Super Deluxe: Gutsy, Strikingly Different and Devoid of Cliches

Super Deluxe is an intellectually stimulating experience. Watching it once won’t be enough.

Cast: Vijay Sethupathi, Fahadh Faasil, Samantha, Ramya Krishnan, Mysskin
Director: Thiagarajan Kumararaja
Rating: 4 stars

I can’t say enough about how glad I am to have caught Super Deluxe because I missed Thiagarajan Kumararaja’s award-winning film when it was in cinemas. Aaranya Kaandam was a cult classic. But why was it not celebrated then? It’s a grouse that I have had in my mind for a long time. Kumararaja is back with his second film, Super Deluxe, after eight years. Believe me, it’s simply superb and worth all the hype. I am too tempted to say with this film, he offers a never-seen-before experience to the Tamil audience. “What is Super Deluxe all about?” I have just two words for those who ask me. “Devour it.” There is one thing that most friends who watched the film agreed on—that it was hypnotic.

There are multiple stories and the protagonists in each one hold on to their own set of values and beliefs. Say, the first story revolves around Vembu (Samantha), who is married to Mugil (Fahadh Faasil). Though Mugil likes Vembu, she is not in a happy relationship. She invites her ex-boyfriend home. Something quite amusing happens in between. (You got to watch the film to know what it is). The second one involves Jyoti (Gayathrie), whose husband is a transwoman, Shilpa (Vijay Sethupathi). The third story is about a group of guys and one of their parents is a former porn star, Leela (Ramya Krishnan), who is away from her husband Arputham/Dhanasekar (Mysskin), an evangelist.

These story threads intersect at some point in time. In three hours, Kumararaja’s film almost touches up on some of the fine aspects of life—sex, marriage, religion, philosophy, faith, gender inequality, moral ambiguity and even aliens. You are shown how one incident leads to the other like a chain reaction as one of the characters rightly points out, “namba engeyo panra oru vishayam innoruthara baadhikkum.” (Something that you do may affect someone in some way or the other).

All characters in Super Deluxe are somewhat complex, layered and flawed. But you don’t judge them for what they do. You simply enjoy their journey with no complaints. Though it’s an anthology film, nowhere you feel the narration is uneven or patchy. I am imagining how laborious it must have been to set up each premise and every character. The writing is so effective, and this is what happens when you have four writers (Nalan Kumarasamy, Neelan K Sekar, Mysskin & Kumararaja himself) collaborate on a script. No, it is hard to guess who wrote what. Sigh.
Anthologies don’t allow flexible writing always as it needs a lot of skill to put things into perspective. They are tricky because if one segment doesn’t entertain, it risks being cut out. Typically, an average filmmaker would present multiple narratives after chopping them into pieces, but Kumararaja doesn’t do that. He serves a well-finished product. In a lot of places, you expect you would be given an explanation to certain philosophies, but you don’t get one. That makes the film more interesting. In an interview, Kumararaja had mentioned he was inspired by Jafar Panahi’s Circle, which has no single protagonist but consists of several interlinking stories.

Each story has its own share of surprises and merits, complementing the film on the whole. Super Deluxe, high on detailing, packs a punch and has umpteen twists that you can remember. After all, each story has the same DNA linked thematically—there is nothing ultimately right or wrong.

Originally, the film was supposed to be titled, Aneedhi Kadhaigal (Amoral tales), and I am sure it would have been better if the makers had retained the same. But hey, that’s all right. Super Deluxe sounds equally swag and fancy.

It’s hard to categorise this film, which has got everything—wholesome entertainment, humour, noir and a bit of sci-fi. Super Deluxe, undoubtedly, is one step higher than Aaranya Kaandam—in terms of treatment, writing and presentation. No wonder, filmmakers, including Anurag Kashyap, were raving about it. The tone of the film is also a major highlight, and I liked the colour palette used by cinematographers Nirav Shah and PS Vinod.

Vijay Sethupathi is brilliant as Shilpa, and it’s one of the most honest transwoman characters in the history of Tamil cinema. Throughout the film, you only see Shilpa. Fahadh Faasil pulls off his role with subtleties and you could say Vembu, perhaps, is Samantha’s best in her career so far. Watch out for Bhagavathi Perumal’s role, and whenever he appears on the screen, you feel like dragging his shirt and slap him.

There are no songs in Super Deluxe, but Yuvan Shankar Raja reignites the magic by using his father Ilaiyaraaja’s iconic songs in bits and pieces. As I walked out of the film, I started muttering—life isn’t a chance of random meetings and coincidences, but we are all connected.

Also, life is way too real, and if you delve deeper into it, there’s just no purpose or meaning. ‘Real’ is good and you live it. I knew that was all I needed. Honestly, I don’t mind waiting for another eight years if I am going to get another Super Deluxe or even a better masterpiece from Kumararaja. — Indian Express