The name Aravaan is closely associated with two things “Nara bali” (Human Sacrifice) and “Aravaanis” (Transgenders). When I heard that a Tamil movie has been released with this name, I somehow felt that it would touch upon one of these and decided it was wise to stay away from the movie at any cost. As fate would have it, I had some colleagues who chose this movie for a team outing and booked the tickets for a night show at Escape. I put my worst fears behind and decided to take on the challenge. After all, the movie had good reviews in leading dailies and a score of 46 in Ananda Vikatan and the story was based on a Sahitya Academy award winning novel. We ended up in Escape a few minutes just past 10 pm on a Wednesday to join a packed audience who were waiting to see a different attempt at portraying an 18th Century gang of robbers.
The movie started off with a gang of thieves headed by Pasupathi plotting and executing a robbery. There was absolutely no hint of my premonitions and the movie seemed like one about robbers. A movie about robbers can be made interesting in several ways. It can focus on different kinds of interesting robberies which give an idea of the kind of techniques people used to plot robberies in olden days. Or it can be a story focusing on robbers with a lot of drama, maybe even something on the lines of Robinhood stories. Aravaan sadly does neither.
The first 10 mins is a promising start, which shows a robbery happening, with flashback scenes interspersed, showing the way it was plotted using Pasupathi’s sister, who enters the house during the day as an astrologer and leaves signs on the wall for the gang who would come later in the night. The gang then returns home with their booty and for the next 10 mins every sentence starts and ends with people saying “Karuppa” (Karuppa is their god). I thought Karuppu saami is a kaaval deivam, was surprised to see robbers worshipping him. That aside, there must have been atleast 1000 Karuppas said in those 10 mins.
Then it is time for introducing the hero. Aadhi who calls himself “Varipuli” is a thief who uses the name of Vembur to get clues before a robbery and Pasupathi vows to find him and the necklace he has stolen from some queen to save the name of Vembur and get hundred or thousand bags of rice in return. After a very dull few minutes of chasing he finds him and they become friends and Pasupathi thinks Aadhi would the “Most valuable Player” in the Vembur gang. He convinces his people and gets him in and they do a few robberies together. There still seems to be time left for the interval though the milestone of 10000 Karuppas has been reached. Then they go to the prestigious Kottaiyur which is a walled town and is well guarded. While escaping from this place Pasupathi gets caught while the rest of the gang escapes. The hero refuses to go without Pasupathi and he comes back with a 1000 bulls thanks to some cheap graphics and saves Pasupathi. An then there is the much awaited twist, one of the guards recognizes Aadhi and calls him Chinna and not Varipuli. After a few scenes, Pasupathy is caught alone in a bull fight and is wounded and the prestige of Vembur is at stake and only someone from Vembur can set it right. Who else than the hero, who jumps in the ring and announces his Vembur lineage? It turns out that his mother is from Vembur. The bull is tamed and Village saved. Then suddenly a gang comes and attacks the hero and takes him away. Finally the lights are back and it is Interval time.
I have heard people say that you should never ever tell others your worst fears as they will come back to haunt you. After the interval they do in Aravaan and it indeed turns out to be a movie on human sacrifice. Post interval there are series of flashbacks within flashbacks which go into an unending loop. A short note on the screen indicating flashback 1, flashback 2 or some colour coding would have really helped.
Chinna it turns out was identified for Bali (Sacrifice) in lieu of a youth from a nearby village (Bharath) who was killed mysteriously in his village. Chinna finds out that the murderer was the king who had done it because of the illegal relationship his second wife had had with Bharath. There is another person who does a cameo and wastes screen space, Anjali who comes as a gypsy who Bharath follows to Chinna’s village. On the day of sacrifice, Chinna chases the king and falls from a hill and hurts his leg while the king dies and in the mean time someone else is sacrificed. It turns out that Chinna has been hiding ever since for the last 9 years as he will be forgiven if he goes back to the village after 10 years. But fate would have it otherwise and he is taken to his village where he ends up sacrificing himself. Vasanthabalan then comes up with this lovely message card saying human sacrifice continues till date but is now called death sentence and asks for abolishment of death sentence. What a message!
By the way there was also a love story in between. Aadhi and Dhansika exchange a few glances and the viewer finds them singing a duet song “Nila Nila Poguthu”. It then turns out that their love is so deep that the heroine is adamant that they she will marry only Aadhi though his end is known. Karthik’s music is good and 2 songs are impressive. The locations chosen are very good and the Camera man has done a very good job.
Aravaan is a movie on human sacrifice indeed as the name suggests but in an attempt to do something different the director has compromised on story and ends up sacrificing the reputation built through movies like “Veyyil” and “Angadi Theru”. For going against my instincts I ended up sacrificing my sleep on a week day. If there is one major thing that the movie lacks it is depth. The lack of depth is so much that after witnessing a climax scene where the hero cuts his head off with an axe, you feel relieved that the movie has ended. Aravaan is a major disappointment!