Senthozhan Sengkathirvaanan: The Daze, The Deranged And The Dame

A Malaysian Tamil flick taking on the psychological thriller bull by the horn, underwhelming at parts, saved by the lead actress’ conviction and energetic performance

Malaysian films have some sort of self-limiting explorative nature. Genres can be visited but they are mostly restricted to Malay films. Films industries existing outside of behemoths like Hollywood, Bollywood (and its non-Hindi language sub-industries) and Hong Kong are usually more invested in making films that reflect their respective country’s culture and sociopolitical scenarios. 

As such, it is very daring for a Malaysian filmmaker to make Senthozhan Sengkathirvaanan, a Tamil film within the confines of a psychological thriller asylum – because it would be a mad business decision. 

Yet, first-time director Govind Singh pulled off a quiet, grounded, “don’t-wake-the-baby-up” serene Tamil language Malaysian-made thriller flick that has its moments and is certainly desirable for more. 

This review is a follow-up of the premier show on 24 July in TSR Cinemax Shah Alam, quite a grand affair where contributors were honoured and the self-congratulatory gesture was a mass proceeding -– where many were honoured on stage, with most recognised for being reasons for the existence of the film to the point that some may have direct connections to the Lumiere brothers.  

The filmmakers and stars also thanked audiences – made of mostly those in the “industry” or involved with the film – and were given tips on how not to have the film taken out of the cinema due to poor run. Support, encouragement, buying tickets by block – but nothing can stop the audience from moving their butts from home to the theatre hall if actual words of mouth are not encouraging.  

Anyway, since I was involved during the post-production of Senthozhan Sengkathirvaanan writing the subtitles, this is my second viewing perhaps with some tweaking involved. Nothing much changed except for the additions of various production companies’ names before the title credit that allowed time to rush out to get more popcorn or return missed calls. 

The story written by Govind and Vino Chandra centres on a somewhat aloof, strange, and, as we find out later, slightly deranged, off-the-centre-of-gravity dude by the name of Kathir played by Kash Villanz, who does some err…computer thingy – we have that scene of his fingers sailing across keyboards with nothing happening on the monitor. 

Who cares about the profession, much effort was taken by the filmmaker and writer to enhance the protagonist’s eccentricity, including the part where he shaves with a chopper (the knife, not the bike). He drinks booze aplenty and could have benefitted from product placements with brands like Johnny Walker, Ballantine and the likes in full display.

Then, as it is wont with Tamil films that couldn’t shake off romances in any genre like a wet canine, a girl gets interested in him – in this case, our heroine, played with gusto by Moon Nila, who ventures out to find out about our hero’s dark past even though he seems like a nice guy at one time and big time jerk in another. Boy, one itches to know his origin story, no?

So, we have unconventional behaviour on Kathir’s part, prompting the girl to snoop around, and some secondary plot involving a querulous couple next door – which is parallel to the hero’s abusive childhood.

Anyway, Moon Nila (whose name I am sure is not copy-pasted from a Google Translate result) is a formidable force in this flick. She had a skeleton to work with but worked on her additional skillset to add the pounds of flesh, with an ounce of pathos, a pinch of feminism, a fracas of humour, a frantic amount of courage and conviction that would make us care for enough to consider her falling for the jerk-hero as a minor misdemeanour.

If not for her character’s concern for the hero, we never would care for him, so she had quite a task ahead of her – the venture that was let down by the usual Tamil film affliction:  flashback-isitis. There was just one too many, but most of the current Tamil films are mostly never made without them – the audience are so used to it that they are not aware of it, like global warming. 

Despite what the film had promised, violence is far and few in between, and mostly in the background. The danger element are supposedly present throughout, but our butts are in no way going to the edge of the seat – it feels like reaching for the ceiling but touching the top of the cupboard instead. 

Another reason to watch this thriller flick is for the soundtrack, which was composed entirely by Kash Villanz. Before the teaser release, the producers released 3 tracks from this movie on the vhommiez Youtube channel. The first track is sung by Kash Villanz himself titled, Mudhal Mura, followed by Pasi Thookam Panjam and Yathey sung by Ganesan Manoghran and Kishen Dass, Michael Rao respectively.

This film will find its audience who had not watched earlier Tamil films like Sigappu Rojakkal (1979) or Puthiya Paravai (1964)– both of which explored the protagonist’s source and consequences of derangement and been influential with all those “psycho” characters appearing in Tamil films ever since.

All in all, the production quality is pretty good for a limited budget Malaysian fare – far more limited than the bigger Malay language films, of course, but that shouldn’t stop quality exuding from the writing and performances. 

A potential that may appeal to audiences who are tired of the usual “safe” Malaysian Tamil entries on small screens especially.

But don’t let that hamper your viewing experience. I thoroughly enjoyed Moon Nila’s performance – she inhabited her role like a comfortable glove and took us for a bit of an emotional roller-coaster ride – for that reason alone it’s worth sitting through the film.

Senthozhan Sengkathirvaanan produced by Govind and Kash Villanz himself will also be featuring popular Malaysian talents like Shamini, Cellina Jay and Chandinie Kaur.

All in all, Senthozhan Sengkathirvaanan is a passable thriller, and certainly a laudable entry from the microscopic Malaysian Tamil film industry. This psychological thriller will be screened in cinemas nationwide on 28 July 2022 onwards!

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