Sunday, June 26, 2011

Aaranya Kaandam: Pulp Perfection

What enemy C said:

I happened to watch it pink eyed. Why did I watch it bespectacled? I don’t know how to answer that. (I’m no beloved Harry either.) It was, perhaps, the itch known notoriously as incurable. To quote a quote from arguably one of the worst movies of the last decade, Bronson: Gentlemen in ladies’ attire (the quote ends), the film called Aaranya Kaandam bears no semblance whatsoever to Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, Snatch or even Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. The little semblance it bears to is The Usual Suspects. It was unusual for the film to end with the quote it ended with. I’m not quoting the quote as a review assumes it’s free of spoilers, especially for a film like this, suffices to say it profoundly remarks on the world of men.

What friend B said:

Do you know which film Inception is a rip off of? Do you know how many sources Matrix is ripped off from? I’m not telling you. I say if you didn’t know and wouldn’t care to know, stop telling people around you watch films. Tell instead, every time you went to a screening, you went to shag a donkey or something you think is more agreeable to the person you’re telling it to. Did you know Guy Ritchie rips off? Did you know Tarantino rips off? I brave to bury Ritchie here since he repeats himself shamelessly in Hollywood for absurd purposes. (I wouldn’t be surprised if he made a song-and-dance Indian film just for kicks and cash.) Tarantino, on the other hand, though he rips off (or is it “tributes”) and repeats, he does it so distinctly, with every sentence he writes, every chapter he shoots, he brings them all to life anew and afresh as though for the very first time. If you didn’t know what I’m talking about here, let me say I’m talking about gangster films or (even better) violent films. On a stronger note, these are American and British examples and you wouldn’t call these violent films violent films had you your share of exposure to world cinema and the chance to view some of those rawer European and Asian films. (Pardon my French if any.)

What friend A said:

Except for The Usual Suspects throwback down memory lane, watching Aaranya Kaandam I had local throwbacks that merit mention because they are huge and are much more valid. They are the works of Mani Ratnam and Ram Gopal Varma and the TV series Malgudi Days. The former two wouldn’t come as a surprise and though it’s sad they aren’t anymore it is sans a shadow of doubt they were great in their times, but why Malgudi Days? Well, it is because a subplot involves a father and a kid and there is an episode where the kid runs to hide something and it has a certain kind of background score by Yuvan Shankar Raja, that’s why. Maybe it’s just me. Who else grew up watching the series, raise your hands!

What enemy B said:

The film as a whole is a homage to Indian films, particularly Tamil pulp and pop culture, and it borrows from it, takes jabs at it, parodies it, and supersedes it and puts itself on a superlative platform called the best of world cinema, no less. It has no songs let alone an item song. Not to worry because it has painfully choreographed epic action. The score elevates the bloodshed (that’s equally water-shed) to a level you’d call poetic. The chase shots and the desultory score that accompanies it I cannot help but mention are deftly crafted. Thiagarajan Kumararaja, writer/director, has a very strong ear for dialogues. He takes a simple plot, adds so many subplots, and in the end makes it all work like clockwork. Most remarkably, he gives cliché a kick in the face. The plot when you thought isn’t without holes turns out they’re not holes per se, they’re more than likely flaws of characters.

What the stranger said:

Aaranya Kaandam, the title, alludes to a chapter in Kamba Ramayanam. It’s an epic retelling of Valmiki’s Ramayana penned by the 12th century poet Kambar. It consists of six chapters, the third of which, the title of the film, narrates the trials of Ram, et al. in the forest. Kambar composed the poem so beautifully the critics said even the peg in Kamban's house could sing. If anything, the film keeps the tension between ‘Ram/Sita counterparts’ to the barest minimum to the extent one can say there’s no tension at all or even say they’re not counterparts at all. Singaperumal and Pasupathy, performed respectively by Jackie Shroff and Sampath Raj to near perfection, make twice each or more beastly gestures that subtly hints at the fact these characters are all too human and they’re holding over their heads cans of worms or (better) they’re in a world of hurt or (even better) we’re in a forest. Every frame of the film is elegantly shot. It’s not about divinity, it’s not about morality, it’s not even about good and evil. It pure and simple is about story and its telling.

What enemy A said:

There’re so many things to say for the one-thousand limit and so little words left. I will live to regret it if I didn’t say a word about the character Sappai. This role that’s played by Ravi Krishna is one role he was born to play. The foreshadowing is hilariously and cleverly constructed and it’d be appropriate if you watch the trailer at least twice before you watch the film. As they say in the States, this is a film that demands more than one viewing. If you cannot catch it on the big screen, pick its DVD up when it launches. Remember Inception was for gaming kids. Well, if you were a man and liked it that’s not your fault because you were brought up anyway to like what everyone else likes. Aaranya Kaandam, though falls under another genre, is the real deal. It’s honest to devil meant for gentlemen and ladies in gentlemen’s attire. I risk a bet – the bet is that you won’t get to see a film this perfect for another decade. I’d love to see myself proven wrong. I swear am not kidding one single bit.



  1. If you feel up to blowing a grand on it, why not. Especially if you're someone who's passionate about quality films and who waits anxiously for one of them to get made, I don't think you'd regret the experience. It's purely your call. You either make it or don't.

  2. Hey, This movie has got a lot of critical acclaim, right? Should I go to theater and blow up 1000Rs on it or wait for it to come in seventymm?

  3. sudarshan varadhan Thanks for reading, pal

    ..Enemy A..

  4. sudarshan varadhan Someone tell me...where am I?

    ..The Stranger..

  5. sudarshan varadhan Like that dusky damsel who's forever etched in your memory?

    ..Friend B..


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