In one of the tiny little scenes that make up this great big film, there’s an image of young Aruvi being taken to a village temple festival. We’re not shown the temple nor do we see the festival. All we need is a shot of Aruvi’s smile widening as she stares up in wonder at the fireworks and we know where she is.
Aruvi is a film you experience almost entirely through the her face. I say girl, because even when she grows up, Aruvi (played by debutant Aditi - in one of the best performances of the year) is still a girl.
Life puts her in a predicament that’s meant for the strongest of adults, but Aruvi, with her powerful eyes, remains the little child who seems to have grown up in front of our eyes. And the film is doubly devastating because of this.
- Genre: Drama
- Director: Arun Prabhu
- Cast: Aditi Balan
- Storyline: The coming of age story of a young girl, trying to survive in the big bad world
In this bildungsroman, we see the world’s efforts to snatch away her innocence, be it her family, her workplace or at a place where she seeks spiritual growth. The Aruvi (waterfall) in her name, doubles into something more (she’s taken to a waterfall as a child and later, with her first earnings, she visits another waterfall). There are efforts by the world to pollute her but all she can do is keep flowing.
Yet most of this journey is conveyed in the manner of a tragicomedy. There’s much to laugh about but these moments are like pastry-covered hammers (remember TheGrand Budapest Hotel ) hitting us hard and where it hurts.
Aruvi, tired of being held hostage by the people around her, gets her chance for revenge. There’s a role reversal of sorts and she finds the power to become the captor herself. But despite this power, what she goes on to do with it is proof of the kind of person she is.
Everything in this films works when, suddenly, takes a beeline for sentimentalism. There was pleasure in uncovering the pain until then but it feels a bit of a ‘set up’ after that. And like the waterfall, the film too is most beautiful in the middle. How the water flows is what we love to look at rather than where the stream cascades from or the turbulence below, don’t we?
Not that much can be taken away from this film. With incredible performances by a team of newcomers, it’s easily one of the best films of the year. It’s director, Arun Prabhu, and lead actress, Aditi Balan are precious finds and so is Anjali, who plays a transgender named Emily. It leaves you shaken, leaving behind images that last. Do go chasing this waterfall.