Sarpatta Parambarai [2021]: The Ultimate Victory of an Underdog

Director Pa. Ranjith’s new film, Sarpatta Parambarai, takes a daring journey into the lives of people, whose pride and life, are the boxing sport.

Kabilan (Arya), the underdog of the story discovers his determination in his path to grab the victory by its throat. Boxing excites him. It lures him into the sport’s world. When he finds himself out of it, without the spirit to carry forward, he succumbs to alcoholism. He loses his way. Not just in the ring, but also in life, Kabilan finds himself against the ropes. Boxing has seen both the crest and trough of his life. Kabilan finds his lost way back through the same sport and redeems himself. His character arc begins with his infectious enthusiasm, to prove his worth to his master and ends with his learning to prove it to himself. Maybe that’s why he is given the blue robe and blue gloves at the end. Until then, he was carrying someone else’s identity, the logo of the rising Sun, on his back. Arya as Kabilan fits the shoes of this earnest role.

Any game is just as interesting as having a willful opponent. It’s not the good vs. bad here. Sure, some play it ugly outside the ring, but inside, the players are refreshingly fair as much as a drama film can take. I have many favorite moments in the film which are brilliantly executed. One of them is said by the character Rose, a.k.a Dancing Rose, to his defeated teammate, lauding his sportsmanship in the game. There are so many character arcs you can deliberately see here. Rose’s arc begins to be a pretentious player. He transforms into a sulking one who wants to hit back, at least through a friend, only inside a ring. He doesn’t play ugly. When the players try to be fair, it’s the ones who boast in those player’s pride act ugly, the ones like Raman’s (Santhosh) uncle.

John Kokken(Vembuli), a feisty villain, becomes the nightmare for his opponent inside the ring. John Kokken as Vembuli makes the character interesting even when it’s monotonous. He bickers, he plays it rough.

Rangan Vathiyar (Pasupathy), as the coach of the Sarpatta clan, gives a captivating performance. There is not just one scene but many which are noteworthy in his performance. Boxing is not just to do with the brawls but also the brains. A resilient mind, to spring back from any no. of blows, is the height of the achievement. Pasupathy as Rangan inculcates his teachings as sincere as he could. He coaxes it to the point where Kabilan learns to do it for himself.

Thangavel Ramalingam, art director of this film, has done a strenuous effort to bring back 70’s Chennai.

Kalaiarasan(Vetri) does an interesting role of a man who pretends to be a friend until he’s not. He becomes the one who he pretends to be and helps his friend in need. His frustration for not being recognized or not nurtured by his own father is shown in rigor. And the men of this game throw the wickedness for a while, come together when the bell rings and when the match begins. They get their ego hurt on many occasions but when it’s fairly a gripping game, even the one who loses, feels proud to be part of such a match. He feels cool to lose it to such a game. And There you witness gleamingly beautiful sportsmanship.

The matches are nerve-rackingly captured. They grab your attention to any finest detail you think you don’t want to miss. And the references to the politics in Tamil Nadu in the early ’70s, to the people and the places, were meticulously done. You see Director Ranjith set a universe in front of your eyes and witness it expand further.

As the men of many clans rule this sport, the women of the film fight their fights outside the ring without their gloves. They fend for themselves and also their men when an emotional calamity hits.

Mariamma (Dushara Vijayan) as Kabilan’s wife stands with him and against him when it’s necessary. She reassures Kabilan’s little hope for why he feels the need to survive.

Bakkiyam (Anupama Kumar) as Kabilan’s mother has her reasons to protect her son from venturing into a wrong path. The monotony in her character somehow felt redundant.

Lakshmi (Sanjana Natarajan) as Kalaiarasan’s wife shares the frustration of her husband while trying to summon some sense into him on his wrong path. These women try. And that’s all they could do among these ego-clashing men. Another one of my favorites is when Mariamma calls out these men who place their pride over the name of a clan and not on themselves.

Pa. Ranjith makes the story not only about Kabilan but also about the million underdogs out there who are longing to get the stage, to prove themselves to the world, to fly like a butterfly, and to sting like a bee. With Santhosh Narayanan’s music, Murali. G’s a fiery Cinematography, Sarpatta Parambarai is a slow-burn resilient drama that knocks the lights out of you.

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