Anyone who has passed through the Maharaja’s College Metro station in Kochi may have noticed a quote of E.E Cummings framed on one of its walls. It goes like this: “Unless you love someone, nothing else makes sense.” A lot of things don’t seem to make sense for the eponymous protagonist Sharanya (Anaswara Rajan) until she finds someone to love. More on this in a while.
As the film opens, Sharanya is in college going through all the awkward experiences that a demure and moderately introverted person like her wouldn’t want to encounter when suddenly placed in an unfamiliar environment. She is a classic fish out of water. And you can’t blame her considering the sort of oddball characters — of the opposite gender, mostly — around her.
But back home, where her folks are, it’s not too pleasant either. Who wouldn’t relate to the feeling of going home whenever the college atmosphere becomes too much to bear? And when Sharanya takes a short break after an upsetting ragging episode, her mother’s disapproving stance makes things awkward at home too. Besides, she is reluctant to go out lest she gets pestered by the boys in her neighbourhood.
But their taunts seem easier to handle compared to the attitude of the three men vying for her attention in her college.
There is her classmate Sangeeth (Naslen), her professor Arun (Vineeth Vishwam), and the third, a senior named Ajith Menon (Vineeth Vasudevan), who is supposed to be out of college by now. Sangeeth is relatively harmless. Arun, however, provokes your ire by being an insufferable bore. He makes the cheesiest moves inspired, seemingly, by the countless cheesy Malayalam romantic movies he grew up watching. He will learn things the hard way, and so will Ajith Menon, whom I found to be one of the film’s funniest characters, despite his serious demeanour. He is the Malayali equivalent of Mathew McConaughey’s character from Dazed and Confused, except for the difference in their personalities. Everything about Ajith’s body language and appearance gives you the impression that he must’ve seen Arjun Reddy as many times as his present age.
However, writer-director Girish AD is careful not to overdo the spoof. And Vineeth keeps everything subtle. His performance carries the right mix of obnoxious and funny. He is a drama queen, but he isn’t as daring as Arjun Reddy. He is at his funniest when he is the most triggered. When that happens, he makes a trip to the Himalayas to get rid of his ego (wink wink). But he isn’t Vijay Devarakonda from Dear Comrade either. One of the film’s most hilarious moments has Vineeth and his gang chasing Naslen through the college grounds, and the static wide shot amplifies the comical effect. Speaking of which, cinematographer Sajith Purushan makes sure that his camera isn’t intrusive. It is unwavering in its attention on the characters.
However, it’s a complete outsider, Deepu (Arjun Ashokan), that Sharanya takes a liking to. I liked how Girish makes a clownfish a witness to the two most important moments of their lives. One might wonder what is it about Deepu that makes a smart girl like Sharanya fall for him. He isn’t someone extraordinary or instantly likeable. But that seems to be what Girish is going for— painting a picture of flawed regular folks hailing from middle-class backgrounds, which reflect in their conversations that are not of the highly intellectual variety.
In the imagination of another filmmaker, small talk, such as the kind seen here, might test your patience. But Girish’s mind operates differently. For instance, you’ll find a character talking about some random matter and then instantly switch to a completely different topic mid-sentence and then, a few seconds later, get back to the previous one, and the switching feels so organic.
Despite some witty, splendidly evocative moments from the guys, the female characters manage to outshine the boys this time around. If Thanneer Mathan Dinangal gave us a noteworthy newcomer like Naslen, Super Sharanya gives us Mamitha Baiju (Operation Java, Kho Kho), as Sharanya’s friend Sona. She can be effortlessly cool in one moment and prone to needless overreaction in another. Her outspoken nature is sometimes met with admiration and, at other times, with derision. Super Sharanya is easily her finest work after Kho Kho. She has proved already to be an actor with much potential, and she could reach greater heights if she continues to pick sensible scripts like Super Sharanya where she gets a lot of space to bring out her best.
Sona is that friend who likes to believe that she knows more about the world than everyone else and tries to share her pearls of wisdom with whom she considers naive. Despite some of her annoying qualities, she is the kind of friend you wish you had. When Sharanya begins a relationship with Deepu, Sona is against it, not necessarily out of envy but because she thinks it’s simply not wise. But by then, Sharanya has transformed into a braver, more confident person who overcomes her inhibitions when around guys. The girl who once used to be awkward around them becomes an entirely different person after meeting Deepu. Perhaps she inherited the feisty spirit from her wonderful girl gang, or, perhaps, something was lying dormant in her that awoke after meeting Deepu.
Once the end credits roll, we don’t recall all the details — because there are so many — but we do the characters. It is that kind of film. Among the amusing little flourishes is how Girish uses certain food items — in this case, papadam — as a recurring prop. In one scene, it is crushed by a frustrated character. In another, an already frustrated character becomes more frustrated when it is missing from lunch. On another occasion, a character uses it as a shield to hide from a bully.
However, as much as I enjoyed many of the interactions in this film, one wishes the latter half were tighter. I found my interest dwindling in a couple of places, like the stretch where Sharanya and Deepu get upset with each other briefly and don’t communicate.
If these scenes have to be longer than necessary, they need something unique to hold our attention, but we don’t get that. The presentation here lacks freshness, although we get one cute, nicely done romantic moment that reminds Deepu of “that film where a giant ship sinks”. Some may also find the 160-min duration bothersome. Perhaps this film would’ve played better with at least 10 mins shaved off its runtime.
Super Sharanya recalls that phase when some of life’s most trivial issues seemed the biggest, most insurmountable challenges to overcome. But the later adult phase — the thirties and forties and fifties — tells you that everything that came before pales in comparison. Girish, who made waves with his debut, Thanneer Mathan Dinangal, again proves that he has no equal in Malayalam cinema right now when it comes to making the minute and mundane aspects of everyday life engaging. He is an astute observer of both male and female behaviour.
In Girish’s world, a spat between friends has a short lifespan. In his world, two male friends can reach a mutual understanding if both fall for the same girl instead of harbouring ill feelings and conspiring to harm the other for the “grave injustice” done to him. In his world, a brother or brother-in-law would go to any extent to make your wishes come true. In his world, a senior would rag a junior and later approach the latter in the hope of being friends. And it’s not an unrealistically fantastic thought because such people exist too, and we wish we got to see more of them around.
Film: Super Sharanya
Director: Girish AD
Cast: Anaswara Rajan, Arjun Ashokan, Vineeth Vasudevan, Vineeth Vishwam, Naslen, Sajin Cherukayil