Readers Write In #391: Daddy and Dancing Rose: A tale of two boxers

Posted on July 31, 2021


(by Adhithya KR)

Nalla aattakaaranna? Unna adicha podhuma?

Every event in Sarpatta Parambarai had been leading up to this pivotal moment in the film, the wager that would put Kabilan (played by Arya) into the ring as a professional boxer. In fact, the main conceit of the film is that Kabilan is a boxing prodigy who’s taken maybe one class in his life, and the difficult part is not in teaching him to box but to get him onto the stage.

After the underdog Kabilan beats up Raman, coach Rangan tries to set up a match between Kabilan and the reigning champion Vembuli only to be laughed off by the opposition. After a lot of back and forth, Vembuli’s friend Dancing Rose makes the following proposition: “Let Kabilan get onto the mainboard and defeat a good player. If he does that, I’ll set up his match with Vembuli myself.”

This would have been the perfect moment for Rangan and co. to leave and plan a routine fight so that Kabilan could prove his mettle and meet Vembuli in the ring. Yet, at that very moment, Daddy turns around and asks Rose what he means by a good player. “Is it enough if Kabilan defeats you?” Daddy asks Rose, sending the enemy camp into fits of laughter. But Rangan too presses on. After some more banter, it’s decided that Kabilan will fight Rose in his debut match.

It’s only later that we learn what a formidable player Rose is. Rangan even admits that Kabilan might have enough game to take on Vembuli, but that is no guarantee that he can win Rose. Why did they do things this way then? Why would they pit a greenhorn against a legend? The cinematic answer is obvious: It’s to prove that Kabilan is a force to be reckoned with, that he is the David taking on the Goliath and emerging victorious, a worthy contender in the Parambarai’s decisive match with Vembuli.

But is that all? What if the reason for the fight with Rose was… personal?

It’s obvious that Rose is a boxer unlike the others in his clan, the Idiyappa Parambarai. He values sportsmanship and a fair fight, so much that he spits out of disgust at his friend Vembuli for using cheap tactics to break his match with Kabilan. Daddy goes on to call Rose, “the only decent human being” in the Idiyappa Parambarai.

The more interesting part is that there are hints in the film that Rose has a history with the Sarpatta Parambarai. Coach Rangan directly addresses Rose at the beginning of the film when he is being mocked for losing the match. He tells him “You talk well, Rose” with a look in his eyes that indicate betrayal, as if Rose was the last guy he expected to insult him in public. This is why I think Daddy and Rangan did not set up Kabilan’s match with Rose just out of bravado. They wanted to get back at one of their own who had ditched them and now stood on the other side laughing at them.

Think about it: Kabilan was the definition of a noob in the boxing world, and there was no way he could decode Dancing Rose’s enigmatic footwork on his own. Yet Coach Rangan knew exactly what made Rose’s footwork magical and managed to teach Rangan how to counteract Rose’s manoeuvres. So effectively that it feels like… Rangan himself taught Rose his footwork.

Consider this possibility: Rose was one of Rangan’s best students. Rangan was proud of Rose’s confidence and speed. As he saw the rise of a young Vembuli on the opposition, Rangan pinned his hopes on Rose to bring Sarpatta to the top once more. But Rose was also a flashy, flamboyant young boxer who had a penchant for showmanship. He had his own plans. He knew that his charisma could draw in the crowds and make him rich. But as Rose began to grow too large for his shoes, the Sarpatta Parambarai did not feel like home anymore. Here was a coach who frowned at his own son’s theatrics after winning a match. Restraint was the virtue of Sarpatta, not showmanship. The clan was fuelled by loyalty, and Rose could not pay his mounting bills with loyalty alone. He hated being the understudy of Rangan, and wanted to make a name for himself.

Rangan found himself stranded one day when Rose, the contender he had raised to take on Vembuli, joined the opposition for money, of all things. Remember, Rose finally agreed to fight Kabilan only for money, not for honour like Sarpatta would usually demand. The “I’ll-rub-my-enemy’s-face-in-the-dirt” attitude of Coach Durai was also a perfect fit for Rose and he could show off his skills as much as he wanted. Rose retained his moral framework from training at Sarpatta, but he was primarily a showman.

When Daddy challenged Rose to a fight, Rangan saw the perfect opportunity for payback and seized on it.

But what beef did Daddy have with Rose in the first place? To answer this, we’ll have to pay attention to body language. It’s no secret that the boxers emulated the legends whom they admired. The way it’s portrayed in the film, Arya learns boxing like an Ekalavya merely observing how Rangan fights on stage and imitating his movements. Maybe some boxers imitated Durai. Others picked up their style watching Beedi Rayappan. But Dancing Rose’s style is so fluid and wavy and cool… There’s only one other character who moves that way and turns out he was a boxer too.

Yeah, it’s Daddy.

Daddy is shown to have a fondness for Kabilan’s passion for boxing. Considering that Daddy was a popular boxer, and given his eccentric body language, he was probably the Dancing Rose of his time. Imagine a starry-eyed young Rose watching Daddy prance across the ring as he casually knocked out his opponents. Daddy was to Rose what Rangan was to Kabilan. Daddy took Rose under his wing, introduced him to Rangan and took pride in his rise just as he did in Kabilan’s case. But Rose left Sarpatta Parambarai when it needed him the most, and Daddy never forgave him for that. It was all the more reason for Daddy to take to Kabilan so strongly, because Kabilan displayed the mad sense of loyalty that Rose never did.

And so, when Rose began his verbal sparring, Daddy trapped him with his own tongue and got him into the ring with Kabilan.

Watch closely after the match with Rose and you will see that even as Rangan escorts Kabilan away from the ring, Daddy is dancing like a lunatic looking at the unconscious Rose being dragged away, sealing Rose’s injury with insult. The win over Vembuli in the last match is Kabilan’s victory for Sarpatta. It’s the clan’s victory. But the win over Rose is a personal victory for a betrayed coach and an abandoned Daddy.

Quite a flight of imagination, I know, but it makes perfect sense to me.