“Humanity engeyum illa. India la kooda illaye,” Samuthirakani had told Silverscreen.in in an interview. This disillusionment with the system seeps into his films too. In Naadodigal, it was love; in Sattai , it was the education system. And in Appa, Samuthirakani points fingers at the holiest of them all – fatherhood.
Samuthirakani in Appa is part avenging-angel, part genial-dad. He is a sensible man who wants to rear his child in a positive environment, and even finds time to mentor children who aren’t as privileged as his son. Samuthirakani the director, on the other hand, is far less inspiring in this film. There are no doubts about the intention behind this movie – it is a lesson, albeit a tone-deaf one, about the kind of parenting one must do these days. But, the issue with Samuthirakani’s storytelling in Appa is that he would rather tell you what to think, than show you.
And so we have two dads. The morally upright one – Dayalan, played by (who else) Samuthirakani, and Thambi Ramaiah, playing the sort of cringe-worthy stereotype that makes you want to punch someone. Ramaiah plays it with relish, transforming an essentially misinformed, misguided father into a shallow caricature of a man.
The special attention with which father-son relationships are framed isn’t given to other characters. Samuthirakani’s wife is a shrew, that one-dimensional being who runs away from home at the slightest provocation. And that is all she is. She has no role to play in her son’s life. In fact, she resorts to threats of self-abuse to get what she wants. The film is full of negative characters like these, with Samuthirakani the sole beacon of hope.
Over the past few years, Samuthirakani has evolved into the kind of actor who can convincingly deliver stinging sermons and still walk away with hoots and wolf-whistles. The audience continued to love him, cheering whenever he appeared on screen; it’s the sort of treatment generally reserved for the more commercial stars.
Ilaiyaraaja’s music is pleasant, and content to play second-fiddle to Samuthirakani’s grandstanding on screen. For the most part, Appa has the look and feel of a very polished documentary, more at home in a moral science class than in a theatre. Judging by the satisfied audience I watched this film with though, it doesn’t particularly matter.
The Appa review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.