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What makes Shilpa played by Vijay Sethupathi in Super Deluxe, a human?

Spoilers ahead: Proceed at your own risk. 

In Tamil cinema, we usually have a trans-person syndrome where the directors/writers have a tendency to put them in a perilous situation, and they end up coming on top, sending a message to the viewers that they are equal in the society. More often than not, we don't see the human side of them - flawed, and beautiful. We don't know how often they lie, how often they get angry or how much they cry. But with Super Deluxe, Thiagarajan Kumararaja takes a different route.

When Shilpa reunites with her wife and son, there is a beautiful scene of her draping a saree. This scene wasn't placed to show-off the effort that went behind to present Shilpa the way she is, or letting the audience know that Vijay Sethupathi put in so much 'effort' for the role. While Shilpa is draping the saree, a teary-eyed Jyothi (a restrained performance by Gayathrie Shankar) says "I thought this was an April Fools' prank."

If this was a cliched Tamil film, we would have seen Shilpa hug Jyothi and say "I'm sorry ma, I did this because I felt so." (And they live happily ever after.) Instead, Shilpa dryly counters with "As a girl, I can understand your feelings." While the focus is still on the teary-eyed girl, there is a mirror on the side, that shows Shilpa adjusting her saree. Shilpa doesn't stop there, and proceeds to ask "Am I beautiful?", shattering Jyothi's heart. How humanely selfish is Shilpa? 

Take the scene where she goes to purchase a ticket to Mumbai because she is being ridiculed everywhere. While the harsh reality is portrayed through the conversations in the school (with the principal who says nothing but "Go!", the watchman who doesn't accept that she is the father, the children who insult her by calling names, and the fellow parent who sows seeds of ignorance in the mind of his son), Shilpa is not going to fight with them. She has even bigger battles. If she chooses to thrash them black and blue, another principal, another watchman, another parent, and a few more students will ridicule her. How many people is she going to fight with? She is more comfortable in leading the life she was used to - Going from one shop to another and earn money by just clapping hands.

When Raasukutty impulsively fights with his classmates, there is a teacher in the background who is mum, while it's Shilpa who separates them, before she is sent out of school. She has good traits too :-).

Or consider the sequence in the Police station where, SI Berlin (Bagavathi Perumal) asks a constable to buy tea and coconut biscuits for Raasukutty. The kid doesn't go with the constable till Shilpa nods her head. She knows that things are going to get ugly, and doesn't want Raasukutty to see them. After all, who on earth would like to get humiliated in front of their child's eyes?

But later, when Shilpa rushes to the Police station to seek help for finding Raasukutty, SI Berlin tries to take advantage of her. This time, Shilpa has got nothing to lose, and when she's humiliated, she gets angry like a normal human and lands a kick to Berlin's chest and he's down on the ground, just like the Berlin Wall.

The Berlin wall divided the Eastern and Western Bloc's based on ideologies. The former saw it as a wall that protected them from the capitalist ideology of the west, while the latter saw it as a wall that restricted movement. Similarly, Shilpa saw Berlin as a wall that didn't allow people to function according to their will. (He blackmails Vaembu and Mugil the next day, putting them into all sorts of agony.) The policemen saw him as a person who restricts their movement. He ordered them on what is to be done, even if it is as trivial as eating a coconut biscuit.

Remember those days, when you lose something precious, and you don't know where to search for, you submit yourself to fate. You decide not to go home because you think you're punishing yourself. You later end up going home because you don't have an option and there is something larger ahead, called life. You have to move on. Shilpa submits to her fate and goes home after meeting Arputham in the subway, only to find Raasukutty there. She doesn't apologize to him. Instead she showers him with hugs and kisses.

"Nee Aambalaya vena iru, Pombalaya vena iru. Aana Enga kooda iru!", cries Raasukutty, after locking himself up in a room. She came back to Chennai because she felt her decision of running away was selfish. But, even after coming back, she was still selfish. Just that the location and setting have changed.

She realises her grave mistake, immediately breaks down and, apologizes. An unabashedly unapologetic person breaks down, along with her ego and selfishness, to come to terms with the fact that Raasukutty and Jyothi are as human as she is.

And boy! How long has it been, since we saw a human in flesh and blood in Tamil Cinema? So long, that when an actor plays the role of a transgender, who is as human as anyone else, we place them on a pedestal, as if they are doing a sacrifice.

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