‘Devarattam’ review: Another tiring Muthiah seems to be convinced that cape-wearing superheroes who will not flinch to break bones or behead criminals for the sake of “protecting” women are the answer to all sexual crimes.
Cyclone Fani may have changed its route and deprived Tamil Nadu of its much-needed summer showers but director Muthaiah is not one to budge from his ‘comfort zone’, and is consistent in dishing out one film after another with the same crux but different add-ons.
‘Devarattam’ After the debacle of Kodiveeran with Sasikumar, Muthaiah is back once again to his Madurai Mann (soil) with Devarattam starring Gautham Karthik and Manjma Mohan in the lead roles.
‘Devarattam’ The film also stars Soori, Bose Venkat, Vinodhini Vaidhyanathan and Fefsi Vijayan in important roles. If you are familiar with his previous films like Kutti Puli, Komban, Marudhu, and Kodiveeran, you’ll already know that Gautham Karthik plays an angry young man from Madurai.
Having glorified all kinds of sentiments in his previous films, Muthiah plays with Akka (older sister) sentiment in Devarattam. We’re taking in wagers on what his next would be about – cousin sentiment? Niece sentiment? In Devarattam, the world of six sisters and their family revolves around Vetri and all of them have sacrificed their education for Vetri’s (Gautham Karthik) sake.
Vetri, a lawyer pampered by his six sisters and their husbands so much so that when he enters the court premises as a professional for the very first time, he does so with his entire family trailing behind him and with two of his sisters holding on to his black robes still in the hangers. Also, did we tell you their world revolves around Vetri?
Vinodhini plays Paech, the first of the sisters, who gives birth to her daughter at the same time her mother gives birth to Vetri. Fearing the worst, we anticipated a Kushi-like love between the two newborns but thankfully, Vetri, as a young man, wakes enough to tell off his sisters for suggesting such a match. “Didn’t you feed us both? I consider her to be my own sister and you, my mother,” he tells Paech.
Devarattam is all about the macho man hero, and what is Madurai without its sandhi (markets) and festivals? So, during one such sandhai, we get to see just how macho Vetri is. Fighting a group of young men, Vetri is in his element. And who is the beating to a pulp? Why those ruffians who misbehaved with women and shot inappropriate videos of them in public.
You’d think it’s high time we retired the damsels in distress trope, considering the slew of films we’ve had with women as the hero, but Devarattam drags you back to the ’80s. At the police station, Vetri recites IPC sections for the crimes committed by these men but not without dialogues like “Koodaporandha pullaiya thottu pesakudathu nu solar manna porandhutu road la porta pullaiya that Pesaran. Ivana epi vittu vekardhu?” (In the land where they don’t touch their own sisters, this guy is misbehaving with women on the road. How can we spare him?).
Later on, he’s seen dancing to a high-energy ‘Madura Palapalakkuthu’, holding on to his veshti a tad too high, while Madhu (Manjima), a law student, is stealing glances at the hero and smiling to herself. Madhu is introduced protesting outside a TASMAC shop along with a group of women law students. Vetri swoops in to show her the power of brawn over brains. Surely, this display of machismo is sufficient for a woman to fall in love! Later on, she tells her friends “Kandavudan kadhal panacea. Kandavanathan kaadhal panakudadhu’ (It is okay to fall in love at first sight but it is not okay to fall in love with some random person). The logic! After a duet, shot in montage, where Madhu once again gapes at Vetri, her character blends in perfectly with the background.
But Devarattam is an ambitious film. It is not just a sentiment-action-revenge-drama formula. It is the director’s anguish at how men treat women in this society. In the end, the message rings loud and clear for all the men – “Our heroism and courage is for the sake of protecting women, not for raping them!”
And therein lies the film, seen through the blood-stained glass of a patriarch, the “savior” of women. The treatment of scenes involving sexual abuse is filled with triggers, delivered with very little sensitivity and this, coming in the wake of Pollachi sexual assault case, cannot be more tone deaf.
But, Muthiah seems to be convinced that cape-wearing superheroes who will not flinch to break bones or behead criminals for the sake of “protecting” women are the answer to all sexual crimes. In doing so, he glorifies “man” kind and violence and surely this toxic masculinity is exactly what the 21st century doesn’t need more of.