The film is about a passionate, impulsive boxing coach, Prabhu (Madhavan), who is dying to prove his worth as the nation's best coach by uncovering the next female Indian boxing champ. After a run-in with the federation, Prabhu is sent to Chennai where he sets his eyes on Madhi (Ritika Singh), a born talent, who is raw and needs a lot of fine-tuning. Her sister, Lakshmi, aspires to get into the police force by using boxing as an entry pass. Madhi takes to boxing thanks to videos of the great Mohammad Ali and also due to her natural skills. When she says "float like a butterfly sting like a bee", you definitely will smile. Madhi is equally brash and hotheaded as Prabhu and the human dynamics between the master and protege is the 'spine' of the film with boxing being the 'blood'.
Director Sudha Kongara's research on the sport and the state of affairs in the country shows on screen. The technical terms and techniques of boxing are used in the film without going overboard. She also touches upon politics in boxing, female sexual harassment and sports quota jobs, in addition to the main Prabhu - Madhi story. Sudha shows some true grit as the director of such a sports drama, a genre one doesn't generally associate with female directors. Kudos to the group of producers too, for standing by her vision and believing in a subject which isn't considered 'commercial'. Sports films are a rarity and Irudhi Suttru will stand tall in this elite group.
Composer Santhosh Narayanan is the main lifeline of the film, and his songs and BGM score perfectly gel with the mood of the film. Some of his background themes are Hans Zimmer-like. 4 of the 5 songs come by in the first half itself, and they mostly don't stick out from the plot. Irudhi Suttru is another fruitful outing for SaNa.
DoP Sivakumar Vijayan's visuals are lush when the action happens outdoors, while he captures the raw vibe of the film well whenever the story happens indoors. The run time of the film is just 1 hr 52 mins and one feels that the 2nd half could have had some more depth and establishment particularly after Madhi gets back into the ring after a brief period of grief. These scenes seem hurried and she very quickly goes on to become a sensation in the media. But, all this is forgotten in the terrific climax bout, when the reference to Genghis Khan (which is earlier narrated by Prabhu) is practically employed in the ring by Madhi just when she seems down and out. Of course, she needs the presence of her master to turn around things in a jiffy, but that is how emotional cinema works.
Madhi's infatuation on her coach, around the midway mark, seems sudden and typical of a immature young girl, but the way it is handled by Prabhu is very mature and beautiful.
Physically it is a piece of cake for professional boxer Ritika Singh. Her Tamil lip sync is great, and she plays the cute, impulsive, confused and devoted Madhi to perfection. Her face has a natural charm and she is bound to go places in cinema, if she continues. Her fair complexion despite living in a Chennai fishing hamlet is justified well. What a find!
Kaali Venkat impresses as the father of Madhi and Lakshmi, and his drunken antics, conversion to Christianity, banter with his wife who has North Indian roots, efforts to bring cable television to his humble household and nervousness when Madhi's match is on TV, are all very well showcased on screen. Nasser is brilliant as the junior coach who watches out for the sisters always, and gets to discover Prabhu's real self over conversations and alcohol. Zakir Hussain's Tamil sticks out but his effort to dub on his own needs to be applauded.
Take a bow, Sudha, Maddy, Ritika and the whole team for coming out with Irudhi Suttru which stays true to its title and delivers a knockout finale. Go watch this sports drama which brims with emotions and has many merits to its credit.