Vasanthabalan’s had a winning streak, making socially conscious films with ‘Veyyil’ and ‘Angaadi Theru’. His films have helped us take note of the little people around us, that we’re too busy to observe. When he chose a literary hit, to re-imagine, you can’t help but get your hope high. Some’re calling it a masterfully crafted historical whodunit; then some swear Aravaan is a sheer waste of your time and money. As with most serious reviews, the dart lies somewhere between the bull’s eye and edges of the target.

Sitting through Aravaan, I was already in love with the movie, I just wanted it to deserve my affection. Aravaan could have been a gripping thriller, winning us over without gimmicks or distractions. Each frame reeks of research and time well-invested on learning a period (18th century in Southern Tamil Nadu) our forefathers left largely undocumented. I’m not sure if it measured up. Left the movie, blaming Vasanthabalan for what a great achievement Aravaan could have been.

That is not to suggest that Aravaan is a waste of your time or money, but it isn’t a masterfully crafted historical either. Peppered with suspense and awe-inspiring Art Direction (and Production Design), Aravaan reveals loads of sweat and planning from the Cast and Crew. However, between those highs are long stretches where Vasanthabalan loses his grip and you’re left with enough time to shoot holes at what’s going on, in the screen. Vasanthabalan’s interpretation of Su. Venkatesan’s ‘Kaaval Kottam’ is a valiant crack at a period flick on a shoe string.

Action sequences, bordering on buffoonery, instead of adding to the authenticity of feel of the movie, slacken the flow and take away your emotional investment in the story. Karthik’s my favorite singer, so I will skip a discussion on his Music Direction. I wish Siddarth had used his fish-eye lens less frequently. Where the movie is a tad short in these, the Art and Costume departments more than make-up. The palatial houses, their lay out to accommodate everyone from the Master to the last servant within its confines, the walls that keep the Merchant’s fiefdom, down to the safe, have been set to uncompromising standards.

Aathi looks fit and cut for the role of Varipuli. Pasupathi’s natural acting is tinkered unnecessarily, in most places. Dhaniska needn’t have bothered with anything. The movie could have been in a better place without her. Her acting wooden, appearance and voice totally out of place. Seated on a pivotal role, she only manages to alienate whatever feelings of pity we’re supposed to feel for her. When push comes to shove, you’re doing the opposite of rooting to see her united with Chinnan. Vasanthabalan decides to make his movie a bit more grandiose by inserting Bharath and Anjali into the proceedings, but they cause little flutter.

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