Archu From The Archive, General, Reviews

Aruvi, A milestone in Tamil Cinema

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I watched ‘Aruvi’ last weekend, probably after the rest of the world had seen it twice. I kept hearing overwhelmingly great reviews about the movie, everywhere on the social media that I wanted to wait it out, let the praises settle down a bit, clear my head of biases and watch it without expectations. In fact, so high were the accolades that I was tempted to find fault in just any single frame so as to try playing the pseudo-intelligent critic act that many in the cyber world seem to have mastered so effortlessly. But man, was I in for a surprise!

If you have landed on my blog for an expert review, I am sorry to disappoint. I am not going to talk about the excellent performance of the actor or the genius of the director. You may have to re-search and land in one of the thousands of reviews that are already written, liked, tweeted and shared. I am here writing only about the movie and my experience watching it because somehow, the movie has gotten into my head and refuses to come out. I am drunk on Aruvi, and I love this hangover.

As the movie started, we see a small girl growing up. Ideally, I should have been going ‘Aaaaaaw’ about the cutesy scenes, but instead, something else happens to me. I find myself connecting with the little girl growing up in the 1990s. Is it the Sakthimaan on a CRT TV or the audio cassette or tattling about her brother or the Diwali delicacies? Whatever it was, the magic was already unleashed, and I was hooked. Then came the teen school girl who made me do two things simultaneously. Watch her on the screen and watch me in flashback. If my guess is right, I am sure any 90s kid who watched the movie would have shared the same experience. That was the first of the many wonderful things that the movie did. Draw the audience into it, hypnotize and make us believe that we were watching ourselves.

Just as I was settling for a feel-good drama and re-live my happy days, the twist in the movie hit me hard. I assumed what everyone else assumed was the reason for our leading lady, Aruvi, becoming an outcast. That was not to be. I jolted at how seasoned an audience I had become and how deep the society’s code of conduct was ingrained in me to make me assume so. When the real reason was revealed, it was revealed just like that, without any sudden close-ups or jarring music or exaggerated expressions. Yet, the revelation makes her perpetrators squirm in fear and made me wonder whether I should feel sorry for her or congratulate her for delivering the perfect punishment. I would rather say that her perpetrators brought it to themselves and she let it be. She goes with the flow, like a stream, living up to her name. She does not seek revenge. She wants apology. Interesting!

As the movie goes, it makes me react to its every character, but the reaction itself is not the usual one. For an intense subject, the movie is not morose but completely entertaining. It takes stealth jabs at the society but makes the same society laugh at itself, nodding in amusement. The messages are not told, but we get them. Lately, we have had a couple of movies with female leads, most of them on women-centric themes. This one has a female lead who is neither bold and strong and shatters the world nor sad and pitiful and cries about her plight. She is one of us.

Aruvi is a normal girl until an accident changes her life. She has not planned anything. She just copes. She has been transformed because of society’s insensitivity. It could easily have been any of us. And every time we are unkind to anyone or hurt anyone with our words or actions, we should remember, that this situation or an equally bad situation could still happen to any of us any day. I like that Aruvi refuses to judge herself based on what others think of her or say to her. She is confident of who she is, and her illness doesn’t take away her child-like mischief. She holds a gun in her hands and a slight smile on her lips. While the people at the pointed end of the gun are shaking with fear, all she is doing is plain fresher ragging. Her fearlessness comes from having nothing to lose, and her critical condition strengthens her desire to live. A film that feels so close to us to think of it as normal happens to be so extraordinary. Brilliant! There are very few movies that have made tears roll down my eyes. After Ishaan from Taare Zameen Par, Aruvi made me cry.

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