Your Carrom Board is the Scene of the Crime
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Set in the early 90s, Sundaattam is about illegal underground Carrom scene and typical gang rivalry prevalent in North Madras. Our hero Prabhakaran is a wayward youth who plays carrom and blows the money he wins on his friends. His fate will see him meet and fall in love with a girl. His fate will also see him upset a few very bad people. Soon, carrom is pushed aside and the film turns into a clash of egos.
Sundaattam tries hard to recreate the period, but doesn't quite succeed. It is a throwback to a time when smoking and drinking inside a movie theater wasn't the worst thing in the world. The entire film is shot in controlled environments- complete with fake looking sets, number plates that begin with letters TMZ, appropriate movie posters and a general lack of cellphones. But the era is hardly essential to the story. We don't question if such an underground carrom scene exists or ever did in Madras. Arya's Oram Po never stressed on it.
Sundaattam's biggest problem is that it is constantly reminiscent of not one but both of Vettrimaaran's works. While the Carrom element reminds us of Aadukalam's rooster fights, the normal guy dabbling into crime angle is entirely Polladhavan. The similarity doesn't end there.. the list is long. There are endless number of characters and new ones keep getting introduced for a long time. The film doesn't even bother to close one of its primary sub-plots about gang rivalry.
I lit up when I noticed the film's run-time on the certificate. Running at a little over 135 minutes, the film is not very long, all things considered. But it somehow feels like a three hour long movie, in spite of the music being surprisingly decent. It was never particularly dull, but it wasn't very entertaining either. The love story in the film is very unimaginatively handled. I know the film is set in the 90s, but does that mean we have to suffer through the kind of romance which was popular in that decade? The film never comes across as new. It loosely borrows elements which we're bound to quickly associate with certain better films but doesn't spin an interesting tale. There are certain rare scenes which do show a bit of promise when it veers clear of cliches.
The film falters big time when it comes to giving a driving purpose to the negative characters. Kasi, played by another Kana Kaanum Kalangal alumni, is an over-sensitive dope-head who is deeply hurt after losing.. wait for it.. a game of carrom. See, I do not want to belittle the movie's MacGuffin. It could have been a game of Marbles and I wouldn't have complained. It's the way the movie handles the whole theme. At least if it was left for the audience to figure out that Kasi was deeply hurt, I probably would have appreciated the subtlety. But, instead, this very basic human emotion is proudly boasted about . Btw, Stanley Kubrick called and asked his 2001: A Space Odyssey theme back.
There are movies which could have ended better than they do. In their attempt to not be predictable, they bump off some important character towards the very end. Sundaattam is one such case of forced tragedy. The lead pair share a very poor chemistry and I was left unmoved when the aforementioned tragedy happened. The actress is clearly miscast. She might as well get away with playing the hero's elder sister.
Sundaattam is a very confused film which tries to tackle too many sub-plots but never does justice to any of them.