Sy Gowthamraj’s directorial debut Raatchasi digs into issues which plague the Government schools in Tamil Nadu. Though the film is set in rural Tamil Nadu, it could be any government school in any part of the country—it’s a microcosm of our messy public education—the terrible infrastructure, the disinterested teaching staff, students grappling with the English language etc…. Quite like To Sir With Love (1967) and Dangerous Minds (1995) Raatchasi too tells of the struggle of children from underprivileged backgrounds to stay in school.
Central to the narrative is Geetha Rani, played by Jyothika. She has been recently appointed as the headmistress of a Government school and Geetha is up against a tough situation that could possibly open up a can of worms. Geetha Rani dominates the narrative and hence, there aren’t too many other fleshed out characters. She’s fighting the system so the real antagonists are the obstacles she encounters, rather than a sole villain. Ah yes, there’s that Rama Lingam (Hareesh Peradi) who runs a private school and does everything in his power to try and get rid of her.
However, it’s not as if the film is completely perfect in its treatment of the subject. The one drawback is the oscillation between being a commercial film and a serious social drama. It does seem like an intentional ploy by Gowthamraj as he merges the subject and entertainment quotient in right proportions. For those expecting a full-on drama film, this could come as a downer but that’s like nitpicking for a demerit. On her part, Jyothika renders an electrifying performance to lift the film by a few notches.
Since her comeback in 2015, we’ve seen her in a plethora of characters that are courageous and possess audacity. Some films have been woman-centric too but what’s been constant has been the powerful characterizations. To be fair, the stories and roles have also been diverse, thereby erasing the threat of the mundane. Raatchasi sees her in top form as she effortlessly slips into the shoes of the fearless headmistress.
On the technical side, the film is in sync with what the genre demands. Gokul Benoy, who cranked the camera, ensures a panoramic view of the proceedings. Philominraj’s editing is supple and smooth, giving the film a steady pace. Only a couple of songs feature in the film and Sean Roldan has done a moderately decent job with the soundtracks. The background score is where he ups his game a bit and some of the clap-worthy scenes are well synchronized by Roldan.
To Gowthramraj’s credit, he manages to package the film well through a smart screenplay that helps to override the predictable nature of the premise. With the protagonist being larger-than-life, Gowthamraj knows that it’s vital for him to be creative in order to avoid monotony. As a result, he comes with refreshing angles to the generally formulaic scenes and that’s quite pleasing to watch.
Powered by Jyothika’s performance Raatchasi is engaging throughout the film. He may not have started with a bang but Gowthamraj has shown enough in his debut outing to suggest a long stint in the industry. The balanced treatment of the subject ensures that the film isn’t too preachy and this works in its favor.