The breakfast scene unfolding in silence –refreshingly
rare in our loud cinema and very welcome.
Saroja spends the night out, but it’s cool with
her liberal parents- even at the end there is no typical
scene with dad preaching to daughter about the dangers
of sneaking out and keeping late nights.
Parodying television serials with its overwrought family
melodrama, narrated with shock reactions and mock slow
motion: Prabhu cuts to this scene without letting us
know it’s a shoot, and the pleasure for the audience
is in spotting that midway. What is delightful is that
when it cuts without warning to the serial shoot, you
know there’s something wrong with the tone of
the movie suddenly – it is not subtle and hip
anymore, but loud and overwrought. You can feel the
pleasure Venkat Prabhu takes in writing these things
into the script.
Premji’s Tamil movie fantasies (the dancing girls)
isn’t new, but what is new is how they talk back
to him: in the movie’s most daring, funny moment
the dancing girls materialize around the gagged, blindfolded
and bound Saroja! For a moment the audience is shocked
that his mind works the way it does…and when he
shoos the girls, and they sulk away, you realize how
close it comes to saying something about the mind of
a fantasy-driven adolescent. And if men are truthful,
they’ll admit that the erotic erupts at the most
reverent, unlikely moments in life.
Premji’s ironic use of Vijay’s line from
Azhagiya Tamil Maghan (“Evlovo panrom idha panna
mattama”). It’s a nice movie in-joke from
the director (continuing Premji’s Chandramukhi
in -joke from Chennai 28, “enna koduma saar ithu”)
Saroja is different for how self referential it is:
another nice bit of skewering is the romance flashback
done in quotation marks. This is the scene with the
guy off to reveal his love with a bouquet of roses and
finding out she loves his friend. How many such scenes
we’ve witnessed before, and they are all done
the same way: the awkward opening salvo when the boy
and girl speak at the same time and then giggle; the
typical dialogue (“my mind has been restless”,
“he is 100 percent best choice, “200 percent
best choice” “you shouldn’t declare
your love late”) the brave front he dons after
discovering she loves his best friend, and the girl
thanking him for making it all happen. You know the
scene is in quotation marks because of the formulaic
way it is shot and lit.
Saar! Saar! Saaaar! Ava peru enna, saar? The Saroja
gang calling each other saar and not machi could well
be Venkat’s contribution to injecting new slang
into colloquial Tamil speech – a new way for buddies
to call each other. I’ll wager that friends are
already calling each other saar after seeing Saroja.
The Dosth bada dost song is inventively shot and edited.
It’s inspiration is that road song from Dil Chaata
Hai, but the roadie song in Saroja is more fun; don’t
miss that moment when the two guys at the back are singing
along and one of them turns off the radio/CD. That’s
really cool – like something out of a smart Hollywood
The easy, convincing banter between the four friends,
and the black and white cut-aways to how each of them
is seen by the wife, is new.
For a mid-budget film, the road accident is spectacularly
and convincingly staged.
The movie derails once they arrive at the gangster’s
hideout. It’s not just the characters who are
trapped but Venkat Prabhu himself is trapped within
the limits the plot imposes. When they were on the road,
he had plenty of room to play around, to skewer, be
ironic, and stage formulaic scenes in new ways. A lot
of the cool, hip experimentation that had been going
on freezes once the plot pins these characters down
in that factory. And it goes on for too long.
But, in spite of this handicap, Venkat manages a few
surprises. The one most worth commenting on are the
scenes showing a bunch of ordinary men fight thugs.
No Tamil hero machismo here. In one witty scene they
imagine themselves in the place of a Vijay or an Ajith
and charge at the bad guys. Cut to: they are on the
floor as prisoners with the bad guys laughing around
The yellow clock ticking away doesn’t work, just
as the ‘day before yesterday’, ‘yesterday’
and ‘today’ chapter cues don’t work.
And the reason? They don’t contribute anything
to the plot. These time warp devises are there in cinema
to complicate a plot that is time-driven, to increase
the tension. If only Venkat Prabhu could have found
a way to make the ticking clock count. As used now in
Saroja, it is an empty gimmick.
Sampath is a memorable presence in the movie –
and that his character is really in love and cares for
his mistress is a nice touch.
What –or rather who - is a great, unforgettable
presence in Saroja is Nikitha. Has there been anyone
– vamp, heroine, second heroine – recently
who sizzles the way she does? Kondana Kodi has to be
the sexiest number out there. Having her in that gorgeous
saree highlighted in flaming orange while the rest of
the frame is in sepia is brilliant. Nikitha as Kalyani
in Soroja is another example of how Venkat Prabhu re-imagines
and re-invents things familiar to us. Nikitha, as seen
here, feels like the discovery of the year.
Saar! Saar! Ava peru enna, saar?
Ava peru, saar, is Saroja!
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