Director: Sudha Kongra
Cast: Madhavan, Ritika Singh, Mumtaz Sorcar, Nasser, Radha Ravi, Kali Venkat
Imagine a Kollywood flick with no frills, no pointless meandering, no romantic excesses, but also crucially, a female character who isn't there purely as a love interest of the male lead. No songs that act as filler, no visual effects for the sake of having some effects, and a run time that isn't well above the 2 hour mark (this one in fact clocks at around 112 minutes.) Yes, such a K-town flick sounds like once-in-a-lifetime astronomical occurrence, but that is precisely what this particular movie has succeeded in accomplishing. Directed by Sudha Kongra Prasad and starring R. Madhavan aka Maddy and Ritika Singh, 'Irudhi Suttru' is an intense boxing film that grabs your attention from the beginning and doesn't let go till the end.
The film is based on real events that occurred in 2006 when Mary Kom won the Women's World Amateur Boxing Championships. Madhee (Ritika Singh) is a wild eyed girl who has a penchant for boxing and has always been inspired by Mohammad Ali. She’s a rag-picking fish seller in the slums of Chennai and although wild in spirit, her brains seem to have the discipline of a hyena - scavenging and getting through as and when she best sees fit. Madhee has a sister Lux (Mumtaz Sorcar) who also aspires to box, win a match, and become a police officer. Madhee doesn't really have such aspirations - she just likes to box and be as inspired as Mohammad Ali without the competitive aspects.
Into this predicament lands Prabhu (Madhavan) - a fiery national boxing coach who goes to Chennai after troubles with the authorities elsewhere. He sees huge potential in Madhee but that interest isn’t reciprocated. Initially Madhee accepts Prabhu’s training for greed as she was being paid Rs. 500 a day - a huge amount for someone whose monthly income was not more than 1000. Then she has to deal with her sister, whose jealousy comes as a major roadblock in what is already a fickle world.
Holding this situation together is Nasser - the owner of the training facility in Chennai where Prabhu, Madhee and Lux train. Nasser is placed at a unique vantage point where he can see all the relationships play out on screen and intervene when necessary. Zakeer Hussain plays the head of the boxing board and acts as the scheming and blackmailing villain. Being a boxing moving, there’s only limited scope for a story, but that doesn't really matter. In the end, it’s the journey, the making, and the lack of distractions that will win you over and make this a keeper.
Plenty of accolades must go to the director Sudha. The film is raw, the punches are real, and what more, she has recruited a real kick-boxer (Ritika Singh) and a boxing opponent to bring out this realism. Her decision to also cut short the romantic parts and filler songs clearly shows in the run-time of the film. Madhavan who returns to Tamil after four years as the determined coach exudes coolness and elegance. He doesn't waste any time in throwing his punches, nor does he shy away from receiving them. Rithika Singh as his pupil is raw and edgy - just what an untamed fish selling girl with wild physical attributes demands. What more, you wouldn't want to mess around with her punches. Nasser as the man with a vantage point does a good job of adding perspective. And Radha Ravi in a cameo proves that he is a veteran. Mumtaz and Kaali do their part well.
The technical department plays a big part in making this film a pleasure to watch. The combination of Sivakumar Vijayan’s cinematography and Sathish Suriya's editing skills provides a seamless experience that can be viewed in one sitting. And Santhosh Narayanan’s music is just plain and simply, sensual and thrilling. You can just about feel as much as Madhee (the character) does through the music alone.
Although the second half wavers a bit, the movie picks itself up towards the climax. Every sportsperson with a drive for competition and victory wishes that their personal struggles and the small-things-that-matter are portrayed so as to give an understanding of what it is that they endure. 'Irudhi Suttru' does that and goes a step beyond by providing a fantastic piece of cinema. A must watch film.