Appa Movie Review: More Lecture than Cinema

by Mani Prabhu

Appa Movie Review: More Lecture than Cinema

Remember Samuthirakani and Thambi Ramaiah as the ‘model’ teacher and the self-centred headmaster respectively from Anbazhagan’s 2012 film Saattai? What if they happen to become dads and start thrusting their ideologies on their wards? Samuthirakani takes it upon himself to explore this ‘parenting’ premise in Appa; but by retaining the ‘too-saintly-to-be-true’ and ‘frustratingly caricatured’ sensibilities of the two main characters and further upping the ante on the preachy tone taken by the predecessor, he makes watching the sequel-in-spirit a equally tiresome if not exasperating experience.

Is there another film-maker who has immersed himself so much in delivering moral science lessons on-screen in the recent past? Samuthirakani starts right upfront even before the credits by tracing the two couples in the opposite end of the spectrum as they get ready to welcome a new member in their families. His intentions seem to be sincere, but everything is blown out of proportions making one so annoyingly righteous and the other so excruciatingly loud-comical that it becomes almost impossible to invest in either of them. Samuthirakani as the the earnest Dhayalan, in his quest to represent the epitome of fatherhood on-screen, reels out dangerously misleading sermons like the way forward is to avoid prenatal hospital visits and opt for home delivery. On the other hand, Ramaiah as the over-enthusiastic parent-to-be behaves like a typical nut-box. Are we supposed to laugh at him? Or are we invited to loathe him? We are torn in between, unable to come to a conclusion.

However, the third father character (played by Namo Narayana) who preaches the escapist route to his son manages to make some sort of impression despite the limited screen time. And the child actor playing his son complements him brilliantly and almost walks away with the best moments of the film, which are unfortunately very few and far apart. For Samuthirakani, everything has to be either black or white with no shades of grey in between. And to make things worse, he resorts to generalizing at the drop of a hat. So if we get a private school, it must be one with insensitive teachers asking parents to mind their own business when questioned. When we get a typical society-conscious mother, she has to be all unreasonable and hysterical about it. The man gives us a very relevant moment where one of the kids is reprimanded for being original, but goes overboard in the very next scene by painting the whole system black.

But despite the never-ending parental-wisdom sprouting, a couple of scenes in the first half do manage to strike a chord. The sequence where Samuthirakani eases things between his tenth-grade son and his female classmate is nicely done, but the film-maker plays safe here by not going into the practical difficulties in talking about ‘sexual attraction’ to a teenage boy. After a while, everything appears staged and superficial. Scenes with nothing in them to hold our attention drag on and on for eternity. And in the last hour, it becomes quite an arduous task to sit through all the empty drama. What’s with the one-dimensional portrayal of boarding schools in our cinemas these days? Why would we empathize with a man we had been laughing at for the past two hours? Why doesn’t the kid take help from some sensible adult when he has access to a mobile phone? Questions with no answers keep mounting by the minute. But the sermonizing never stops. Till the credits roll.