Express news service
A poisoned heart is a heart without honor. When he pumps his poison through his veins, death and destruction seem inevitable. Karuna Kumar’s Sridevi Soda Center is well-intentioned in telling a story with this idea at its heart.
The film follows Lighting Soori Babu (Sudheer Babu), a lighting technician in a small town, who falls in love with Sodalu Sridevi (Anandha), a upper caste girl. Their quest for love comes up against seemingly insurmountable obstacles in the form of Kasi (Pavel Navageethan), who also has an eye on Sridevi, and Sridevi’s father (Naresh), who is against intercast marriage.
Karuna Kumars takes her time to set up the first act. While the first 40 minutes go by at an excruciating pace, the path the story has taken from there justifies the length. Even a terrible boat race, which will easily win the prize for the most unrealistic returns in racing history, is enough to establish the equations between the characters. Plus, Sudheer, who looked flat in the first few scenes, ended up settling into his character. Additionally, Anandhi is presented through a brilliantly put together scene at a carnival, and everything in the scene is “charming.” The comedy and dialogue work, and the writing does a great job of leading the scene to a heart-wrenching ending that pulls the events together, before heading into conflict.
In retrospect, however, the revelation of the association between Sridevi’s father and Kasi might have been delayed, as it already reveals more than it should. The glaring hollows in the writing extend further. In particular, there is a scene between Soori and Sridevi that takes place in the middle of a farm. Sridevi expresses his love through an act of seduction – an explosion of love that comes after the sight of Suri engaging in physical self-harm. The scene stands out, once again, for the scenography and the brilliant musical score of Mani Sharma.
However, it made me wonder if the act of self-harm was necessary. Why do we have to play a sinister sympathy game to win the love of our beloved? Beware, this is not a gray undertone that is deliberately added as a trait of Soori, but rather an act that is vindicated by the soothing music and Sridevi calling it an “expression of love”. It is shocking to say the least.
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Soori has a few flaws, but this doesn’t translate to the screen and is left to the audience’s appreciation. For example, in a later scene near the end, his friend helps him realize how obsessed he was with his quest for love without even thinking about the consequences his father would have suffered. It ends with a one-off dialogue, and he suffers no consequences due to his negligence and impulsive actions.
In another scene, Soori must complete a unique trick to escape prison. While the “how” sounds impressive, it leaves largely gaping questions unanswered. The Sridevi Soda Center begins to collapse even more since the start of the conflict. One of the revelations from the third act prompts Soori to mock Kasi. It’s an obvious idea that you would have guessed in the first act. As for the big final reveal, the obvious is overshadowed by the heartbreaking gloom it delivers. All the hiccups melt away in these final minutes when the film takes on an intense tone to deliver a vital message about the repercussions of the social evil called caste.
What’s disappointing is that the film has a lot of promise and scope that is underused. For example, the character design is awesome. From Soori’s costumes to behavioral traits added to Naresh’s character – he mumbles inaudibly whenever he’s forced to be in an awkward situation – Karuna’s world has plenty of interesting ideas to get our attention. Even if not for the genre, Anandhi’s character design, the setting of a small town and his equation with his beloved father who reminds him of “Vaadu manchivaade, Kaani manavaadu kaadhu” (This is a good guys, but not one of us) might all recall one of Anandhi’s Tamil movies, Pariyerum Perumal.
However, for a film that goes by the name of Sridevi, she hardly has a say in the second act. When Soori suffers such and such consequences, what does Sridevi even think there? We never know. Pavel’s Kasi unfortunately also becomes a helpless villain in the end.
In a film with so many misfortunes, Mani Sharma steals the show through his brilliant musical scores. Its delightful use of flutes for such a story with a rural backdrop is reminiscent of Sairat, another Dalit film that was about caste oppression. From the background theme we hear when we see Soori for the first time to the theme that plays out in the last shot of the movie, the music is composed so tastefully that it ends up being the biggest takeaway.
If the music played a major role, the scenography, the lighting and the cinematography, make this uninviting film a pleasant experience. At the end of the day, as one steps out of the theater, a convincing, climactic dialogue about who a man without honor really is leaves a strong impact. Well-intentioned ideas, strong distribution performance, and commendable manufacturing don’t help that Sridevi Soda Center is a non-sparkling soda.
Sridevi soda center
Actors: Sudheer Babu, Anandhi, Pavel Navageethan, Naresh
Director: Karuna Kumar