At times, Aravaan (U) is like Apocalypto revisited. The Mel Gibson film on the Mayan Kingdom in Mexico is about a tribesman who tries to escape human sacrifice. This Vasanthabalan creation is somewhat similar. A segment from the Sahitya Akademi Award winning work, ‘Kaaval Kottam' by Su Venkatesan, is the base of Aravaan. In fact, the dialogue is also Venkatesan's. If you close your eyes and listen to the villagers' conversation, the dialect is almost like any Madurai-based film of today. Nothing too archaic about the exchanges! Otherwise, the native culture and social practices seen in Aravaan transport you to a past so ancient that they bring to mind movies of the 10000 B.C. kind, though you are told that it is set in the 18th century.
Discrepancies and anachronisms are a part of Aravaan. While on the subject, heroine Dhanshika's Madurai Sungudi saris draw attention for their incongruity in an 18th century setting! Nevertheless, transcending hiccoughs, the period feel Aravaan offers appears for the most part authentic.
Vasanthabalan tries out different genres — Veyyil, Angaadi Theru and now Aravaan stand testimony to it. The industriousness that has gone into the making of Aravaan is commendable. And you realise that it has been a time-consuming task.
What begins as a story of thieves, their grit, wit, generosity and camaraderie transforms into a tale of woe. Two clans in the villages of Maathur and Chinnaveerampatti are eternally in conflict. And when a young man, Thogaimaan (Bharath in a special appearance), from the former village is killed, the enmity increases. Maathur's thirst for revenge is appeased only when the chieftain announces that a young man from Chinnaveerampatti should be sacrificed as punishment. And Chinnaan (Adhi) is chosen to give up his life.
After this point, the story meanders into melodrama, and culminates in a tragedy that's contrived. Till the end, the hero in Tamil cinema cannot afford to appear weak-hearted. Showing him to be so is a risk. But Vasanthabalan has dared!
A solid role for Adhi, who is working hard to gain a stronghold as hero, and the actor has literally slogged it out. Aravaan provides the right platform for him. He has used it well. Pasupathy's skills shine more in a Vasanthabalan film. Veyyil then and Aravaan now exemplify it. Dhanshika as Paechchi, the strong-willed wife of Chinnaan, is a mix of beauty and talent. And T. K. Kala's (Chinnaan's mother) spontaneity impresses. Generally, Singampuli's comedy tracks are passé, but here he tickles the funny bone now and then.
A host of special appearances adorn Aravaan. Besides Bharath, you have Anjali, Shwetha Menon and Shruti Prakash sharing screen space with the main cast.
Silhouettes in a blue background, sepia that projects the stark dryness of the land, colourful ambience juxtaposed with the darkness of night — Siddharth's sketches with the camera are laudable. And art man R. K. Vijay Murugan has worked in tandem to create sets that look genuine.
Singer Karthik debuts as composer with Aravaan. The reverberating beats in the opening scenes make you sit up with expectation. His RR shows promise, and the melody of ‘Nila Nila' (Gayathri Raghuram's choreography for it warrants special mention) and the fast-paced ‘Avan Dhaan Aravaan,' potential.
The dictum at the end of the film is confounding! Out of the blue, Aravaan raises its voice against capital punishment, as if it were an afterthought!
The ‘additional story' and the screenplay are Vasanthabalan's, says the title card. Add-ons or parts of the original, the flashbacks that zoom in and out, affect the clarity of the narration.
The first half of Aravaan is engaging, but the latter part limps.
Cast: Adhi, Pasupathy, Dhanshika
Storyline: A murder further divides two ever-quarrelling villages and spells doom for an innocent young man…
Bottomline: A story with speed breakers…