With a battalion of actors such as Jyotika, Sasikumar and Samuthirakani at the centre, it is disappointing that director Era Saravanan feeds them with meat substitute instead of raw meat in ‘Udanpirappe’, which looks like a large bowl lacking both sausage and cream
It is telling that Udanpirappe has a jump cut right at the start, at the 13th-minute mark. The editing mishap comes out of nowhere and has a temple priest offering a ritual, murmuring something about the missing goddess idol and bringing ill-fortune to the village.
Apparently, it’s a cue. Cut to next, we see a motley group of women — planting seedlings — going berserk when they learn that Chinaayi aka Maathangi (Jyotika, who tries her best to keep the film afloat. There are lip-sync issues) is missing. They search in the pocket of marsh land and the news soon reaches her husband and brother.
Vairavan (Sasikumar) notices bubbles encircling the surface of the water and there emerges Maathangi, carrying the missing deity. Years of exposure to P Vasu, KS Ravikumar and the very recent Pandiaraj films have taught us that the rationale behind writing such a scene could mean only one thing: that Maathangi is the deity — at least for Vairavan. And she gets treated like one.
- Cast: Jyotika, Sasikumar, Samuthirakani, Soori and Sija Rose
- Director: Era Saravanan
- What’s it about?: An unfortunate death causes rift between Vairavan and his sister Maathangi’s husband, Sargunam. In the ensuing battle, Maathangi is torn between her brother and husband.
As for the film, Udanpiraape is everything that Namma Veetu Pillai wasn’t. Or, it could be said as Namma Vettu Pillai, with 2X melodrama, done horribly wrong. Here too, we get a sibling pair in Sasikumar and Jyotika. Here too, we get a moody brother-in-law in Samuthirakani, although he isn’t too grumpy here. Here too, the families of Vairavan and Maathangi are at loggerheads. There is D Imman in both films. But, why isn’t Udanpiraape not even half-entertaining as Namma Veetu Pillai? One suspects the major miss is writing. Let us breakdown in terms of characters:
Vairavan, on paper, is a violent person. He believes in sathyam more than law and his violence comes from righteousness — a guardian angel like an Ayyanar, as Maathangi says. Agreed. But look how Era Saravanan imagines Vairavan’s scenes. In his introduction, with a pummelling score by D Imman which gets played every time Sasikumar appears on the screen, which is most times, Vairavan beats up people because they hurt an animal, not knowing they were after him. He bashes people of his own caste for gazing at and passing lewd comments at women from supposedly lower caste. He saves farmers from loan sharks…Saravanan must have believed these would be enough to map Vairavan for the audience. But we believe it is a quintessential template for ‘rural’ films.
Sargunam (Samuthirakani) too is treated like a cardboard character, refusing to give him the space to breathe. If Vairavan is righteous, Sargunam is practical and logical. He believes in law and Vairavan in lawlessness. You get the drill.
As goes with Maathangi. Just notice how a trivial piece of information involving Maathangi is slipped in the background, in a scene that, of course, has the thalli sentiment. The family feud between Vairavan and Maathangi makes up most of the drama. We also get a sense of why they are warring, but the film fails to explain why Maathangi does what she did. Because of the absence of why, the flashback seems forcefully inserted and laughable at best.
Because these two families have to reunite, Saravanan writes a lacklustre episode around an MLA’s son (played by Kalaiarasan). There is a whole portion around sexual assault too, and why are we even complaining? Caste and sexual assault are two of the hottest issues Tamil cinema has chosen to commercialise. But the problem here isn’t that; it is written as an afterthought to a jarring proportion. The director’s inability to extract drama clearly shows, for Udanpirappe looks like a lavish pitch for a mega serial and not like the big, fat, family film it intends to be.
These are issues with respect to writing and filmmaking. But I will give credit to Saravanan for a superb scene involving an infertile couple; what the man says isn’t something Tamil cinema heroes would usually say, so, cheers to that.
Udanpirappe is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.