Film: "Sattai"; Cast: Samuthirakani, Thambi Ramaiah, Yuvan and Mahima, Director: M. Anbazhgan; Rating: ***
"Sattai" is loosely based on Sidney Poitier's 1967 classic "To Sir with Love", where a black teacher embarks on a journey to inspire and reform the lives of white students from the slums. Though not a frame-to-frame copy of "To Sir with Love", "Sattai" deals with a similar subject, very close to the original.
In the Tamil version, Samuthirakani reprises Poitier's role with precision and elan. He plays a teacher of a government school and tries to bring about a change in the education system, consisting of students as well as fellow teachers.
Teaching comes with a heavy price and responsibility of not just ensuring cent percent results from students, but inspiring and imbuing reputable values in them such that they transform into responsible citizens of this country.
Samuthirakani plays Dayalan in the film with the shades of Gandhian principles. As a teacher, he's keen on adding difference to the lives of the students, while also successfully educating in a way they don't succumb to boredom.
The problems brought forth by the director are quite similar to what we see in most of the schools in the country. Big or small, size of the school doesn't matter because the problems that they face are common at some level.
However, schools in the slums or villages, in particular, with meagre resources have something bigger to worry about than their counterparts in the cities that are fortunately funded by corporate giants or privately-operated entities.
Every aspiring teacher with the goal to see change administered is some way or the other challenged or opposed by a force. This force comes in many forms such as students, parents, principal and school management, and in some worst case scenarios, working colleagues as well.
It reminds one of the role played by Aamir Khan in "Taare Zameen Par", who is never encouraged by the management or parents, initially. Likewise, Dayalan is faced with the challenge of getting past a non-cooperative vice principal played by Thambi Ramaiah, to evolve as a winner with his path-breaking teaching methodologies.
M. Anbazhgan as the man wielding the megaphone handles the subject bravely and he deserves to be appreciated for the same. Thankfully, the film doesn't stretch too long and comes to an end at the right juncture.
Samuthirakani, as the director-turned-hero, delivers an awe-inspiring performance. He carries his role with lot of sincerity and the same reflects on screen through his role. Kani's transformation into Dayalan is commendable and reminds one of the true ulterior motives of a teacher, which the actor portrays brilliantly.
"Sattai" deserves a standing ovation for handling a sensitive subject.