Rathasaatchi Review: Kanna Ravi Shines In This Heart-Wrenching Tale About Revolution – FILM COMPANION

Director: Rafiq Ismail
Cast: Kanna Ravi, Elango Kumaravel, Harish Kumar, Kalyan Master, Madras Vinoth, Aaru Bala
Streaming On: Aha Tamil
Sometimes it is so discomforting to watch Rafiq Ismail’s Rathasaatchi because of its gruesome murders. The film doesn’t tone down on its violence or shy away from depicting murders with graphic detail. Instead, the camera lingers on the horrendous act with pity at times and a burning sense of revenge during others. But why? Set in the 1980s, the film wants to show not just the struggles of the oppressed, but also to take viewers through the pain that they face. And Rathasaatchi largely succeeds in the process. 
The film, based on Jeyamohan’s story Kaithigal, begins with a sick man being beaten up for not working. Just when you think it is terrible to watch him get thrashed, you witness the murder of a female labourer who is pushed into burning jaggery liquid for trying to take home a few cups for her children. Rathasaatchi has many such scenes that haunts you. And soon enough, we are introduced to young leader Appu (Kanna Ravi), a gold medalist from Annamalai University, instilling fire and independence in the workers’ minds, and the result? Rebellious people walk out of the farm that is now completely burnt. 
Rafiq’s intriguing screenplay particularly brings out the best in the film and Appu, who is on the pursuit of revolution. Watch out for the sequence where the police find the Naxalites hiding among ordinary people, and how the fearless leader helps his kin get back their rightful wages without having to fight. Similarly, in another scene, when the police try to arrest Appu and his friend Iqbal, the duo, calm and collected in cool sunglasses, are seen waiting for the cops. When the police begin to wonder why they haven’t escaped, bombs blast. No, no one dies. The bombs made of chili powder help the duo run away. 
But when Appu, who firmly believes in a non-violent revolution, is forced to take the murder route, the film shifts its gears, too. We see the story gradually moving from people’s struggles and emotions to the life of one man – Appu. And with that, the powerful uproar of revolution stops, and you get to witness a more silent protest. When Appu gets caught in a world of violence, with the Naxals beginning to sacrifice their lives, there is an intense conflict between what he wants and what the people around him need. 
Midway through the film, the narrative also tries a balancing act by also showing us the psyche and struggles of the cops as well. Stuck at the border of an Andhra Pradesh forest, the painful search for Appu has you empathising with both groups. It is here that Elango Kumaravel as cop Murugesan gets a wonderful role to play. While he helps the police track down the Naxals, he is against the wrongdoings of the cops and is worried about Appu. When another officer feels the same way, Murugesan says, “Namma elaar kullayum oru manushan irukan/ At the end of the day, there is some humanity left in all of us. So, we are worried about him. But when humanity occasionally comes out, we usually subdue it.” 
Although a few scenes are lacking in emotional beats, the music by Javed Riaz and the powerful lyrics by Karthik Netha and Vishnu Edavan more than make up for it. While the dialogues lead up to the classic revolution scenes, the performance of actors, close-up shots and the songs move you during the later parts of the film. In his first film as a lead, Kanna Ravi as Appu, carries the entire film on his shoulders. When he faces the worst parts of his life, you have a fire burning in his eyes, and there is so much it conveys. If there is a scene that depicts the essence of Rathasaatchi, it is this: “Ena oru kannu, eeral ah kuthi kodanjite iruku” (His eyes are so powerful that my gut is throbbing),” a police officer says. And when the film ends, that’s what you will remember – the eternal fire in his eyes to fight. 
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