Ratchasi – Champion of underprivileged students
Jyothika is one of the few heroines who have the box office power to shoulder a movie all by herself and in ‘Ratchasi’ she has once again chosen a character of substance and good content from newbie director Sy. Gowthamraj.
Geetha Rani (Jyothika) arrives at a village government school as the new headmaster (mistress?) and finds it in shambles and the teacher led by the assistant headmaster (Kavitha Bharathi) have no control over the students and pass their time idly. Geetha charts out a plan to set things and first gets the atmosphere changed by appealing to parents and then slowly starts bringing in reforms that win her the students and makes enemies as well. Rajalingam (Harish Peradi) the owner of a private school fearing that the government school would become a competition for him plots to get the heroine out of the way and succeeds in putting her behind the bars. Who Geetha really is, What is the crime she committed and did she win in her quest to make the school educate the underprivileged to compete with the commercially educated? forms the rest of the screenplay.
Jyothika in her comeback trail lost it in ‘Magalir Mattum’ but made a solid comeback to form with ‘Kaatrin Mozhi’ carrying it to ‘Ratchasi’ as well adding dignity to the character with her usual bubbliness also present in a few lighter scenes. Her best moment is when she breaks down listening to her father’s voice message in a tragic sequence but on the whole, she carries the entire film equal to any mass hero. Kavitha Bharathi resembles Thambi Ramaiah’s character in ‘Saattai’ while Harish Peradi does the mandatory villain’s role functionally. Poornima Bhagyaraj, Sathyan, Naganeedu, Aruldoss, and Muthuraman are the known faces in the film who do justice to their respective characters The casting of all the supporting characters including the teachers and the students is impeccable.
What works best in ‘Ratchasi’ is the noble theme of better education to the underprivileged and raising the standard of government schools. The commendable thing about this film is that it does not stop with raising questions but gives convincing answers such as appealing to parents to donate for the facelift of the school comparing it to a temple festival and asking the teachers to equip themselves well enough to teach the needy. There is a key scene in which Jyothika handles a tragedy which establishes her overall character better than the background given to her in a flashback. When things are going on the serious track a cute romance between Jyothika and a surprise hero (What a terrific performance from that handsome young man) serves as good comic relief. The dialogues by Gowthamraj are sharp and hard-hitting and very topical not only to his screenplay but also contemporarily.
On the downside, the unmistakable resemblance to ‘Saattai’ does linger on especially when the AHM character is almost carbon copied which could have been avoided. Jyothika’s backstory including the love angle in the past is unconvincing. There is a fight scene which is important to the film that has been choreographed amateurishly. Though most messages are subtly conveyed some are done preachily.
Sean Rolden has tuned in a nice melody in “Nanbanae” sung by Brinda Sivakumar which is placed at an appropriate scene. The same cannot be said about his background score which seems obtrusive. Gokul Benoy’s camera captures the dilapidation of the government school and it’s students perfectly. Philominraj has paced the film well to keep up the interest throughout. S. R. Prabhu has bankrolled another meaningful film which will bring him accolades and also a small bulge to his purse that was eroded by his much decoded previous biggie. Sy. Gowthamraj makes a respectable debut armed with genuine knowledge of the issues he has taken up and filming it as honestly as he could. The lack of finesse can be forgiven for strong content and messages. Kudos.