As I always been saying, unlike Hollywood and international movies, it’s rarity for a Tamil movie to be based on a literary work. The making, production and acting becomes difficult when it’s a period movie. Did Vasanta Balan pull it off is a question that’s reeling in my mind for the past one week? I have to get convinced about a movie before writing a review. And it took me almost a week, before I sat down to keyboard this review.
Aravaan is based on an episode in Kaaval Kottam, the Sahitya Academy Award winning novel written by Su.Venkatesan. The novel depicts the life of Tamils in different time periods. (Disclaimer: I am yet to read the novel. I bought it in this year’s book fair. So my review can’t talk about the comparison between the novel and the movie) Aravaan is a story about two sects of people in 18th century who either live on theft or protection. Koombuthi (Pasupathy), the master of thievery in his village meets Varipuli (Aadhi) in one of his pursuits and brings him to his village to join their band. In one of their pursuits together, Varipuli saves Koombuthi but Koombuthi starts doubting about the past of Varipuli because of the incident that accompanies his rescue. Varipuli’s past is explained in a flashback where he is supposed to be given as a human offering in exchange to the death of a guy in another village. He has to be in exile for 10 years to escape from the death sentence. Whether he is saved in the struggle between villages is said in a languid pace?
The best part of Aravaan is the sheer extravaganza that strikes you at the outset. The vivid landscapes, meticulous work with the settings and costumes, minute detailing in the making and the authenticity blow you away. Kudos to the trio of Vijay Murugan, Siddharth and S Rajendran who did the Art Direction, Cinematography and Costumes respectively. I wished the same meticulousness went in to the scripting of the movie. The snail pace narration although needed totally disconnects you from the second half. The screenplay throws more characters in the last 20 minutes than the first 2 hours, which is not quite easy for the audience to gauge given the complexity of the storyline.
The casting except the trio of Pasupathy, Aadhi and Karikalan (magnificent comeback) seems to be heavily misplaced. The two ladies doesn’t have much to offer and Vijay Chandran as the Palayakaran doesn’t match the grandeur the character needs (Kabir Bedi was initially cast for the role). Songs are the biggest speed breaks for the movie and Karthik didn’t sound interesting in background score too.
Aravaan had the premise and ingredients of a classic. In fact, the initial scenes of Pasupathi doing the theft is smartly shot and makes you sit up with awe but later the director lets you down with his lack of intent. Aadhi’s character seems to be contrived and you don’t get the sympathy that the director expects. Somewhere the execution has failed miserably. The movie lacks the nuance and hard hitting reality that has been Vasanthabalan’s strength in Veyil and Angadi Theru. When you come out of the theatre, you feel that there’s something missing in the movie and Vasanthabalan leaves you with a void rather than a sense of fulfillment.
A 2.5 for the attempt and the wonderful technical team of Aravaan
1. Aravaan is the character in Mahabaratha, who is given as sacrifice for the victory of Paandavas.
2. Kaaval Kottam is the debut novel of Su.Venkatesan