Sarpatta Parambarai: Arya and Pa Ranjith together pack a punch in this ‘not-just-another-boxing-film’
‘Sarpatta Parambarai’ invites us to the world of boxing clans of North Madras. Set during Indira Gandhi’s Emergency era and the late 70s, the film showcases the culture and lives of the boxing clans that existed during that time. The film is primarily about the long standing rivalry between two clans — Sarpatta Parambarai and Idiyappa Parambarai.
Once the best in the business, the boxers of Sarpatta now find it hard to defeat Idiyappa’s champion player, Vembuli. Year after year, the beast-sized Vembuli knocks out his opponents with ease and Sarpatta clan runs out of men and ideas to defeat him. Enters Kabilan, a passionate follower of the sport and a proud member of Sarpatta clan. However, his family background force him to enjoy the game only from the gallery. At a crucial juncture, Kabilan lands in this rivalry. He openly challenges to defeat Vembuli and uphold the Sarpatta pride. Does he manage to do it?
Though it might sound like a regular underdog story, ‘Sarpatta’ is not exactly one. It is a reminder of the legacy of Madras ‘kuthu sandai’ and its history. Pa Ranjith has worked years on this film and that is evident from the authenticity with which he narrates the tale. Unlike the usual boxing-based films, the focus is not just on the lead character and his journey. It is the story of the two clans and the film boasts of so many well-written characters. Rangan Vaathiyar, Daddy, Dancing Rose, Mariyamma, Beedi Thatha and Vetri are some of the most memorable among them.
As proven in his earlier films, Ranjith has a way with his actors and ‘Sarpatta’ is one of those films where almost every other actor who appears on screen manages to make an impression. The director delicately pushes them to their maximum to get what is needed for the film. Arya, an otherwise limited actor, has given his blood and sweat for the film, giving a career-best performance. There are noticeable lows during the emotional scenes but he still makes up for it when it comes to his strong zone — the boxing portions. With his unbelievably fit physique and towering presence, Arya truly delivers a knock-out.
Pasupathy as Rangan Vaathiyar is phenomenal and commands respect with just a stern stare. The versatile actor yet again reminds what a crime filmmakers are doing by not offering him enough meaty roles. John Vijay as Kevin aka Daddy must be the most loveable character in the film. It’s pure delight to watch him deliver that peculiar English-Tamil mixed dialect with so much swagger.
Pa Ranjith has always been known for sketching strong female characters. For most part of the first half, the women are sidelined with only Kabilan’s mother (Anupama Kumar) making her presence felt with all the yelling. But as the plot thickens, the female lead Dushara Vijayan finds her voice. It is hard to believe that a flawless performance like that comes from a debutante. Mariyamma’s playful banter with Beedi Thatha is a Ranjith special. It is moments like these that the director is best at.
Ranjith, who has scripted the film along with Tamil Prabha, makes things so lively and real that the audience are seamlessly transported right into their world. Like always, the director is clear with his politics and weaves it in the narrative with hard-hitting dialogues. Apart from the clan rivalry, the film also throws light at the caste-based discrimination existing within the Sarpatta group. To convey the point, Ranjith doesn’t shy away from going on-the-face.
The technical department of ‘Sarpatta Parambarai’ also deserve a special mention for their efforts to recreate the forgotten era. The narrative spans multiple timelines and packs vast information in it. Credits to the film’s editor Selva RK for packaging it comprehensively. It is only unfortunate that a film of this scale could not be enjoyed from the big screen.
In short, ‘Sarpatta’ is a ‘Must Watch’ and to reiterate the obvious, it is ‘not-just-another-boxing-film’.