No matter if it is a government school or private school teachers play a pivotal role in either shaping up a student into a responsible citizen or turn him into a vagrant. Sattai is all about schooling and the teachers’ role in shaping up a student. The film, by the debut director M Anbazhagan, is a whiplash for all teachers and is a warning bell for the teaching community as a whole.
Dayalan, played by Samuthirakani, takes over as a teacher of a school which is backward in all aspects. His sole intention to set things right and bring the best out of his students. He gets to work with this intention and soon becomes very popular in the school thereby incurring the wrath of his colleagues.
Right from making a girl student to speak confidently in front of the boys to becoming one of them, Samuthirakani succeeds in all. He also finds success in making the good-for-nothing students into brilliant ones by tapping their talents well.
Thambi Ramaiya (Singaperumal) is yet another teacher in the same school but quite opposite to Samuthirakani. When he comes to identify a talented student he makes sure that he is sidelined and his talents are not utilized to the fullest. He punishes students whose parents do not pay up their loan dues and never shows interest in conducting classes. Apart from this, he is totally against the reformatory measures taken by Samuthirakani. He raises a war flag against Samuthirakani and keeps the head master Pandi and other teachers under his control.
In the mean time, +2 student Pazhanimuthu (Yuvan) falls in love with his classmate Arivazhagi (Mahima). Black Pandi helps the lovers along with other students. Mahima is loyal to her parents and thwarts all attempts made by the hero. She also complains to Samuthirakani about Yuvan’s moves. One day, when Mahima returns after the special class, Yuvan confronts her and in the process tears her blouse. Samuthirakani sees her crying under a tree in the school and comes to know of what had happened. He advices her to go home with the promise that he would take care of Yuvan but Mahima consumes poison and attempts suicide. The school watchman, who sees Mahima and Samuthirakani conversing, misunderstands the whole situation and spreads rumors about them to the other teachers and villagers.
Thambi Ramiya also uses this opportunity to seek his revenge and Mahima arrives on the spot alleging that the person responsible for her suicide attempt is not Samuthirakani but another teacher and the villagers’ ire turn towards him.
Now that it is proved that Samuthirakani is not the culprit, his good works come to light and teachers supporting Thambi Ramaiya shift camp. The school goes on to win prizes in the sports competition for the first time; thanks to the efforts of Samuthirakani, the head master and other teachers. Dayalan also persuades Mahima’s parents to send her back to school and brings out the talent of Yuvan making him an apple to his parents’ eyes while he was just a burden to them until then. Thambi Ramaiya is not able to compete with Samuthirakani with his popularity soaring high and therefore decides to attack him with the help of some thugs.
Dayalan is grievously injured due and at the same time his students face the final exams. The rest of the film is about: what happens to Dayalan? What happens to the school which is notorious for its poor performance? Did Thambi Ramaiya turn into a new leaf? And what happens to Yuvan’s love for Mahima? The answers for all these questions form the climax.
This is the role of the lifetime for Samuthirakani. In scenes where people beat him up and yet he remains mum keeping in mind his student’s interests; the way he carries himself throughout the film and his support for his students all make him live the role instead of merely acting it out. Every step he takes for the welfare of his students is simply great. It is not necessary to explain about Thambi Ramaiya’s acting because as usual he has given his best. He has in fact lived as Singaperumal. Yuvan, Mahima, Jr Balaiyya and others have done a good job as well and deserve appreciation. Pandi has taken care of the comedy and has done well. Other than this, it is boring to watch the other actors’ performance.
Director M Anbazhagan is a rare find. Commendable direction and sharp dialogues are his plus point. The one dialogue – Yeniyai kooraimel podatheenga… vaanathumel podunga – is enough to prove this point. Jeeva’s camera and D Imman’s music are ok.
Negatives:The over build-up that other actors give for Samuthirakani is too much to take in. Some characters just talk too much.
In total: A story that is the need of the hour. The film clearly states the plight of the government schools and what the role of the teaching community particularly is. It is, therefore, a film that must be seen by all and the director should be lauded for making such a film!