This is probably the most favourable review I’ve ever given a film. Aaranya Kaandam (very interestingly named ‘Jungle Chapter’ with intriguing references to the Ramayana) is the collection of occurrences in a single day in the life of several people.
The introduction of each of these characters sets the tone and pace of the film. The first scene is (attempted) rape. It introduces Singa Perumal, played incredibly well by Jackie Shroff as an impotent gangster. His team is a bunch of youngsters drinking and discussing how to ‘impress’ aunties. There is sappai (Ravi Krishna has come a long way from 7G Rainbow Colony) who is the young man who runs errands for these people and is seen as harmless, by all means.
Pasupathy (the ‘hero’ of the film, Sampath) is a rebel seeking risk. One morning, Pasupathy angers Singa Perumal and there begins the story! The film is showered with drunken men, rooster fights, improper policemen, run and chase, cheating women, Mario Bros, blood and gore. The only good thing is that they are all weaved in so beautifully to make sense collectively.
There are multiple stories pulling the film in multiple directions tied together only by the drug that is being smuggled. These crisply edited stories are also arranged in a way to give an illusion of a seamless flow. The scenes that you expect to be short and quick are in slow motion and the ones you expect to last longer are cut sharp, forming a constant conflict with the viewer’s power to predict what’ll happen next. The chase sequence is a classic example. When you see Sampath running for his life, you are seeing him run in slow motion even uttering the film’s best dialogues. But in the end, when he falls down and hurts his face, the scene is cut to end abruptly.
The film most definitely has traces of Spanish-ness (you are welcome to argue with me!). I don’t know if it is the references to the underworld like in City of God (Okay. I know City of God was Brazilian) or the Amores Perros kind of a feel. The promotional material also has some uncanny similarities (or may be not)!
But Yuvan Shankar Raja’s music certainly adds to the Spanish feel. The tunes, though most of them leave you wondering where you’d heard them before, compliment the film’s narrative in a way that no other Tamil film music has. Loud in some places and subtle in others, Yuvan has taken the film to a whole new level.
Thiagarajan Kumararaja (whose claim to fame apparently is that he is from Loyola college) has brought out some of the best performances we have ever seen. Though Singa Perumal is the more animated one with distinctive mannerisms, he has the best scenes in the film. He attempts rape, walks in the nude and brushes his teeth (while also talking) on screen, he is a welcome entry to Tamil cinema.
Pasupathy, clad in Lee jeans and torn shirt, is the centre of attraction. He runs, fights, kills, forgives and even romances his wife like a (stereotypical) hero. He is up for anything, loves his wife, has great reflexes, thinks on his feet, is chivalrous, gambles and cheats. At the end of it all, he emerges the winner. It’s Pasupathy all the way.
Sappai, Subbu, Gajendran, Gajapathy, that drunken man, his little boy and every single character in the film has been carved so magically. What brings all of this together to make a great film is the screenplay. It is evident that every scene has taken immense effort (and/or talent) to write. There are no loose ends or meaninglessly added songs or dialogues or people. Every time you settle down in your seat, the film surprises you. Every time you think you know what’s next, you are proven wrong. Every time you trust a character to do something, they deceive you.
I don’t want to add the clichéd talk about Aaranya Kaandam being Tamil’s new-age cinema. But I can’t resist saying this is a welcome trend. This is the Tamil cinema I am proud of!
“The best thing about being a woman is that it’s a man’s world.”