Yennanga Sir Unga Sattam : A HONEST BUT SIMPLE DISCUSSION ABOUT CASTE AND RESERVATION
Two tales in Yennanga Sir Unga Sattam have a similar thread. The first is about JP (RS Karthiik), a mischievous young guy whose sole purpose in life is to live a luxurious life without having to work for it. The movie is made up of a succession of occurrences, or’sambavams,’ as the filmmaker Prabhu Jeyaram calls them, that provide us a look into this character’s life. His father is a casteist who is a member of a fringe group that utilises caste as a political tool. The majority of the sambavams revolve on his attempts at romance — or, to put it another way, stalking. His relationships only last a song, but, like the protagonist of Attakathi, he manages to keep them going. Despite several setbacks, he persists.
In the second picture, we see two interviews taking place virtually simultaneously in two distinct locations. A TNPSC interview for the position of labour officer, which takes place in Chennai, is one of them. The other takes place in Kumbakonam, where a priest for a local temple must be chosen. In both situations, caste appears to be driving the selection process rather than merit or class. Jeyaram (Vikas), a poor Brahmin candidate, and Naren (Vijayan), a striving young man from a disadvantaged caste, are both keen to secure a job in Chennai, but reservation (in the case of the former) and influence (in the case of the latter) stand in their way.
Meanwhile, in Kumbakonam, Nandhan, a poor man from a lower caste, is attempting to break centuries of caste control by pursuing a career as a priest.
The filmmaker refers to Yennanga Sir Unga Sattam as a “duplex film” since it is split into two halves. The two films are at opposite ends of the tonal spectrum. The first film is a lighthearted “commercial” comedy about a wastrel, whereas the second is a serious “issue-based film” concerning reserve. Many of the performers from the first film return in the second, but in new roles, which adds to the suspense.
While RS Karthiik does a decent job as the scheming good-for-nothing young guy in the first picture, there is amateurishness (there are points when it feels like an overlong short film) and far too many songs. Rohini and Junior Balaiya, who play persons with a conscience who can make a difference in the lives of others, have strong performances in the second film. While Vikas and Vijayan are sincere, the filmmaker takes use of Meera Mitun’s off-screen demeanour for a hilarious punchline.
While it is the filmmaker’s privilege to produce such a film, we, the audience, begin to doubt the first film’s existence on a narrative level, especially considering the complicated issues he covers in the second. Isn’t it possible that he could have filled out the second film and turned it into a full picture? The explanation may be found in the film itself, since the narrator implies that the first was created to suit commercial needs while the second was made for himself.
However, Jeyaram Prabhu’s method of establishing a relationship between the two films is clever. In addition, there is an accidental connection between the two films. Both of these films appear to be influenced by Pa Ranjith’s work. If the first one feels like a crude salute to Attakathi, the second one is where you can truly detect the director’s influence (we even have a character named Ranjith Dasan!). This isn’t a chest-thumping reactive picture from a dominant caste filmmaker to Ranjith’s films, which depict the lives of the disadvantaged and raise questions about societal hierarchy, but rather a middle-ground film that wishes to continue the discourse that the director’s films have started.
It recognizes the need of reservation in our society, but it is also willing to examine its abuse, which has only served to deepen the gap between the rich and the impoverished. Its point of view isn’t very smart, and its critique of reservation’s flaws is basic and from the perspective of the affluent, but it’s also not rash hyperbole.
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