It's like making gory dolls and saying it's for elders, or bizarre-looking kites not meant for kids. 3D is an experience children enjoy. But making a bloody saga that is a mix of science and religious dogma, and blind faith and rational thinking in 3D format is rather incongruous. No child would find the point of the spear almost in his eye, or a black snake's dancing hood in too-close-for-comfort range or a ferocious dog pouncing on it palatable. A whodunit with a dose of the occult is rather new.

If plausible content is a prerequisite, Ambuli has its pitfalls, and if racy narration in the thriller format is the norm, this dark drama is far from it. Sombreness to a certain degree is understandable, but beyond a point, it could be a dampener, as it is in this case. The predominant tone of the film is black. Hence we seem to be groping in dim light most of the time. And close-up shots in 3D project figures only above the waist! Strangely, Ambuli doesn't make your heart skip a beat even at the most thrilling moments.

The bamboo forest outside the village of Poomaadanthipuram is haunted, believe the villagers. And proving the theory, those who pass through the place after sunset invariably get killed. But it has a scientific explanation, and it is this angle that makes Ambuli different.

Everyone knows and dreads Death that stalks the forest, but the village head's daughter is oblivious to it till it's too late! Sengodan (Parthipen) leads the vulnerable group of youngsters to the cave of death and then tries to save their lives! No explanation can make such enigmas in the storyline convincing.

Parthipen and Uma Riaz had better beware. At this rate, the former could become the staple for stereotypical characters that stomp the jungles and caves a la Aayirathil Oruvan. (Thankfully, he isn't made to repeat the heavy footwork of AO.) And after Mounaguru and Ambuli, Uma may be the first choice for a fully pregnant woman in our films! Gokul, who attracts attention with his miming skills on television, brings in genuineness to the role of Ambuli, through his animal-like movements. Otherwise the main actors make no impression. Wearing a wig in the flashback and with a bald pate in the present — besides this observation, Bosskey's role is nothing to write home about.

The film is set in 1978. Kudos to the costume department and Dhina's choreography for the opening dance number that lend an authentic touch to the era!

Directors Harishankar and Hareesh Narayanan seem to revel in juxtaposing the mystique and the logical. They did it in Orr Iravu and they do it in Ambuli. Much thought has gone into the making of Ambuli. But have they done enough to make it gripping?

It may be the first digital stereoscopic film. But for such a subject to make an impact, the production values ought to be on a much more imposing scale.

Ambuli kills, but doesn't exactly thrill.

Ambuli

Genre: Thriller/Horror

Directors: Harishankar; Hareesh Narayanan

Cast: Parthipen, Uma Riaz, Gokul, Ajay, Sanam

Storyline: People who pass through the forest on the outskirts of a village get killed. The assumptions vary from the occult to the logical.

Bottomline: Different, but not necessarily gripping

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Tamil Cinema ReviewsOctober 18, 2011