Synopsis: Dayalan (Samuthirakani) joins a government school in a village as a teacher. The school is under the control of its headstrong assistant headmaster (Thambi Ramaiah), who is more interested in punishing students and looking after his money-lending business. And the students are an unruly bunch. How does Dayalan make the school a topper in both academic and cultural activities?
Movie Review: Saattai is a commercial potboiler dressed up as arty fare. If it were a western, Daya would be that lone ranger who comes into the town, manages to win over its residents (after initially being disliked) and saves them from the evil tormenting them for long, before bidding farewell to the teary-eyed and grateful townsfolk. This is one character we have seen MGR and Rajinikanth play in innumerable films, and director-turned-actor Samuthirakani plays it with an understated confidence. If Saattai works, it is mainly because of his performance. Yes, it is a one-note performance in the sense that the character is portrayed almost as a saint (with a character even referring to him as “mata, pita, guru deivam” in one scene) with hardly a negative trait, but it is still persuasive.
The film begins with Daya’s first day in school and tracks his journey through the year, as he crosses hurdle after hurdle to make it the best in the district. The biggest of all is Singamperumal, the assistant headmaster, who is portrayed as a stubborn and ruthless person, but the character is poorly etched that he often seems to be both the clown and the devil. And Thambi Ramaiah (with a bad hairdo) overplays this negative role, often making him loud and grating. The portrayal of the other teachers and even the headmaster is also unconvincing with none being shown, at least initially, to be serious about their job.
Director Anbazhagan’s intentions are quite commendable. After all, all he wants to do is shine a light on the pathetic standards to which schools can fall due to the callous attitude of teachers and highlight the need for the teachers to change with the times and use innovative methods to ensure all-round development of students. But the sad thing is that he goes about this task with less subtlety and more sermonizing, with the result that the scenes where he wishes to make a point come across as totally preachy. In contrast, you only have to look back at Pasanga, which managed to be an engaging film on students without turning into a moral science class.
But to his credit, the debutant director keeps things moving at a fast clip, not letting us delve too much on the drawbacks. He even introduces a mandatory romantic angle in this tale through Pazhani ( Yuvan) and Arivazhagi ( Mahima), Class 12 students. This romance is hardly new (arrogant boy forcefully wooing the girl, who spurns his numerous advances only to fall under his spell when he turns over a new leaf) but in the bargain what we also get is a gorgeous melody by Imman in the form of Sahaayane… in Shreya Ghoshal’s dulcet tones.
Cast: Ajmal Khan, P Samuthirakani, Swasika, Yuvan, Magima, Thambi Ramaiah
Production: Prabhu Solomon,John Mex
Banner: Shalom Studios
Release Date: 21 Sep 2012