps the most hope-filled story around a dreadful disease that has been exploited in Tamil cinema beyond belief. It reminded me of Njandukalude Nattil Oridavela. But Kaaka Kadi goes beyond Njandukal… in the hope, it simmers with. Unconditional love is an act of hope and Kaaka Kadi’s protagonists meet at the oddest of times and go on a journey against all odds. Mukilan (Manikandan in fine form) and Madhu (Nivedhitaa Sathish who makes even the corniest lines work) are convincing and that is no small feat in the setting they are thrown together in. (I was also reminded of how Steve and Miranda in Sex and the City, come together under similar circumstances.) From sharing cab rides to hospital beds, they go from strength to strength. Halitha shows remarkable restraint and takes quite a few gambles in this segment. A few don’t work. But most do, and when they do, it is glorious. As the film broke for interval, I began to sense that this was going to be special. And boy was it.
Turtle Walk unfolds gently and with great ‘dignity’, Halitha approaches the idea of love in twilight years. The older duo (a charming Leela Samson and very convincing KravMaga Sreeram) walks the beach in the night (they go on a Turtle Walk; why no filmmaker, until Halitha, thought of setting a romance scene like this is mysterious to me, everything about this says Romance). And by the time it is day, he says something that upsets her. The recovery is fuss-free, in keeping with their wisdom. I was reminded of Power Paandi in some parts of the film (in a good way). Leela Samson’s Yashoda, in one scene, says, “Losing loved ones, seeing them die, this is life once you grow old”. It’s a hard fact but does not in the least bit sound misplaced in this sweet, life-affirming film. There’s a worldly wiseness to it, just as there’s some playfulness.
The finale, Hey Ammu, is the pièce de résistance. The writing, the music, the actors (Samuthirakani in perhaps his best role yet as Dhanapal, and Sunaina who effortlessly shoulders a complex role, as Amudha), and the conflict at the heart of it… it’s all riveting. When Sunaina points out that the ticking clock and the dripping tap are her only companions (she’s a homemaker) between 9 and 6 it hits home hard. Resolving a conflict between a couple that’s been married for 12 years, the arranged marriage way, and has three kids, is not easy. A lesser director might have chosen convenience but Halitha pushes past the easy and enters the grey areas. That’s what brings the delightful conflict that stares at Samuthirakani’s character to the fore. He is simply superb here and makes one wonder, why more directors won’t cast him in roles like this?
The music (Pradeep) too plays an important role in the overall feel of the film, especially because there’s a lot of new territories to navigate, emotionally, turfs we don’t usually cover in Tamil cinema. Halitha brings sensitivity, something missing in our cinema, and there are hardly any missteps in this film.
The lines for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part, came to my mind as I sat to write this review. Sillu Karuppatti is about love. Above all else. And at times like these, we could all do with a dose of sweet, old fashioned love. Like palm candy.
The Sillu Karuppatti review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.