In some ways, the first hour of Sagaa might remind you of Vetri Maaran's Vada Chennai. And it is not only because Saran, who played Aishwarya Rajesh's brother in Vada Chennai plays the protagonist Sathya in Sagaa. Set in a jail for juvenile children, director Murugesh actually shows us glimpses of what happens in such prisons, much like the Dhanush-starrer.
You have the children fighting each other in what they call "Singles", a fight club kind of an arrangement in the prison to stand out from the rest. You have gangs, gang leaders, and the well-oiled nexus between the top dogs of the prison and the officials.
And to one-up Vada Chennai, the boys in the juvenile jail in Sagaa are shown improving their life skills by indulging in carpentry, automobile mechanic work, cooking, reading in a library etc... skills that will actually put them in good stead once they are released from the prison. But, due to certain twists in the tale, there comes a necessity for a jailbreak, and unfortunately, once the film shifts its focus and moves to happenings outside the jail, Sagaa becomes an incoherent mess.
Apart from Saran(Sathya), the principal characters are the boys gang from Pasanga — Sree Ram, Kishore, Pandi — and Prithvi Pandiarajan, who plays a negative role. Sagaa is essentially a cat and mouse game between the escaped convicts and the prison warden (an efficient Sai Dheena), who plays the role with meticulous intensity.
The scenes of custodial violence are always disturbing, and the menacing demeanour of Sai Dheena makes it even worse. In between all this, there is also a human trafficking angle in Sagaa. While it just adds on to the confusion, this angle does lead to one of the better scenes in the film, in which, the topic of stalking and women safety is addressed.
Murugesh tells a tale of friendship, betrayal, revenge, and love through the eyes of these boys. The dialogue exchanges about their friendship and loyalty are heart-warming, and performances by the actors are effective. He even manages to get the occasional laugh or two.
But Sagaa's biggest undoing is the romance portions, which pushes the film down to a point of no return, mainly because of the lack of strong female characters. Aayira and Neeraja play the love interests in the film, and even though the former might have had a better role on paper, neither of them have really fleshed-out characters.
In a film about crime and criminals, the most criminal thing to have happened is the god-awful placement of the songs. While I do agree that the Shabir-composed Yaayum song is worth all the hype it receives on social media, there was no need for using it every few minutes in the second hour.
It becomes even more infuriating considering the songs are preceded and succeeded by very intense scenes, heavily aided by Shabir's impressive background score. Niran Chander's cinematography elevates the production value of this film, especially in the innumerable chasing scenes and well-orchestrated action sequences.
Right from the time, the trailer of Sagaa was out, there were comparisons with Goli Soda(2014), another film that revolved around a group of young adolescent boys. What worked majorly in Goli Soda was how the boys were treated as boys and not men. That's why I'm not sure if Murugesh treating Sagaa as a proper commercial film was a great idea.
While, it is impressive that he doesn't pull back any punches because his actors play boys, and not men, they are hence burdened with pointless romantic numbers, sacrificial side-kicks, too many slow-motion shots, hollow punch dialogues, and inconsequential heroines.
Don't we have enough heroes living these lives already?
Cast: Saran, Kishore, Prithvirajan, Aayira