Shanmugam Saloon[2020]: A Simple, Effective Short Dwells on a Plain Man’s Unanswered Questions

Inequality. That’s the theme of this wonderful 10 mins short film. We see Sanmugam, a simple, middle aged man, opens his Saloon early in the morning even in the middle of a heavy rain. He has to. Because, you see, he and his business are not subjected to or part of any corporatization who owns chains of outlets. He couldn’t afford to take a sick leave or any other perks. A diligent Sanmugam only depends on his hard work to run his life and his family. The brilliance of this short is compelling to watch the way it unfolds the economic inequality in the society from one compact Saloon against the whole world. It’s much similar to the way how the news reach the people through Radio and television in their place of inhabit. The brilliance lies in the delicate truth that you don’t have to circle the world to understand inequality and Sanmugam’s Saloon is the representation of appalling situation on the planet earth. It was filmed in 2018 and premiered this May 2020 on Youtube.

Through half into the short, say 5 mins, you see nothing but Sanmugam, his empty compact saloon and you hear the radio broadcast in the background. You see the Sanmugam in his most idling early minutes of a business day before he gets any customers. His wait is sharply captured. It could be a conjecture. But one can truly get what Sanmugam might have been thinking in that thundering silence. Will he get any customers for the day? You see the state of his clunky old Saloon. He doesn’t have any state of the art equipments to attract a spectrum of customers to his saloon and to find various ways to charge their customers. He states the reason in the other half of the short that his income concurs with his expense. He poses the most unresolved question in today’s society, which is, how could he make a prolonged run for his dear life while trying to make it better too. Those few mins, with his acquainted customer in the saloon, revel the possibility of having a meaningful conversation in a place where you least expect it to happen. It captures Sanmugam’s quick-wit and the unawares of his customer brilliantly.

It’s delightful to see a talented actor like Charlie to bring life to the character of Sanmugam. Karuppiah C Ram, the director of this short film, impressively describes the inequality in nutshell. The photograph of Late Tamil Nadu CM Anna, on the wall of the Saloon, witnesses the terrible things of the society. And now, it is impossible to deny the reality, plight of the rigid people, who had chosen to take their own business model, in this pandemic COVID19 situation is hard-hitting.

“For whom are we running? What are we running towards? Who fixes our destination in these runs?”

Given the constrained liberty to a short film, you wonder that how the crew is going to completely convey what they want to say in their film in such a short time. And seeing a poignant yet strangely poetic calmness that immerses first half of this short, for 5 whole mins, is bold. Karuppiah C Ram has made his point. Shanmugam Saloon is about his frugal, simple and plain man who has learned to master the acceptance in this unfair society. Any change in the government and their schemes don’t ensure a way to flourish the lives of people like Sanmugam. His insights records the plight of the society where you can only learn to be calm in the face of storm. And you see the name board in front of the shop dangles in the heavy wind, which metaphorically indicate the distressing livelihood of the people like Sanmugam.

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