‘Irudhi Suttru’: Packs a punch with solid performances

Film: “Irudhi Suttru”; Language: Tamil; Director: Sudha Kongara Prasad; Cast: R. Madhavan, Ritika Singh, Mumtaz Sorcar, Nassar, Radha Ravi and Zakir Hussain; Rating: ***1/2

When was the last time a leading star played a grumpy, foul-mouthed and ill-mannered womaniser in Indian cinema? In “Irudhi Suttru”, director Sudha portrays Madhavan (Prabhu), who plays a boxing coach in the Indian squad, in ways most heroes won’t be willing to see themselves on the screen.

In his introduction scene, he wakes up with a woman in bed who cribs about travelling 20 km to spend time with him, only to be humiliated by his actions. He’s used to sleeping with random women ever since his wife eloped with another boxer. Cut to next scene, charged with sexual harassment, he’s transferred from Hisar to Chennai. As a viewer, one quickly forms an opinion about Madhavan’s character and that’s what Sudha wants from her audience.

In Chennai, Prabhu finds a potential boxing champion in Madhi, a fish dweller, who is grumpier than him. He wants to train her and is willing to pay her Rs.500 per class. She gives in to the lucrative deal, not because she aspires to be a boxer, but so that she could buy her mother a new sari. Early on, Prabhu pays women to sleep with them. Now, he pays a woman to train her.

Unlike the regular template in sports films where the mentee goes the extra mile to get noticed by the mentor, here the latter identifies the hidden talent in the former.

Sudha beautifully explores the mentor-mentee relationship against the backdrop of boxing and merely uses the sports angle as a metaphor. The story is about a washed-out coach’s shot at redemption when he finds a protege with all the qualities of a champion, but the spotlight also stays on the unison of two eccentrically diverse personalities and their common goal.

At one point, you’re almost convinced that they might fall in love, but Sudha duly avoids taking that route and stays faithful to the script.

One thing that’s not clear is whether Madhi is really interested in boxing or not. While she says she has been training from the age of 3 and idolises Muhammad Ali, there’s no sign of anything aspirational from her side.

Initially, she agrees to get trained because she can support her family financially and later on, for her sister, who has been boxing for many years with the hope of earning a police job in sports quota. Towards the end, she fights for her coach. Never do we understand clearly what really motivates her to box.

Though it’s tough to shake off the predictable story, what still works in this sports drama is the way it’s treated. Extremely well-written, the dialogues will be etched in your memory and so will the performances be.

Madhavan breathes life into the role of a grumpy coach with ease and elan, while the extremely impressive newbie Ritika Singh steals the show with a knockout performance. Both of them complement each other with the kind of raw acting we’ve rarely seen. There’s no way any other actress could’ve done a better job than Ritika in this role.

‘The Boy’ – Old fashioned and incredible 

Film: “The Boy”, Director: William Brent Bell; Cast: Lauren Cohan, Rupert Evans, Jim Norton, Diana Hardcastle, Ben Robson, James Russell, Jett Klyne, Lily Pater and Matthew Walker; Rating: **

A house-bound horror film, director William Brent Bell’s “The Boy” with its moody atmosphere and committed performances is fairly effective as an old fashioned, slow-blooming chiller, which is a bit incredible, but nicely crafted.

It is a love quadrangle between three humans and a doll.

Driven in a prepaid taxi, Greta, a young American from Montana, with a troubled romantic past, “needs the money.” So she takes up the job of a nanny, in a desolate English village. When her car pulls up by the Gothic mansion, she is fascinated by the structure and even more so, by her rigidly conservative, prospective employers – the Heelshires – who speak very highly of their son, Brahms, whom she is supposed to be taking care of.

She receives a strict list of rules and a routine which she must adhere to.

But, when the time comes to meet Brahms, Greta is perplexed. She is introduced to a porcelain doll and not a human being. Moreover, when Mr. Heelshire tells her, “be good to him and he’ll be good to you, be bad to him and…” in a polite, yet threatening tone, this, sets the foundation for the fear tropes meant to be unnerving.

Unsure if her wealthy employers are deranged or diabolic, Greta sticks on.

Soon, the senior Heelshires leave for a long wanting holiday and the unsuspecting nanny is left behind to fend for herself against an apparent “boy, who communicates through the doll”.

Suddenly, Greta finds strange things happening in the house. Her belongings disappear and reappear and she hears a child’s laughter and sobs, echoing through the hallways and at times, she finds the doll throwing tantrums.

The film has many tense moments created by the general foreboding of the house itself, jump scares and nightmare sequences, but they soon pale with the exposition, making the sequence of events seem naturally unfounded and dismissive. The final act, with preposterous clichA¿s, gradually turns the film into an incomprehensible saga that hinges on absurdity.

On the performance front, with a character path that is forcibly mapped into the plot, Lauren Cohan as the poised Greta, is convincing. With the initial smirk on her face and later the uneasiness standing near the doll, she displays the scepticism and apprehension effortlessly.

She is aptly supported by Rupert Evans who plays Malcom, the sympathetic and caring local grocery delivery man. He is funny, flirty and shares a cute, on-screen chemistry with Greta, which is not exploited to the fullest.

Veterans Jim Norton and Diana Hardcastle as Mr. and Mrs. Heelshire, and Ben Robson as Cole, Greta’s abusive boyfriend, add the required creepiness to the sub-plots of the film.

With excellent production designs from designer John Willets, every frame with brilliant lighting is atmospheric and well-captured by cinematographer Daniel Pearl. Especially impressive are his exterior shots and the transition shots — the dissolves that show the change from night into day.

The editor Brian Berdan deserves praise for seamlessly interlacing scenes and creating many edgy moments along with Bear McCreary’s understated score.

Overall, “The Boy” is not the best of horror films or worst, it simply pivots on a weak script.

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