Director Mathi Maran, who makes his debut as a director with ‘Selfie’, has dealt with an interesting and relevant topic that has never before been discussed in such detail in Tamil cinema.
Yes, although people have been aware of the dark side of private educational institutions and the huge sums of money that the owners of such establishments make by selling seats in the management quota, there has never been a film that has explained the process in such a detailed fashion.
True, there have been a few films that have been made on the selling of seats in these institutions, but the detailing is what sets ‘Selfie’ in a league of its own.
‘Selfie’ is a gripping, no-nonsense kind of film that holds a mirror to the ugly decay that is eating away at the education system. It shines the light on the dark nexus between college managements and the gangs they employ to fill seats in management quotas.
Kanal (G V Prakash Kumar), who comes from a small town, is a reluctant student in a private engineering college in the city. His dad (Vagai Chandrashekar) is a middle-class parent who, despite limited means, gets Kanal admitted to what he believes to be a good college through the management quota in the hope that it will secure his son’s future.
Initially, Kanal believes other students studying with him too have paid huge donations to the college. But once he realises that not everybody has paid donations, and that those who know the real worth of the college have paid nothing, he is furious. He tries to explain to his dad that he has been conned into paying a huge amount as donation, but to no avail.
It doesn’t take long for Kanal to realise that he can make big bucks working as a broker selling college seats. He stops going to college and turns into one. Along with his friends, he attempts to do business.
Kanal finds out that the management of the most popular college has an understanding with a gangster called Ravi Varma (Gautham Menon) and that he has been assigned the task of filling all their seats in the management quota.
Through a link in Ravi Varma’s gang, Kanal and his friends manage to sell a medical seat in a popular college to the son of a powerful moneylender from the interior parts of the state.
Just like most middlemen do, the friends, without informing the college or Ravi Varma’s gang, add a hefty sum to the price of the seat and quote that to the moneylender. They close the deal and get away with it. Or so they think.
Things are fine until the moneylender’s son one day decides he can’t study and wants to drop out. His dad comes demanding the money he paid as donation, putting Kanal and his friends in a spot. What happens next is what ‘Selfie’ is about.
The film does not look to just entertain, but also educate by dispelling myths and perceptions.
Some of the notions the film dispels include the fact that not everybody who owns a college is an educationist. It shows how some of the people owning colleges are at the end of the day just unscrupulous businessmen out to make money.
The film also shows how college seats are sold to gullible parents looking to secure the future of their wards and how they are exploited by a ruthless money-minded system.
We get to see some sensational performances. Director Gautham Vasudev Menon as Ravi Varma is outstanding. He kills it with his class and style and looks every bit the part.
G V Prakash as the rebellious but intelligent student does a fine job. He goes on to steal the show in certain sequences. In particular, the scene in which he convinces the moneylender that he will get his money back is impressive.
The biggest problem with ‘Selfie’ comes not from the performances or the plot, but from its presentation. Yes, they are technical in nature.
Some of the dialogues, for instance, are delivered too fast for the audience to understand what is being said. To add to that, in some parts, the film’s background score drowns the dialogues. These could have been avoided.
But for these small technical lapses, ‘Selfie’ is an engrossing watch with a significant message to send across.
Director: Mathi Maran
Cast: G V Prakash Kumar, Varsha Bollamma, Gautham Vasudev Menon, Gunanidhi and Vagai Chandrashekar
Duration: 130 minutes
–By Manigandan K R