You can probably say the theme in Savarakathi (Barber’s knife) is transformation. A mother who is averse to love marriages ends up holding the immobile feet of her daughter’s physically-challenged beau. The transformation of the very-pregnant Subathra (Poorna) into a mother. Pichai (Ram), a barber who lies through his teeth, decides to turn over an honest leaf. He gets this epiphany in a tea shop interestingly named ‘Poiyya mozhi’. This is followed by a shot of woman sweeping the street and Pichai is next at a cycle shop that again has an interesting name — parisutham (cleanliness). The metaphor here is obvious — Pichai has his character failing literally swept out. Even the blade Manga (Mysskin) carries around gets a new identity. And the title is perfect for this theme considering the barber’s knife gives us one of the more mundane and regular transformations in life.
Savarakathi might be directed by GR Adithya, but it clearly feels like a Mysskin film. I don’t know if it is because they are related. Everything we have come to expect from the director is present probably in a watered-down fashion. While the script has been penned by Mysskin, the cinematic treatment also intrinsically bears his stamp. Savarakathi is probably the closest to what a comedy film by Mysskin would look like. People who have followed Mysskin know that people in his films have movements that appear choreographed to perfection. On the other hand, Savarakathi’s characters — loud and dramatic — lend a mime-like quality to the film. Arrol Correli’s music, performances of Ram, Myskkin, Poorna and everyone else amplify the effect. Also, I wasn’t surprised to find the cinematographer was an aide of PC Sreeram. The frames and rim-lighting speak for itself. All part of the Mysskin experience.
The premise is convenient. But the antics on screen are enough to keep us engaged. There is a brilliant sequence with Pichai in a dustbin and a garbage collector goes on about picking litter from the bin completely nonplussed about Pichai’s presence — Mysskin’s way of saying ‘you might be knee-deep in your garbage, but everyone has their own to take care of.’ The humour works whenever it goes beyond men dropping their pants to pee in the open — something the men in the film seem to have a liking for.
Despite the eccentricities, Pichai is the only character that is multi-dimensional. Ram lends an air of authenticity to a character that is uniquely at odds. Pichai wants to be a superhero to his children but needs the help of his son for basic math. It would have been nice to see such layering with the other characters — Manga has a one-off tussle with humanity but Subhatra is snarky and doesn’t go beyond that. Also, a few logic lapses do crop up. A pregnant woman in her final trimester, Subhatra falls down on her stomach. That kind of a fall is excruciating and she would definitely not have the energy to run and climb walls as she does.
Savarakathi is an odd film that is tough to slot. It doesn’t floor you in amazement. But it keeps you hooked with its weird charm. As you leave the theater, there is a sense of fulfillment and longing at the same time.