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Few minutes into Sigai, you are being shown an aerial view of how Chennai looks at night. A jostling crowd on the Marina beach. Baby corn stall. The batter gets splashed on a hot dosaikal or whatever you may call it. Footboard travel in suburban trains. Beggars on the pavements, and so on. Then you are introduced to Prasad (Raj Bharat), who is on a phone call. He is fair, tall and well-built. On one hand, he speaks softly and is compassionate to transgender persons, besides the women he sends out to work. On the other, when someone asks why she was paid lesser this time, he says, “her age is increasing”. At first sight, you can’t gauge if Prasad is good or bad. But you know he is not the regular loud pimp portrayed in films.
In the first half, the director takes you into the lives of Nimmi (Meera Nair), a sex worker, Prasad and Chetta (that is how he is called in the film). Nimmi is someone who doesn’t even mind bearing the cigarette burns on her body if she gets good money. There is a scene where she watches a talk show on TV, and the host jokingly says, “men get more attractive when they hit the forties.” Talk about the unintentional misogyny that makes you cringe. There is another caring side to her. She asks her mother, “paappa saaptacha”, and when she finds she hasn’t, Nimmi feeds the baby and leaves home.
As for Chetta, he doesn’t store his contacts on the mobile phone; but writes them down on the address book in his mother tongue Malayalam. Jagadeesan Subu establishes those minute details and makes you empathise with each of his characters. When Nimmi goes missing, Prasad starts enquiring about her whereabouts. We are shown how Prasad feels guilty when he realises he puts many women at risk. The story begins from thereon. Certain scenes are shot beautifully, and I quite liked how some of the frames were mildly lit. You don’t see Mathivanan (Kathir) in the first half, but as a transgender person, he owns the second half. How the lives of Nimmi, Mathivanan and Prasad intersect forms the premise of the film.
The problem with Sigai is that it feels like two different films weaved into one, though Jagadeesan Subu seems clear about what he was going to present to the audience. It is apparent that the film was shot a couple of years ago, and it does irk you here and there. Especially, when you spot a bunch of old 500-rupee notes. Also, I wish the director cared to show more about Mathivanan’s childhood, and what made him a transgender person. I would have liked Sigai more if Jagadeesan Subu had portrayed the lives of transgender persons in a positive light.
I understand Jagadeesan Subu’s intentions — that echo in a song penned by Vivek — “avargal paalai avargal sollatum… Naam sarkarai mattum kalappom.” But the screenplay wasn’t convincing enough because of the lack of authenticity. The filmmaker has overloaded his story with stereotypes. Hey, you’ve got to keep the action moving. The pace shouldn’t be too fast for the plot to fall flat or too slow for it to die.