Jan 04 2018

Aruvi

Published by at 10:21 pm under Review,Tamil Cinema

aruvi

When we first meet Aruvi(perfectly cast Aditi Balan, whose girl-next-door looks reminds one of Anjali in her first few movies), she is called a terrorist and is being questioned by a policeman(Mohammad Ali Baig). The film is the story of the tumultuous life that led her here. But it is a lot more than that as, through her journey, it touches upon topics and subjects as diverse as sexual assault, television reality shows and the stigma against AIDS and transgenders. First-time director Arun Prabu Purushothaman never buckles under the pressure of taking on so many heavy subjects and handles everything masterfully, delivering a film that is part-drama, part-thriller and part-comedy. The result is a film that is at times suspenseful, at times hilarious and at times touching but always unpredictable and involving.

In the current atmosphere of heightened openness and awareness about rape and sexual assault, Aruvi’s character comes across as quite shocking. A victim of multiple rapes, she does expose and humiliate the men responsible for them on a public platform. But at the same time, revenge is not her only motive. Exposing them is only the means to an end. It gives her a platform where she denounces the materialistic nature of society(in a marvelous monologue) and its effect on her life. Once she achieves this, she actually shows compassion to the men by revealing information that puts their mind at ease(something that others didn’t for selfish reasons) and later, participates in group games with them. But the movie or her character never come across as being regressive. Because of her situation, we understand her need for closure and the reason behind her compassion, even to those who don’t seem to deserve it.

In line with Aruvi’s characterization is the film’s attempt to show that there are multiple sides to everybody. Nowhere is this more evident than in one of the men who took advantage of Aruvi. He has raped her in the past and proves to be the most volatile among the men as he physically assaults her too. But he is momentarily humanized with a very touching story about his a woman from his past. The same happens with many of the characters as we get glimpses of humanity that change the image we had of them until then.

Aruvi’s story starts off at the very beginning as we see her as a baby cared for by loving parents and eventually a baby brother, with the loveable Kukkotti Kunnaatti… song. We see different stages of her younger life and the montage of shots here are natural and make us smile. As Aruvi grows older, the realistic feel continues in her characterization. Films tend to show their protagonists as saints since we are expected to side with them and root for them. But Aruvi here is sometimes snarky and even downright mean(like the time another girl asks for a sanitary napkin).

Aruvi’s life starts to go astray when her parents kick her out of the house. The director employs some enjoyable misdirection here as he dupes us into believing a particular, somewhat cliched scenario that led to Aruvi’s parents’ unhappiness with her. The length of time for which we are misled – even though there are questions raised by the parents’ extreme reaction and Aruvi’s physical appearance – points to the director’s skill in presenting the events. This is partly because of the interesting characters Aruvi meets. Her friends Jenny and Emily, a transgender, are worlds apart but provide her support when she most needs it. Emily(her first rant about a friend searching for a green undergarment is hilarious because of its rawness) in particular is a pillar of strength for Aruvi and aside from Aruvi, ends up being the film’s strongest and most enduring character.

The platform that Aruvi chooses to tell her problems is a television show Solvadhellam Sathiyam, a thinly-veiled jab at a popular television show. The format is mercilessly skewered with shots at many people associated with the show, like the ratings-obsessed director and the vain host. Reality shows have always been easy targets for satires but the focus here is always on Aruvi as she reveals a shocking secret and exposes three men who took advantage of her. The revelation is a telling expose of the different ways in which men prey on vulnerable women and treats sexual assault with seriousness – a rarity in Tamil cinema where rape is usually used in exploitative fashion to titillate or place the heroine in a damsel in distress situation so the hero can swoop in and save her.

While Aruvi’s explosive revelations take place on the show, her subsequent action causes the scene to shift to the studio itself as Aruvi begins to hold court with the team behind the show.  As Aruvi makes the members act out different things, the proceedings turn hilarious here. A skit on an extra marital affair takes the cake for the funniest bit but there are a number of smaller gems = the camera man’s call to start the shot, a potshot at Vijay’s films, the light boy’s enthusiasm to put down others – that keep the laughs coming.

From such hilarity, the film takes another sharp turn with some touching moments after Aruvi leaves the studio. For a film that relied on subtlety so far, the climax is brought about in a somewhat amateurish manner as a screenplay that was narrated before plays out in exactly the same way. But the effectiveness of the scene makes us overlook it.

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Aruvi”

  1. PRAKASH RAO says:

    Guess you really liked this one. Review romba rasichu ezhudina madhiri irukku :) Longer than usual too, at least recent reviews.

    Great to see directors and actors come out of nowhere with different stories & handling.

  2. Jordan says:

    I’m ashamed I didn’t make time to watch this at theatres, only Velaikaran is running here in Toronto. I’m glad the media and critics are presenting this movie as a content-driven drama, than a “woman-oriented” film, which sometimes has an odd twitch to it. Films like this seem to tell more than that.