Sunday January 24, 2010

Aayirathil Oruvan (Director: Selvaraghavan)

Posted by Karthik

Let me say this right away – Aayirathil Oruvan is the most disappointing Tamil film I’ve ever seen.

Behind that massive disappointment lies expectations, no doubt, but Selvarghavan has himself to blame for that too – not my expectations alone.

First, the man took 2+ years to conceptualize and make this film. Second, it was promoted as something completely fresh and new in Tamil film history.

Yes, it is new. Incredibly new, I agree, to Tamil films. But, as many reviewers before me (I’m not a reviewer, just sharing some opinions) have complained, when did good intentions become the new yardstick for good movie making?

The first half of the film, that everybody says is the only redeeming feature, is devoid of sense, coherence and any meaning. It seems almost like a badly assembled patch work of escapades from assorted juvenilia that Selvarghavan may have cooked up when he was a teenager.

I have serious, serious problems right from the voice-over that starts the film – I’m not sure who’s voice it is, but that person’s Tamil is cringingly bad, in pronunciation. For a film that attempts to refer Chola history, that…is a mighty bad start.

Next, Andrea. The less said, the better – I know. But here’s a lady who embodies the Prathap Pothen school of Tamil and surprise, surprise, she plays his daughter in the film. Her Tamil diction, if its her own or borrowed, is horrendously bad. For an archeologist, I concur that language proficiency is not a prerequisite, but given her dad’s interest in Cholan history, I was wondering if he had passed on some of that interest when she was young that she would have picked up better diction before she fought with him.

Karthi! He was very good in Paruthiveeran, but it’s sad that he is exactly in the same dirty shorts that he wore as he died in his debut film’s last scene, in his introduction in this film. All that MGR-claptrap seems completely misplaced and forced. He gets beaten by almost everyone, including the women. For that alone, he deserves kudos. Aah, and also to have left the ‘hero’ tag to Reema Sen.

But Reema’s role alone is inventive – not her acting. She goes through the exact same motions that she did in Vallavan…the exact same expressions. Her manic scenes with Parthiban are better choreographed than enacted.

The 2nd half of the film is when I would break conventions and not ask, ‘What was Selvarghavan smoking?’. I’d rather ask, ‘Why was he not smoking?’.

This is the portion that displays some semblance of the ambitious nature of his pursuit in this film and he goofs it off by random, poorly researched material that I feel like smacking the man where it hurts the most.

No, I’m not getting into logical questions – survival over 1,000+ years, cannibalism, magic etc. I’ve seen enough films and I completely subscribe to the ‘suspension of disbelief’ material. But the director needs to invest in that phrase in true spirit. Here, he goofs, big time.

A Gladiator-styled entertainment spectacle with poor graphics; a double-hero style drunken dancing sequence, where a 1,000+ year old Chola king dances in true kuthu-paattu style, as our hero, in his possessed state joins in; extended, pointless sequence after sequence that show a seething, deranged Pandiyan-clan woman seeking erotic services and revenge from the Chola king…sweet heavens, why was Selva not smoking when he should have, the most?

The present-day Pandiyans act like a sophisticated military organization with GPS, to track the location of a call and land in military style, to annihilate the remaining, caveman-style Cholas. And that 300-inspired battle sequence…sigh!

I agree that many of these sequences look gorgeous visually and even occasionally evoke the grandeur that Selvarghavan seems to have intended, but they are so poorly connected that they seem to be in the film merely to look gorgeous.

The ‘highpoint’ of it all was Parthiban’s ‘Linga darisanam’ quip – candid and brilliant!

The point is this. I did not completely understand or appreciate Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon either. That one too had a generous (Chinese) historical backdrop, had people flying over forests and well, scaling walls like spiderman. But all that had an innate grace and flow that made the experience coherent. Oscar-worthy? Too late to pass opinion on that.

Aayirathil Oruvan has ambition, scale and good intentions. Only that, nothing else. There is zero-grace, except the waist-movements of the two leading ladies for a drunken-stupor song and dance sequence that arrives totally unwarranted. The whole package is one massive, tackily-assembled (oh, those monstrously bad graphics!) mish-mash, that, as a Tamil cinema enthusiast, I’m incredibly disappointed at the opportunity wasted.

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