Savarakathi: What if Mysskin wrote Tom and Jerry?

No, seriously. What if he did? I dare say it’d look a lot like Savarakathi. One of its main leads, Pitchai (Ram, who occasionally oversells the theatrics), is a human embodiment of Jerry. He’s cheeky, and he’s constantly running from danger, literally — to almost cartoonish background music by Arrol Corelli. His Tom is Mangaa (Mysskin), a man prone to rage issues, and who, not once in the 116 minutes of the film’s run time, I found to utter a word of compassion. He struck me less as Tom though, and more as a rather expressive version of Mr Blonde from Reservoir Dogs — someone who gets off on violence, someone who is defined by a total lack of empathy. Mysskin really seems to get into the character with his bulging eyes and quick outbursts. You can almost picture him playing Mr Blonde actually, dancing maniacally to Stuck in the Middle with You by Stealers Wheel. Anyhow, in Savarakathi, he plays the frustrated, raging gangster who just can’t get his hands on the puny Pitchai, the man with a knack for wriggling out of impossible situations. At one point, Mangaa, channelling his inner Tom, says, “Nee odu. Naan thorathi pidikkaren.” That’s truly when Pitchai seems to realise the gravity of the threat.

Director: GR Adithya
Cast: Mysskin, Ram, Poorna

It’s also the story of the struggle between two knives: one that kills, and one that grooms. But in case all of this sounds too grim, you should know that the treatment is anything but. This is the film in which Mysskin seems to have truly exercised his funny bone. We know he’s always had a great sense of humour, given that even his darkest films have had some wonderfully funny moments. Remember that opener-missing scene in Pisaasu? That he isn’t directing this film seems to have removed the shackles even more, and there’s plenty of evidence that he’s really tried to stretch the boundaries of humour that’s traditionally explored in our cinema. While genitalia of characters getting hurt in the name of humour isn’t new to us, Mysskin writes a character whose genitals are — there’s no easy way to put it — painfully held between a man’s teeth. It’s not all. It’s a character who suffers throughout the film from not ever being allowed to get medical attention for his troubles, and after a point, the situation genuinely starts to become funny.

His isn’t the only private parts in trouble. Another character gets a razor slicing his anal region. The film’s best joke, for me, is a wry comment, an existential sigh over a related topic. There’s a pregnant woman stranded on the streets; there’s a barber who’s on the verge of being killed by a ruthless criminal… but oblivious to these developments is a man in a hair salon who comments, “Ennadhaan vaanathla rocket vitaalum, pinnadi kazhuvardhu kaiya vechu dhaane…” The theatre burst out in the laughter at the sheer abruptness of the line.

Characters are also constantly relieving themselves or talking about it. Again, while our films aren’t new to defecation jokes, Savarakathi stands out for its no-nonsense approach to these situations, for bringing our attention to how tragicomic it is that we are prisoners of our body. Chased by enemies with the threat of murder hovering over him, Pitchai just can’t stop using the toilet. In another scene, a side character laments from inside a car that he desperately needs to empty his bladder. Later on, Mangaa’s henchman spots Pitchai after a long chase, but he can’t do much about it, for, he’s in the midst of making his bladder… gladder. It’s all fairly amusing.

Not everything from the humour factory works though. During one particularly inefficient moment, a couple begin bickering over the man’s alleged predilection to watching Shakila films. I also didn’t really care for the loud wife of Pitchai, Subadhra (Poorna), who’s constantly bewailing her marriage to him. To use a Mahabharata reference — given her name — let’s just say Pitchai isn’t quite her Arjuna. The attempts at jokes from attacks on her hearing impairment — and from her husband no less — didn’t quite work for me either. I’d be more offended if this weren’t a film that gives an unassuming heroic moment to a person who’s vocally impaired. It also doesn’t make a meal out of a woman being in love with a physically challenged man. Well, save for a small slo-mo scene that has a woman helping him move. But even there, it’s more to mark their unlikely bond than to draw attention to his handicap.

Mysskin fans will, no doubt, spot some of his tropes in this film by his brother, GR Adithya. There’s an evident dislike for the indoors. Much of the film happens on the road. There’s an insane person on the road who’s spewing lessons on relativism. Some aerial shots, and some scenes in which the characters move in and out of the camera are trademarks too. Curiously, the biggest problem of the film for me was an element we’ve come to associate with Mysskin films: the slo-mo, poignant end, armed with moving music. Savarakathi didn’t seem the sort of film for such an end. A bitter-sweet end is par for the course, sure, but it may have been more fitting had the end been one of jest, not one of mood-altering solemnity. After all, who wants a Tom and Jerry episode to have an emotional end? But then again, this is Mysskin’s version.

This review was written for Cinema Express, the cinema division of The New Indian Express. All copyrights belong to the organisation. Do link to its page if you’d like to share it.

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