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Aruvi Review: Visual Poetry, A Kick in the Nuts, Beyond Judgement

‘Aruvi’ Review: Arun Prabhu and his team of debutantes deliver a resounding kick in society’s privates. It’s poetic!

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Aruvi Review: Visual Poetry, A Kick in the Nuts, Beyond Judgement
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Aruvi, directed by Arun Prabhu, is a social commentary that’s as much about ripping apart a popular talk show, as it is about holding a mirror to you, the audience.

It traces the life of Aruvi, a 25-year-old woman through multiple narratives and unpredictable circumstances. Tragedy, gunshots, rape, abandonment; Aruvi goes through it all. And yet, there is hope at the end, because neither the character, nor the film passes judgement. Disillusionment never felt this good!

Aruvi features a cast and crew of first timers. Except for Lakshmi Gopalswami, who’s brilliant as the host of a reality show that the movie rips apart. It is unlike any other Tamil film. Watch it, and risk holding a mirror to yourself.

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Visual Poetry in Jump Cuts

Either I’ve grown smarter since 2016, or Aruvi’s seemingly random, jumpy way of storytelling is actually more method and less madness than one might think. I am inclined to believe that Aruvi got it right.

The first ten minutes of the story, to which the movie eventually returns full circle, is an unpredictable montage that flits between the present and past, memories and fears, and a ‘Kurosawa-ian’ multi-narrative of the ‘incident’.

It was only last week that Nivin Pauly’s Richie hit the screens, in which the same Seven Samurai trope of story telling was used. And yet, Aruvi looks and feels nothing like Richie. In fact, it looks and feels nothing like any other Tamil movie, because it seems not to have a distinct style of storytelling. Surprisingly, it works.

Thanks chiefly, to the music.

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The Music is Invisible and...Indie

Often times, while I watched film, it was only ten-twenty seconds into a song, that I realised I was listening to one. There is no transition between ‘scene’ to ‘song’. In the true fashion of a storyteller by the firelight, one melts into the other.

Aruvi features music and background score by Vedanth and Bindhu Malini; both, again, debutantes.

The songs themselves follow no specific style. Anbin Kodi... would be something I might get to listen to, through sheer luck, at a concert on the Besant Nagar beach, by an unknown band. The Baby... track is an a’ Capella that tugs at the heartstrings, and then makes me chuckle as an eight-year-old’s voice breaks into a timeless Tamil rhyme. The Hope Song, which brings the film to a close, is like listening to a Kabir Bhajan in Tamil. Vedanth brings out the ektara, and his innate love for Kabir, literally and figuratively, and lets the song flow.

The background score is a different animal in itself. Actually, it’s an ecosystem. Sometimes, all you hear is percussion that times the action mathematically. At others, it’s an ukulele that raises spirits that were a moment ago wallowing in an abyss of fear and self-pity. In still others, there’s a brilliant medley of keys or a symphony. And then suddenly, all you hear are gunshots and ticking clocks.

It all sounds stretched and all over the place, I know. But this is exactly how a story would unfold, if I were to tell it, to you. And if you, were my only audience.

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Aditi and Friends Spin the Bottle

Aruvi, the titular character, is played by Aditi Balan. Like Sankarabharanam’s (1980) Sankara Shastri (played by Somayajulu), it is impossible to imagine Aditi as someone other than Aruvi. The movie could well have been adapted from a play in which she were the only character. She’s lived the character enough to carry it off by herself.

But in a truly surprising twist of circumstance, casting choices, and Arun’s directing chops, the supporting cast just kept on giving and giving. Aruvi’s father anchors her strongest childhood memories, her best friend, played by Anjali, who is a transgender, does it with an innocent style that makes her the most loveable character of all.

And then there are the three men who molested her, the IAS officer from up north, the assistant director, the light boy, the 60 year old watchman...the list goes on. And each of these characters gets their time under the spotlight. And they all shine.

And because of them all, Aruvi too grows real.

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I considered driving up to the hills beyond Tiruvannamalai, to where Aruvi lives. She must be there still, right?

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