Ms. En Scene – where Ranjani Krishnakumar concedes that cinema is life. Opinions expressed are those of the contributor, and not those of the company or its employees.
I‘d had a rough week. Travel, Bharat bandh, cancelled meetings, freezing cold, back to back movie watching (and writing about them) — I’d had enough. I needed a break. I needed something that brings me back to the comforts of home. I switched on Sun Nxt and started watching Aaruthra (2018).
If you’re wondering why, you haven’t read this column. Minus 10 points to you.
Anyway, back to Aaruthra. If you’re not as enlightened about Tamil cinema as I am, you wouldn’t know that Aaruthra is a “social thriller” (says the description on SunNxt), which Pa Vijay wrote, directed and acted in. Along with him, there are also K Bhagyaraj, S A Chandrasekar and Y Gee Mahendran, among others.
The thriller part of this social thriller is debatable, and nobody’s got time for that! But the social part of this social thriller is something I want to tear into pieces, chew and spit into the toilet.
I kept telling myself that I shouldn’t. Because, good intentions.
They are all over the place. Everyone is full of good intentions. Like AR Murugadoss, for instance, has good intentions of eliminating corrupt politicians, or crony capitalism, or bringing communism or prepping Vijay for a career in politics. Or Ram, who makes films to teach us that there is a limit to how pissed we can be about abusive men. Or Vijay Chandar, who I’m sure had some intention with Sketch (2018), but I couldn’t really tell.
So, Aaruthra is also full of good intentions. Pa Vijay intends to make an awareness campaign for child sexual abuse — “Like how Strawberry (his previous film) imparted a huge relevant message, Aaruthra will also have one for the society,” he told the Deccan Chronicle. From the way he treats the film, it’s easy to understand that for Pa Vijay, Aaruthra isn’t an ordinary film.
What he makes of it is constipated horse-crap cake, over-kneaded in gowmootra, baked with broken glass chips and served on a multiple-edged sword. In a film about sexual abuse, there is gross misogyny as humour. Naan Kadavul Rajendran speaks to a woman’s waist (should I be grateful it’s not her breasts he is talking to?). Said waist is blurred out on SunNxt, every time it appears.
Bhagyaraj is apparently a womaniser — there are sleazy pan-shots of women’s bodies to demonstrate this. Rajendran is the translator of sleaze — he asks Bhagyaraj if ‘antique shop’ is ‘aunty-kku shop’ with lewd hand movements for good measure. When a police officer is introduced to Bhagyaraj and he stares at her body sleazily, Rajendran’s mind voice goes, “ivar aaya-kke vaaya polappaar. Idhu paaya madhiri nikkidhu” (loosely translated to he will drool all over an old woman, will he leave her alone). Immediately after this scene, Pa Vijay (the hero) goes around schools teaching children the difference between good touch and bad touch.
If there is one thing we must grant Pa Vijay for this film, it’s this change of tone from being objectionable soft-porn to self-righteous violence, without batting an eye lid. That requires a whole new level of consciousness, or lack thereof.
A few minutes later, there is a sequence about people throwing Pa Vijay’s underwear at each other — someone on the filmmaking team must have seen something funny in this at some point. The last person throws the underwear, which cuts to a little girl crying about being sexually abused by her tuition teacher. Our hero takes the girl back to her abuser, titillates him and then electrocutes him.
A few scenes further, investigators go to a brothel, where Rajendran makes lewd gestures at the women there — in a manner that the film treats as comedic. Yet, when children in the brothel are shown, their faces are blurred. You’d think, well, fair enough, they’re still children, and graphic depiction of child sexual abuse itself is objectionable.
You’re in for a rude shock.
Soon enough, there is a flashback, where Pa Vijay’s 15-year-old sister is brutally raped and left to die. This part of the film is most disturbing — not because of the subject matter, but because of the way it’s handled. During every scene showing child sexual abuse, there is gross voyeurism. There is a scene where the abuser is watching a video of a kiss on his phone, while the film shows us visuals of the child-victim bite her pencil and make fish face. There are scenes of the abuser touching the girl in inappropriate ways, that I could hardly tell if it’s meant to repulse or titillate. Much of this portion is made like a catalogue of how not to touch a young girl, seen through voyeuristic eyes.
There is even a minutes-long child rape scene in the film, complete with… never mind.
The thing is though, Aaruthra isn’t the only errant film. These misplaced ‘good intentions’ obliterate so much of monstrosity that goes on in Tamil cinema.
So, this year on, I stop caring for intentions. Horse-crap cakes are not acceptable.
Unmistakable. Meticulous. Predominantly an essayist. Evolved from a marketer. Ranjani Krishnakumar eats Tamil films all day and fruits for breakfast. Roosts with pair in Chennai apartment. Usually found chasing Vitamin-D. Believes “Dei” or “Pch” is the answer to all questions.