Note: there are some cuts made to the theatrical release of 'Soppana Sundari' in the UK to suit the family audience.
The name for SG Charles’s film ‘Soppana Sundari’ hails from the 1989 film ‘Karakattakkaran,’ a film with a densely packed and iconic comedy track. Borrowing its title from a titan of Tamil comedy, ‘Soppana Sundari’ has a sizeable reputation to live up to. Unfortunately, the film flounders. We follow Agalya, played by Aishwarya Rajesh, the winner of a brand new car from a prize draw. Her family, composed of her mute older sister, stroke afflicted father and naive mother, rejoice in this newfound streak of luck. However, complications arise when their recently estranged brother returns, staking his claim on the prize. A comedy of errors plays out as this family is torn apart in attempting to claim ownership of the car. In this condensed form, the plot is promising as a study of avarice and its effects on the individual, the family and society at large.
However, the film’s presentation of these themes is lacklustre at best. The tone is all over the place: the comedy fails at every turn, and the revelation that the film is meant to be a ‘dark’ comedy comes much too late in the film. A section of the screenplay involving the father near the last act hints towards a much darker path the film could have taken, calling to mind the works of Nelson in his much superior works ‘Kolamaavu Kokila’ and ‘Doctor.’ One of the final gags, which is an obvious reworking of a joke which landed perfectly in ‘KoKo,’ falls flat on its face due to the film’s indecisive tone.
The standout performance of the film is undoubtedly Lakshmi Priya Chandramouli’s turn as Thaenmozhi, in which her facial expressions are vital to get her emotions and thoughts across. Her work in the brilliant films ‘Sivaranjiniyum Innum Sila Pengalum’ and ‘Karnan’ are further proof of her acute sense of character. The rest of the cast do not have much to work with, including the lead Rajesh, who usually turns in a great performance. The characters are all two dimensional; the main family are all good, surrounded by opportunistic wolves looking to tear them apart.
The filmmaking is decent, however the imitation of Nelson’s much better work seemed to continue here. A lighting cue for the introduction of one of the characters’ was well captured, but this imaginative use of craft was rarely seen again. An action scene in the first half employs gratuitous use of slow-motion, but no further comedy is extracted from this. The music by Ajmal Tahseen does no favours for the unengaging film, only irking the viewer further.
Overall, ‘Soppana Sundari’ is a failure, highlighting how difficult it is to get the balance between the ‘dark’ and the ‘comedy’ just right. Due to lazy storytelling and uninspired creative choices, the film fumbles a promising premise. For better Tamil dark comedy films - starring many actors from this film - I would recommend ‘Soodhu Kavvum,’ ‘Kolamaavu Kokila’ and ‘Doctor.’
Krishna's rating: 2 stars
Official trailer for the film below.