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In 2005, the gymnastics officials announced a new system of scoring wherein the difficulty of the routine and the execution are combined to deduct the final score. If this is applied to Aravaan, the film would score high on the former, given the vastness of director Vasanthabalan’s vision but points would have to be deducted for errors in execution the chief of which is the inclusion of songs in a film where there is absolutely no room for them. And therefore, Aravaan falls short of perfection and that is even more tragic than the climax of the film because it comes so desperately close.

Vasanthabalan takes his time to tell his story because he knows it has to be savored like a particularly delectable dish with big flavors. This style of narration suffuses the movie with spirit and it feels like a slice of life as the refreshing breezes of emotion and authenticity waft across every frame as we are transported to the 18th century. However, the perfection of the dish is marred by the occasional sour note.

One such sour note is the songs as mentioned earlier though Karthik has done a decent job with them. The first half of the film introduces you to the characters in the plot and draws you firmly into their lives to such an extent that you become heavily invested in their futures especially Varipuli (Aadhi) and Kampodhi (Pasupathy). The former especially is an enigma and the audience will find themselves salivating for details about his past.

The second half proceeds to deliver on the promises of the first and a gripping murder mystery begins to unravel. However, the proceedings are jarred when songs start cropping up all over the place like a rash of pimples on an otherwise comely face. And the worst part is the duets are completely unnecessary. For instance we are aware that Chinna (Aadhi) has the hots for Paechi (Dhansika) and there is no conceivable need for a song entitled “Unna Kolla Poraen” that roughly translated goes “… a simple look between us is sufficient to set off a fiery conflagration of lust that will result in the birth of ten children” (if this was the prevalent attitude in the 18th century, it is small wonder that the country is facing a population problem a few short centuries into the future.)

One wonders if Vasanthabalan watched The Lord of the Rings for surely he would have noticed that Peter Jackson refrained from showing Frodo breaking into a jig or Aragorn prancing around the scenic locales of Middle Earth with Arwen. After all such a horrendous error in judgment would have detracted from the gravitas of a serious film and undone the painstaking effort that had gone into making the Middle Earth real for the viewer. 

Though bolstered by strong performances from Aadhi, Pasupathi (a career best), Dhansika among others, the film flounders because of the songs which make a lengthy but engrossing film unwatchable in parts. For instance, the viewer is horror – struck when Chinna is chosen for a human sacrifice which is a flatulent, perverted and murderous Lord’s twisted notion of justice. It would have been fascinating to watch the heroic young man’s response to this cruel twist of fate but instead one is forced to twitch impatiently in the seat as the “Avan Thaan Aravaan” track unfolds on screen.

It sucks when perfection is promised but not delivered. It is exactly the sort of thing that causes a merciless audience to walk away from the theatre with ill feeling towards a film that deserves the respect due to a classic.

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