Director: Sy Gowthamraj
Cast: Jyothika, Poornima Baghyaraj, Hareesh Peradi, Sathyan, Aruldoss, Mathew Verghese and others
Music: Sean Roldan
Cinematography: Gokul Benoy
First time director Sy Gowthamraj looks to tell the tale of a headmistress looking to bring about reform in a government school in his first film Ratchasi.
Sadly though, Ratchasi comes across more like a lecture on ideal behavior and values and less like an entertainer. In fact, just 20 minutes into the film and you can’t help glancing at your watch as to how much more is left.
The film is more or less on predictable lines. A highly qualified person who could have taken up a job that pays a lot more and is ranked much higher than that of a government school headmistress turns down all offers to make teaching her profession of choice.
Yes, GeethaRani (Jyothika), we are told, is a Lieutenant Colonel in the Indian Army before she chooses to become a headmistress. After quitting her life in the forces, she is posted as a ‘Headmaster’ of a Government School in Pudhur, which , as expected, is in a really bad shape.
GeethaRani, who arrives with her dad, goes about reforming the school. In the process, she has to take on politicians, teachers who are shirking work, competition from private schools that poach on good students and several other problems. How she overcomes all these problems is what the film is about.
To the ordinary viewer, Ratchasi comes across as a film with a truckload of problems. Heroines like Jyothika, who are feminists, are looking to make their films all about themselves in the hope that doing so will make their stature rise to either match or overtake the stature of heroes in Tamil cinema who enjoy a lot more clout, popularity and pay.
As a result, their directors look to come up with scripts that glorify the lead character more than they pay attention to the plot and its narration.
Raatchasi’s primary problem could be classified into two categories. Several of its scenes are either artificial or exaggerated.
For instance, there is a scene in the film in which the headmistress of the school chooses to have lunch with a bunch of girls every day. Now, this is really uncommon but still acceptable. What is hard to accept though is the fact that a headmistress asks her school students to call her by name to display her so-called “friendly, approachable” attitude.
As someone who studied for a certain period of time in a government school myself, I am aware that a considerable number of students who turn up at a government school do so primarily for the free midday meal that is provided to them. The school in this film has nothing about the free mid-day meals system or the rampant corruption that prevails there. For a film claiming to present a realistic view of issues in government schools, this is a big lapse.
The fight sequence in the school where Jyothika takes on a bunch of thugs (almost twice or thrice her size) is another exaggerated sequence that makes one want to laugh. To justify this fighting ability of hers, the director gives us the impression that she was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Indian Army, who was into teaching martial art skills to cadets. This justification is not very convincing for the simple reason that women are not allowed into combat roles in the Indian Army.
One could go on and on about several such lapses in the film but then, you get the point, right?
On the brighter side, the film has a couple of sequences that are really enjoyable, fresh and worth applauding. One such sequence involves an interaction between the district collector(played by Mathew Verghese) and Geetha Rani.
The district collector arrives at Geetha Rani’s school for a sudden inspection one day. The collector’s PA rushes ahead of him into Geetha Rani’s room and asks her to stand up and offer her seat as the Collector had come for an inspection. She calmly refuses and asks the collector to sit on a visitor’s chair and tells him that she will be unable to accompany him on the inspection but that he can still undertake the inspection as the school is ready for it. That is a sequence lauding for several reasons.
But the most important reason why it needs to be lauded is because it sends out the message that individuals who have their integrity and honour intact don’t have to shiver in front of higher ranked officials and forsake their dignity by humbling themselves.
Sean Roldan’s music and Gokul Benoy’s cinematography are apt. To sum it all up, Raatchasi is by and large a exhausting affair with some relief in between.