Banyan blah


If there’s a lesson you take away from watching Aalamaram , it’s that you must not let promotional material mislead you. The poster, for instance, has the title in menacing red font with a bare banyan tree in the background, leading you to imagine that you are in for a horror film. The opening sequence confirms this with an exorcism scene, following which the ghost occupies a banyan tree. The priest coercing the ghost to leave the possessed body goes much like a conversation between two diplomats.

Ghost: “I’d like to move to that dilapidated building.”

Priest: “Sorry, we are planning a temple there.”

Ghost: “I’ll occupy the banyan tree then.”

Priest: “All right, that sounds fine.”

They may as well be shaking hands and exchanging visiting cards. And then the film moves to the love story between Karthik (Hemanth Kumar) and Malarkodi (Avanthika Mohan), which gains steam after the former writes his phone number on a cow. It seems love is not just divine but also bovine. Most of their scenes have them running around the banyan tree and laughing at jokes not shared with us. When we are eventually made privy to one that has them in splits (Malar: “Where were you? I was anxiously looking for you!” Karthik: “I’d just gone to relieve myself!”), we are thankful the makers kept the other jokes from us. There are two separate and unoriginal comedy tracks that remind us of scenes from Dhool , where Vivek’s romantic interest in Reemma Sen was exploited by Mayilsamy to make money. There is also a failed attempt at a cheap scare when Malar is alarmed at somebody’s hand on her shoulder from behind. The slow pace of the scene only leaves you fighting an urge to laugh. Meanwhile, the love story faces predictable problems, and there’s even time for a twist at the end.

The music is needlessly epic for even mundane scenes. Buh-bang! A cow walks the road. Buh-bang! A cycle passes by. You get the idea. A long shot of the village, coupled with a grand background score, makes you wonder if a tsunami is approaching. Nothing significant ever happens to justify the music. Aalamaram never lives up to its promotion as a horror film. Are the makers trying to take advantage of ghost stories doing well at the box office ( Yaamirukka Bayamey , Aranmanai )?

In fact, when the film ends, you wonder why you were even introduced to this ghost or shown a scene in the beginning that has the tree gobbling up a hapless goat. Despite so many events in the film occurring right under the nose of the ghost-infested tree, it remains completely unconcerned. This is either the most indolent ghost in all of Tamil cinema or the most indifferent. You can’t but have similar sentiments about the film’s writing too. The truly chilling moment arrives at the very end when there’s the hint of a sequel.

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