What will a housewife do when the lover she’s having sex with suddenly dies in bed—at her home? How will a teenage boy react when he finds out in front of a group of friends that his mother is starring in a local porn film? How will a 7-year-old boy eagerly awaiting his father’s arrival (and whom he has never seen) respond when his father appears in front of the family as a transgender woman? How can a group of teens replace a television they broke by accident, to save their friend from his strict father’s wrath?
The answers to these stimulating questions are linked in the Tamil-language thriller “Super Deluxe”—co-written, co-produced and directed by Thiagarajan Kumararaja. With multiple stars woven together in a compelling storyline covering four different narratives, Super Deluxe is harsh, revolting, and thought provoking. “I should have just jerked off that night,” a father says to his teenage son in this film that subtly challenges social and religious norms with its harsh and brutally honest approach.
For a South Indian cinema, Super Deluxe feels like its made in a parallel universe with a cast born to play their respective roles. But in fact it takes its cast from mainstream South Indian cinema known for its hyper-exaggerated dramatics and throat-choking masala. Samantha Akkineni breaks her stereotypical good-girl image to play the cheating housewife Vaembu, opposite Fahadh Faasil as her husband Mugil. For someone who has sincerely followed South Indian films, it comes as a great surprise that Samantha agrees to play an impulsive cheating woman—and agree to a steamy bed scene.
But this is not the only stereotype Super Deluxe breaks. The biggest shock comes from Vijay Sethupathi as Shilpa (changed from Manickam), a transgender woman who returns home to her wife and son after disappearing for seven years. Vijay—a macho man of South Indian cinema (think Sunny Deol)—has starred in multiple blockbusters as the ‘hero’ who beats up a dozen goons without getting a scratch himself. He now plays a middle-aged, out of shape, balding transgender woman, who is even sexually molested. Unsurprising though is his performance, for which he is already getting national and international critical acclaims.
Child actor Ashwanth Ashokkumar playing Shilpa’s son Rasukutty is another gem in the film. The actor aptly portrays a young boy longing for his father’s presence. So innocent and untouched by social indoctrination he is that he is ready to accept his father even as a woman. The father-son pair of Manickam/Shilpa and Rasukutty is the highlight of the film and their story speaks of the social stigma attached to sexual and gender preferences in the society and the vulnerability of people who express themselves differently. “Live exactly how the world wants you to. Don’t think originally. Don’t be unique,” Shilpa tells Rasukutty in a scene that compels one to think about how the society restricts one’s individuality and makes ‘aliens’ out of people who dare to behave differently.
Along with a stellar acting performance by the entire cast, the screenplay, direction, and cinematography are extraordinary too. Writer/director Kumararaja weaves the complex narrative of four different sub-plots into a tight roll and creates tension after tension that resolve in unexpected, unpredictable endings. The characters in the sub-plots don’t know each other, yet are all tied in the bigger scheme of life.
A special mention should go to cinematographers P.S Vinod and Nirav Shah who follow the characters from so many angles that the audience feels they’re inside the screen. The audience becomes bystanders and one wouldn’t want to miss a single scene.
If you are getting your doses of South Indian cinema from the Goldmines Telefilms’ YouTube channel with 33.9 million subscribers and constantly trending releases even in Nepal, you have probably watched your fair share of commercial Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malyali movies. But Super Deluxe proves that what Goldmines is feeding you is unhealthy stick-food, fried in the same oil every day. Super Deluxe (available on Netflix) is gourmet. And like all gourmet food, it definitely needs some acquired taste but once you’re used to it, fast food becomes untouchable.
Who should watch it?
One more time, Super Deluxe is not your regular South Indian cinema with Shriya Saran’s dances, Bramhanandan’s comedy, and Rajnikanth’s action. It is a super-intelligent film that disturbs you and compels you to think—hard. The film grapples with your thoughts and grabs your attention for its entire 2hrs 56mins. A must watch.