Emotions fuel Cinema. It is the foremost element of film-making that overshadows everything else. Even intellectual storytelling feels like a sin, without raw emotions. It won’t be much argumentative to say that Cinema is the language of the common rather than the intellectual. For the same reason, it celebrates the efforts of a common man burning with passion. Indian Tamil-language Soorarai Pottru (Praise the brave) honors the effort of one such commoner, G. R. Gopinath from whose life incidents, Soorarai Pottru is inspired from.
Soorarai Pottrudirected by Sudha Kongara, can be considered one of the gems coming from the Deccan Regions of India. It is a marvelously knit series of events happening in a person’s life who is trying to break the cost and caste barrier of the Indian Aviation Industry, but he isn’t just a rebel with a cause. His cause is much more personal than it could be to anyone else. The film is based on the book, Simply Fly and other stories from the world of aviation.
The film grips you with a mishap. A Deccan Airplane needs to make an emergency landing in Chennai Airport, due to fuel emergency. The visuals narrate that it is an empty plane with only pilots inside it. Chennai Airport Tower denies landing to Deccan Airplane, when an intruder, Nedumaaran (Suriya) snatches the talkie and directs the pilot to land the plane on the runway ahead, that belongs to Indian Air Force (IAF). During the landing, the plane crashes, but fortunately the pilots are safe. Nedumaaran reaches the site to help them, when he is arrested by IAF officers.
The film moves back in time, 6 years ago in 1997. It screens it’s female lead, Bommi (Aparna Balamurali) who is travelling to a Nedumaaran’s village for marriage prospects. When Bommi and Nedumaaran, nicknamed Maara, he tells her about his dream to start an aviation company like his idol, Paresh Goswami, founder of Jaz Airlines. Bommi and Maara’s visualises various flashbacks of Maara’s life that chronicles his journey from a village boy to an IAF Cadet. But the fragments of the story puzzle are still a miss. The linear narrative starts when inspired by Bommi’s courage and persona, Maara decides to fulfil his dream to start his own aviation company, Deccan Air. Though the real ride begins when the story exhibits the reason why Maara wants to start the aviation company.
Pieces of Puzzle That Perfectly Fits Together
The narrative of Soorarai Pottru is not linear. It is a complex structure like our own feelings. Complicated. The film journeys from present to flashbacks to support the character’s wants and desires. Our most passionate desires don’t arise randomly. It is influenced by events or incidents that fuels the underlying passion. For Soorarai Pottru’s protagonist, Maara, it is the same and thus marvelously sketched through a non linear narrative. Few flashback sequences, that generally concerns the agitated relationship between Marra and his father, can be called a sub plot itself. The closure of which is so strong that overpowers all emotions and makes your eyes moist.
Everytime Maara faces a dead end, these pieces from his past act as a guiding light. Metaphorically, we learn from our own experience and experience of others, and have been well executed through the protagonist.
In the end, if you would graph the narrative, these pieces will feel like the perfect pieces that were made or carved out but naturally grew that way to fit perfectly in a man’s life.
(Mild Spoilers Ahead)
A Hero’s Journey
Pick any Screenwriting book that teaches you, “How to write a Character” and it will have one phrase in Common. “Don’t go easy on our Hero.”
Only a character who has been through a tunnel of shit, will come out interesting. That is not law, but much more philosophical. We are interested to see people suffer. Even comedy is one man’s suffering and another man’s laugh, as Chaplin said. Thus, the most gripping, interesting and memorable characters are those who have suffered a lot.
Soorarai Pottru’s protagonist Maara is clearly a great example. His life might now have much Ups (literally and symbolically) but the incidents that let him down are numerous. He is crushed to the core because he rages war against the Gods of Avia
tion Industry. A common man who can’t even think of tilting his head up, is dreaming to give means, to all the commoners so that they can fly and fulfil their dream, and not die with it. Maara wants to start a cost effective Airplane Travel System, so that even the lowest denominator of the economic system could afford to buy an airplane ticket. It is better phrased by Maara’s father Rajangam, who writes in a letter —
“He is going to fly. But I know he won’t rest until he makes everyone else fly with him. They say a sparrow never aspires to be an Eagle, but my son will change that.”
Thus, Maara is not there to fulfil his own dream, but sets out on a journey, to fulfil the dreams of millions of Indians. Maara’s choice to have a collective dream, increases the stake and responsibility. He creates such gripping conflicts (internal and external) and enemies in the journey that fuels adrenaline to his Character Arc. In the end, it is a beautiful one.
Additionally, Maara’s character has his own flaws, the internal conflicts of his skin. The blend of internal and external, cherishes his hero’s journey dramatically. The closure is sure going to make you emotional.
Soorarai Pottru could be defined in many ways. The subject matter could be a father son conflict, a single man against the world, or a man trying to create a better world. However, these subjects are so well knitted in the main plot, that it is hard to avoid their essence, and it is the single most element that makes Soorarai Pottru such a great film. Any common man, who will experience it on screen, will relate and resonate with it, because we all have been in Maara’s shoes, at one point or another. Maara’s inability to buy a ticket initiates a desire to create an aviation system for the economically backward sector of the society. He fights for the social cause and destroys the class distinction.
The film is filled with the adrenaline and emotions of an underdog, a man against all odds. It is sure going to take you on an emotional ride, where a man wants to fly and he wants you to fly along. If you are a Cinephile, who cherishes Quality Cinema and don’t mind watching a film, with subtitles to understand it, then please don’t miss this one. It is going to leave an impact on you, aspire you to aim high and dream big. The add on is, it is based on the real life incidents of a common man, which in itself is a statement filled with emotions.
Soorarai Pottru is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
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