"He wants me to tell him a story. I can't." Krishnan's voice is a rasp as his throat is slowly but surely caving in. "Will you ensure he remembers me when he grows up?"
That's when the first tear rolls off your face.
And they don't stop after that. They don't stop when the movie ends, they don't stop as you're embarrassedly making your way to the parking lot and fighting the urge to inconspicuously look up and check if others are red-eyed as well or if there's some problem with just you, and they don't stop for a long part of your way back home.
If you still have a father, you'll be glad for it. You might or might not really go all the way and hug him tearfully, but yes, you'll be really glad.
And, oh yes, all your complaints about Surya s/o Krishnan that lasted about 140 minutes of a 170-minute movie now feel just like the flaws in your father - in the end, you remember only the good things, and, everything seems like a good thing.
It's actually hard to say if Gautham Menon's Surya s/o Krishnan is a brilliant film that doesn't really feel like that for the most part since it's you that's not upto it, or if the director has actually lost the plot and indulged himself but the sheer power of the concept, and emotion, to connect with you rise above even a mediocre attempt at execution. Could it have been a better movie? Oh yes. But let's stop there - it feels almost selfish to go further on that line.
Structured as a dossier of a man's memories of his father across a lifetime, Surya s/o Krishnan is the story of Surya (Surya), a rather everyday person blessed with liberal, supportive and loving parents Krishnan (Surya again) and Malini (Simran). The film shows a youthful Krishnan courting co-ed Malini and the early days of their marriage, and moves into Surya's own adolescence.
It shows vignettes of Krishnan being an ideal father - encouraging his son to take on the college bully, treating the son as a grown-up by the time he gets into under-graduate college, being progressive about the latter's interactions with girls, and telling him to give his everything to court the girl Meghna (Sameera Reddy) he has fallen in love with, to the extent of asking him to pursue her to the US and offering to fund it though the family is in less than great financial shape.
When tragedy strikes Surya's love, the parents stand rock-solid by him completely understanding the inner turmoil, but that is of little help as Surya loses the battle with his heart and head, and deteriorates into alcohol and drug abuse unable to come to terms with the loss even after weeks and months. It's up to Krishnan and Malini to help him out of the morass, and they soon let him go, but tell him to come back to them wherever he goes.
It's an extraordinary climb for Surya out of the deep hole he's gotten into, but just as he emerges victor in the battle against his head, Krishnan himself is diagnosed with throat cancer, and slowly succumbs (and no, that's no spoiler - the film starts with Krishnan dying). And that's when you suddenly realize that you are in love with that warm and fuzzy, selfless and unobtrusive character.
A parent's authority exists only as long as it is acknowledged, and for most parents, that's a painful discovery when it happens - a fall from grace. And part of the reason Krishnan's character is so endearing despite getting a fifth of the reel-time the son's gets, is that he never looks out for himself - a parent that recognizes the falls from grace and the invisible but increasingly firm boundaries, and deals with it gracefully while still unconditionally being there for a child, evokes much greater love and poignancy when recognition sets in in the child or when it's too late, whichever happens earlier. Krishnan is characterized by all of these, and you realize it, even if sub-consciously, in that last scene featuring him when he walks out of Surya's room one last time, an old man who's silently missing his son, and you're battling to keep the tears from showing.
Surya s/o Krishnan can seem long, rambling and pointless for most of its running time, until you slowly realize that this was not meant to be a pot-boiler or thriller, a "commercial" film, in the first place. It is mostly a gentle narration, a diary, of the life and times of a loving, close-knit family - their ups and their tribulations. And of that, it does a brilliant job.
Surya turns in a stellar performance as both father and son, with the right amount of subtlety and understatement. Simran is equally good as the mother, and Divya Spandana excels in a brief role as the girl who slowly makes her way into Surya's life. The romances, especially the one with Sameera, aren't really scripted great by Gautham's normal outstanding standards (think Asin's courtship of Venkatesh in Gharshana), but you'll get over it - like you will over Surya's totally South-Indian pronunciation of "daddy", and other failings, including the pace.
The music by Harris Jairaj is lilting, vibrant and poignant in turns, and definitely worth the purchase. Gautham Menon's movies are known mostly for style and visual slickness, and this one doesn't disappoint - and Surya's buff body is flogged for all it's worth in the second half.
If you think one of the most important things in life is to be constantly reminded of the real worth of things you take for granted, Surya s/o Krishnan does you a great favour. Go home to Daddy tonite.