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‘Aruvam’ movie review: Wherein a male ghost shoves social messages down your throat

Siddarth and Catherine Tresa in ‘Aruvam’

Siddarth and Catherine Tresa in ‘Aruvam’   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

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Horror? Thriller? Social drama? Siddharth is wasted in a movie that is none of these

Do ghosts have a sexual orientation? Of course they do. Why then do spirits in our movies invariably identify themselves as female? What have we done to piss off the Angry Indian Goddess, hovering over narrow streets, construction sites and parking lots at night? The most successful horror-comedy last year was Stree. But how long will it take to make a male ghost headline a horror movie titled He? Why is there a lack of or zero representation of men in the horror universe? Isn’t this gender inequality?

Confession: I have always fantasised about how an ‘ideal’ male ghost would look like. Setting aside the men from Kanchana series and Suriya from Mass Engira Masilamani, I pictured him less-macho for a change. He was dressed in colourless formal attire, his shirt perfectly tucked into cream-coloured pants. His hair was neither messy nor loose, but properly groomed. To put things in perspective, he would resemble Jagannathan (Siddharth, in a role that checks all the boxes for a Hari protagonist) in the second half of Aruvam. Siddharth is a fine actor. It has been a little over a month since we last saw him in Sivappu Manjal Pachai, wherein he superbly underplayed the role of a traffic officer. There is no point asking ‘why’ Siddharth chose a dead-on-arrival like Aruvam, which, I believe, is a result of an impulsive decision.

Aruvam
  • Cast: Siddharth, Catherine Tresa, Sathish and Kabir Dulhan Singh
  • Director: Sai Sekhar
  • Storyline: Food safety officer Jagannathan’s spirit uses his girlfriend’s body as a medium to avenge his murderers

Jagan’s hyper-masculinity pales in comparison to the overt cuteness of Jyothi (Catherine Tresa). She could be argued to be the spiritual sister of Genelia D’souza from Santhosh Subramaniam, in terms of the excessive loosuponnu-ness. Jyothi is a teacher at a government school and suffers from a rare condition: the absence of the sense of smell (Google has a term for it; it’s called anosmia). Hey, but does not loosu ponnu in Tamil cinema lack any sense at all?

We first meet her during a ‘stifling’ situation outside the school’s toilet where everyone is waiting for her arrival. She is asked to find out the source of an odour, thanks to her medical condition, for which she’s called “setha mooki”. She goes inside, carries the body of a deceased dog and buries it next to the school ground. Is she a teacher, animal activist or a cemetery worker? We are confused, but we know for sure that there will always be a Tamil cinema hero who will be floored by her ‘innocence’, ‘social consciousness’, ‘purity’ or ‘stupidity’, call it whatever you want.

Enter Jagannathan, who catches her arguing with a parrot astrologer over the freedom of the bird, purportedly called ‘Suthanthira’ Devi. But you cannot reduce Jagan to a regular stalker-friendly hero here. He does stalk her a little and breaks into an imaginary song... but more importantly, asks for her consent too. I am sure he must have watched Nerkonda Paarvai recently. You know she will reject his proposal citing her condition — a cautionary reminder of movies made by Radha Mohan. You also smell a flashback that reeks melodrama, waiting to explode on screen. Where Aruvam gets interesting is in the second half, where Jagannath finally gets his character description from the director: of a food safety officer.

It is a great line to explore — about two characters who are singled out for a common trait: the sense of smell, which would be used as a weapon, stripping them of their uruvam (physical form) to aruvam (spirit). Had the director showed any bit of enthusiasm in developing even a half-engaging script, the result would have still been the same: a bad movie. Because, a) the writing is all over the place and b) the suspense is so badly handled that you need to Google ‘Best horror scenes’ in order to get over the absurdity of the Vittalacharya tricks. Aruvam is what you get as a by-product when the horror treatment given to the Kanchana franchise meets the food-adulteration-and-corporate monopoly angle of Velaikkaran, along with turning-a-medical-disorder-into-a-strength of Hichki.

In all good spirits, watch out for that breathtaking climax sequence. It is where the director commissions all five cosmic elements, in a bid to save his movie from s(t)inking.

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Printable version | Nov 22, 2019 8:43:12 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/aruvam-movie-review-wherein-a-male-ghost-shoves-social-messages-down-your-throat/article29654823.ece

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