‘Super Deluxe’ review: A Philosophy of the Universe

One day, Stanley Kubrick, Stephen Hawking, Osho Rajneesh, and Ray Bradbury meet in a liquor outlet in Chennai. After quaffing a couple of strong ones, they decide to collaborate on a movie. And their collaboration yields a Tamil onscreen winner, Super Deluxe. I’d give anything to create and popularize such an apocryphal story someday. In the case of  Super Deluxe, it’d be unfair because the collaborators aren’t a moon-shot list. But writer-director Thiagarajan Kumararajan with writers (who have their own director chairs in other projects as well) Nalan Kumarasamy, Mysskin, and Neelan Sekar come up with a deeply complex and a beating heart of a movie that’s part noir, part black comedy, part social farce, and all brutal reflection of us human beings.

Writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson‘s mighty ensemble-backed Magnolia may have paved the way for a complex interweave of characters who affect each other’s lives in ways known and as long-distance ripples—and many others have followed this domino-propelled template. But in the Indian milieu, Super Deluxe is the first of its kind cinematic kaleidoscope, where Kumararajan sets the ever-morphing design and perpetually rotating tube to bring out the change and metamorphosis of each one of his characters. And as the patterns change, he also slides in his commentary under the radar; it’s up to you to hook on or let it pass by.

Fahadh Faasil and Samantha: stuck together.

There’s the opening telephonic conversation on a black screen that leads to a Bappi Lahiri-driven copulation death, the seismic upheaval in a couple’s lives—Mugil (Fahad Faasil, absolutely brilliant, the shadows on his expression clearing and clouding like the fleeting clouds that make up life) and Vaembu (Samantha Akkineni, superb, as the woman who knows her mind—and body—all through, cocksure, pun intended) that leads them into a nasty run-in with Sub Inspector Berlin played with slimy brilliance by the outstanding Bagavathi Perumal. This piece of the story is where the director adds a rant against the system with a dash of comedy peppered with black—the deliciously ironic reference to meat in the fridge, or the explosion of the four-lettered word and a patriarch having to explain it to an old lady is hilarious—and finally thrusts the double-standards of our moral compass that suddenly swivels ambivalently when it comes to self-survival.

Vijay Sethupathi and Bagavathi Perumal face-off.

Elsewhere a gang of boys—Vasanth (Noble James), Soori (Naveen), Mohan (Jayanth), and Gaaji (Vijay Ram)—light upon the home of Thuyavan (Abdul Jabbar) to watch a pornographic movie. But the first scene impales Soori’s soul and he runs out with murderous vengeance with a screwdriver in hand. Which is how you meet his estranged parents Leela and Dhanasekaran aka Arputham played with sharp acuity by Ramya Krishnan and Mysskin (the same prolific gentleman mentioned in the opening of this piece). Here, Kumararajan duels with the choices that humans make in the face of having survived a face-to-face with death and what money-for-everyday living can drive everyday people to; the choice between faith versus medicine, and how the equilibrium shifts as the decision’s impact hits closer home; plus, how hormone-raged boys make their survival choices and here, hilariously have a run-in with a local don ominously named Idi Ameen (Kavin Jay Balaji, having a poker-faced ball of a time in the role) and also another surreal experience later.

Vijay Ram and Abdul Jabbar: hormones get the better of them.

In the meantime, Rasukutty (played with heartbreakingly innocent precocity by Ashwanth Ashokkumar) awaits without for his absconding father Manickam (Vijay Sethupathi), who’s expected any day now, after he’s been gone for seven long years. His wife and Rasukutty’s mother Jyothi (Gayathrie, very good) faces the brunt of taunt-laced support from both their families. And in a searing indictment of the patriarchal lording in families, Kumararajan throws familial comic wit in a situation where the arrival of the man is a cause for celebration, as the extended family waits as if welcoming a war hero. But what happens when Manickam isn’t who he was when he left? What of the choices he’s made? Vijay Sethupathi turns in a darkly powerful performance that’s as tough to accept as it is heart-rending. As his character discovers, reasoning about—and acting upon—one’s sexual choices is all very well within the realms of one’s mind and away from home, but it buckles under the weight of household reality.

Ramya hurtles through a major crisis.

Super Deluxe takes all of these intricately-layered characters and zooms out at all the connections that join them—and folks like them—in this vast planet of living beings. Powered by Yuvan Shankar Raja‘s superb background score—him doffing his hat cheekily to the Star Wars theme in one scene, cranking out a rustic western harmonica piece in a railway track scene, and elsewhere cranking up the tension with synthetic aura—the movie’s interconnectedness isn’t always the point, but it’s also as inevitable as life itself.

Mysskin: are faith and the truth the one and the same?

Tapas Nayak‘s life-like sound design is intricately detailed; in a driving scene, it creaks with the weariness of a jeep’s wheel that’s turned far too often in the journey of its—and its devastated owner’s—life. All through, it’s your cochlea to Kumararajan’s telescopic and microscopic vision. Vijay Adhinathan‘s art direction is a dark-colored riot of emotions captured in all its raw passion by Nirav Shah and P.S. Vinod‘s wondrous cinematography. In this ever-evolving circle of life, even as the Milky Way integrates, disintegrates, and keeps on at it, there’s only two real truths. One, the idiot box truly kills you one way or the other. And two, all that we know, do, and strive for, has its deep-rooted energy in one and one thing only: procreation. Don’t believe me? Visit the Super Deluxe theater. It’s nailed this universe’s—and the unknown energy that drives it—philosophy. And it uncannily unspools the truth at its own pace, but from your point of view. No matter what that is.

Super Deluxe (2019) on IMDb Movie data powered by IMDb. All images owned by the producers.

Super Deluxe is rated A (Restricted to adults) for profanity, moderate sex and mild violence, and adult themes.

Super Deluxe
Director Thiagarajan Kumararajan Time 2h 56 min
Writers Thiagarajan Kumararajan, Nalan Kumarasamy, Mysskin, Neelan Sekar
Stars Fahadh Faasil, Samantha, Vijay Sethupathi, Ramya Krishnan, Bagavathi Perumal
Genres  Action, Crime, Drama, Thriller