Oct 27 2011
The last time A.R.Murugadoss and Suriya teamed up, they gave us Ghajini, a thriller that borrowed its concept from Memento. The two have come together again for 7aum Arivu and this time they have an original concept that unfolds on a bigger canvas. The storyline and the backdrop help initially but the predictable storyline and lack of excitement pull it down later.
A short prologue tell us why Bodhidharman(Suriya), a prince from the Pallava dynasty, is still revered as a God in China. The action then moves forward 1600 years to the present-day where Arvind(Suriya), a circus artist, falls in love with Subha(Shruti Haasan), a genetics engineering student. But Arvind soon learns that Subha’s interest in him is non-romantic and he is simply the human subject in her research. Meanwhile, the Chinese goverment has planned an operation to destabilize India and sends Dong Lee(Johnny Tri Nguyen), a scientist/martial arts expert, to kill Subha since her research will destroy their plan.
With its period film start, link between past and present, reliance on science and the nature of its crisis, 7aum Arivu reminds us quite a bit of Kamal’s Dasaavathaaram. But strangely, there’s another, much older Kamal film that I was also reminded of – Kalyanaraman. Thats the one where Kamal hero played twin brothers who are unaware of one another but eventually connect when one dies and ends up helping the other. Murugadoss takes this basic storyline and updates it with history, science and technology to give us 7aum Arivu.
7aum Arivu’s brief excursion to the past opens the film on a high note. Though the documentary-style intrusions feel unnecessary, the interesting central character, high drama, good action and lush landscapes give the segment an epic feel. The rest of the film, no matter how hard it tries, doesn’t live up to this start.
Murugadoss gave us utterly charming romances in Dheena and Ghajini. The one-sided nature of the Suriya-Shruti romance here prevents it from possessing the same charm but there are a few short, sweet nuggets(the scene where he offers her a lift and the one where she walks in on his dealing with a beggarwoman are a couple) hidden in their interactions. But the need to continue the romance even after the main plot takes centerstage is ill-advised and leads to completely awkward scenes like the one at the busstand that do little more than serve as a lead-in to a song sequence.
Once we know what Shruti’s research is all about, the movie becomes completely predictable right down to what will happen in the climax. Johnny Tri Nguyen makes a formidable bad guy and his power of hypnotism adds a new dimension to his villainy, introducing something new into the action sequences, even when they are over-the-top, like the one on the street. But there are no twists or surprises along the way. Though Shruti and her friends have a lot of ideas and plans, the 12-day experimentation phase feels like filler. So there are crises, chases and fights but the proceedings feel flat without any high points.
As Nguyen closes in on Suriya and Shruti, there is a moment where he realizes that his key power doesn’t work on Suriya. That is a truly effective and crowd-pleasing scene that elicits a spontaneous cheer from us. The climax should’ve done more of this but is a letdown. Partly because it is predictable, partly because the final payoff is too short and partly because of the way it is picturized, it doesn’t provide the rush that it should have.
The film’s take on genetic engineering is rather superficial but barring a few cases(Shruti’s research lab is one. What exactly would she learn from pasting Suriya’s head on the chart of a human body?!), the conversations don’t sound silly or amateurish as a good balance has been stuck between drowning the film in technical terms and dumbing it down so it can be understood by everybody. The film also veers close to being jingoistic about Tamil and its history. While the crew’s passion is evident, this doesn’t blend in too well since it is presented quite amateurishly.
Suriya fits the Bodhidharman role and has the eyes to convey both the softer and the ferocious sides of the man. In the present he is almost a supporting character for the most part as Shruti and Nguyen drive the plot forward. It is disappointing that his role as a circus artist is wasted since neither his skills nor the circus setting is employed in any manner but he is convincing executing the martial arts movies. Shruti is lucky to get such a meaty role on her debut. Her accent is a little distracting but she carries off the important scenes(like her confession to Suriya or her outburst at the conference) well. Johnny Tri Nguyen is truly a lean, mean killing machine. He proves that a simple smirk can convey menace very well and his martial arts skills make his fights really deadly.
Rise of Damo… works very well as it launches after a rather emotional and key moment. Oh Ringa Ringa… impresses with its scale and logistics as Suriya dances with a huge group of dancers in some crowded areas. Yamma Yamma… belongs to the dying breed of pathos numbers that describe love failure but the cinematography and the locations do make us sit through it without getting restless. The same cannot be said about the duets Mun Andhi… and Yellelama… though since the pedestrian picturization only emphasizes the fact that they are completely unnecessary. Both the tune and the picturization of Ennenna Seidhom… could’ve used a bit more fire. Ravi.K.Chandran’s cinematography is unobtrusive most of the time, calling attention to itself only indoors, in particular, inside the genetics lab.
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