December 6, 2013

Aarambam movie review

No actor in the Tamil film industry has been able to get away with playing an irreverent anti-hero as much as Ajith Kumar. Every single time his career graph has a wild dip, the actor has relied on morally repugnant characters to see him through. In recent times, he appeared to take this ‘evil’ stylish man to a different level. In the last five years, he has done film such as Billa, Mankatha and Billa II which helped him consolidate his position as the only mass hero who can pull off such a role while still being popular amongst his fans.

Here is a question: why was Mankatha, despite it being a half-baked heist film that shamelessly borrowed from several Hollywood films, celebrated by many with some even calling it different? It was because Ajith did something that few heroes in South India dared to do: play a full-fledged anti-hero with deeply questionable morals. Right from start to finish, Ajith played a scheming, inconsiderate, evil and an immoral cop. That is why Mankatha was lapped up. It was different. Billa II was also similar in this regard. Unfortunately, it was a bad, bad film. Many including filmmakers and critics, I think, have misread the whole ‘style’ thing. The audience didn’t like the style in isolation: the cool hairdo, the shades and the slo-mo walk works only when Ajith is a bad-ass onscreen. Arrambam was mostly boring because it tries to exploit the popular ‘style’ developed by Ajith to portray cold, badass characters while Ashok himself (the character played by Ajith) is a ‘Good honest cop’ who is grieving. There is a contradiction.

Arrambam reinstates the convention that Ajith broke it himself. He suddenly became the hero who can do no wrong. While Ashok is shown as being ruthless in the film, who even goes to the extent of threatening to steam press an infant, he is, actually, an honest police officer who takes ‘protecting people’ and ‘exposing corrupt politicians’ seriously. Despite the fact that he is blowing up malls in public places, endangering the lives of innocent civilians, he remains incorruptible by all of it. Despite willingly planting bombs and terrorizing people, Ashok’s ‘soul’ is intact. How I do not know. It is as if he is the reincarnation of Buddha! He is The Dark Knight’s ‘Bane’ with good intentions. Ashok is different from Billa and Vinayak. You can’t apply the same style for every character that you play. The primary job of an actor is to communicate the emotions of the character (in this case an honest, grieving and a crusading cop) even without speaking. I think nobody, including the filmmaker and the actor, understood this.

No stunt-show

I don’t want to talk much about the plot itself, which I thought was shamelessly lifted from Hollywood films such as Swordfish and Mission Impossible 4. However, I think the ‘action’ choreography needs to be talked about. A movie is a not a place to showcase stunts. We have stunt shows for that. A movie requires drama. You can rope in a terrific action choreographer, but if you fail to build the tension and ramp up the drama, even if you blow up the White House, it wouldn’t help. Consider this scene: While Ajith knocks the manager of a bank in Dubai unconscious in order to manipulate the villain’s daughter and steal the money, Arya quietly slips into the server room and hacks into the bank’s network. As the duo wait for the villain’s daughter to arrive so that they can put their plan into action, Ajith gets a call from the girl asking him to come to over to her place. Now, is this a problem? Does the audience know whether the girl knows? Does the girl know about Ashok? Does Ashok know that the girl knows? Is the plan working out or going kaput? What is at stake for both the girl and the hero? Is Arya safe? How long can Arya stay inside the server room without raising any suspicion?

These are some of the relevant information that the audience needs to be given. Instead the director cuts to Ajith who is seen speeding away in a Ducati bike. This is an absurd shot which adds nothing to the film without relevant information. The filmmaker lost me right there.

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