When a film is the oeuvre of a man who has proved his raconteuring skills at national and international platforms, it is but natural that the expectation meter shoots up to stratospheric levels. Added to that when the story is from the pages of the Sahitya Academy winning novel of Su Venkatesan’s Kaaval Kottam, the product glides up several notches in the anticipation domains.
Aravaan as Vasanthabalan has been saying in all his interviews is a character from Mahabharatha, is the son of Arjuna and is a complete MAN in all aspects. Vasanthabalan has juxtaposed this quality onto a character belonging to South Tamil Nadu from 18th century.
The film opens up to an imposing and a strong Pasupathi who is on a heist mission with his fellow men on a dark night. The ensuing 10-15 minutes take you on a thrill ride and you gear up for Vasanthabalan to weave his magical baton on you.
Balan should be credited for his attempt to chronicle the lives of people of South Tamil Nadu of 18th century. The intriguing locales, his key men Aadhi and Pasupathy are the major factors that turn the tables in Aravaan’s favor. We get to learn the customs, traditions, lifestyles of these people and are convinced that Balan and his team have done their research well. The tribe called Kallar, the nitty gritty details of their thievery, their ethics, and their own methods of justice are all interesting. In the Oore Oore ditty too, Viveka comes to Balan’s aid in conveying the ethnicity of the tribe and their belief systems.
The amount of hard work that Aadhi and Pasupathy have put in for their roles not just in the physical aspect but also in the histrionics segment is palpable. Post Aravaan, Aadhi’s career graph is sure to go north. In fact, it is these two, who shoulder the entire film. Another positive force for the film is art director Vijay Murugan for bringing in front of us the habitat of a particular period.
On the flip side, Aravaan does not have a homogenous engrossing quotient. And its length (2 hours and 48 minutes) don’t contribute to this either. Some of the dialogues and body languages are so contemporary that you wonder how a director of the calibre of Vasanthabalan could have missed this. The way Aadhi says ‘romba pasikkudhu’ with a 21st century urban drawl, Archana Kavi’s dialogues to Aadhi to marry her, Dhansika’s urban body language, Singam Puli’s humor are all completely jarring to the period in which Aravaan is set. The all too obvious and sloppy CG work in the scene where Aadhi rescues Pasupathy should have been avoided.
While the first half focuses on Pasupathy’s tribe, the pre-interval block puts forth the suspense about Aadhi’s background. But the second half is filled with so many scenes which move back and forth from flash back to present that sometimes confuse the audience. The suspense factor about Bharath’s murder is well handled.
Bharath, Anjali and Shwetha Menon appear in cameo and it is sad that Dhansika fail to make an impact. An example is the scene is where Aadhi accuses Dhansika of her sexual desires. When substantial years have passed by and some of the main characters appearances have also changed, Karikalan and Dhansika remain just the same. This could have been taken care.
Singer Karthik makes his debut as music composer and his tracks are fairly serviceable. Cameraman Siddharth’s work just passes muster.
There is an end card which says that capital punishment should be banned. But if this is what Balan wanted to convey, it baffles as to why he brought in 18th century Tamils. Finally when the film draws to a close, there is something amiss that you are not able to place a finger on.
Verdict: High on detailing and effort, low on engaging.