Sometimes, you end up in theatres next to a couple that just won’t shut up. For the first 10-15 minutes of Aaranyam, the chatter of one such couple was driving me crazy. A little after the interval though, when it had become amply clear that Aaranyam was pretty hopeless, I wished I had come with somebody too. I’d have given anything to be distracted, to get some relief from the mind-numbing boredom that the film was inflicting.
In low-budget anonymous films like this, you don’t really expect technical finesse. So, you’re happy to forgive that the film looks worse than most Tamil tele-serials. You don’t really expect terrific actors. So, you don’t really get bothered when some of the acting makes you feel like you could probably have given films a shot and done well as an actor. But what when the story is so dated, dreadful and predictable? The villain’s (Inspector Dhuraipandi) motivation to try and kill the hero, Arvind (Ram), is that he doesn’t like ‘love’. Seriously. The concept ticks him off so much that he arrests random lovers and imprisons them with false charges. As he tells his daughter, Divya (Neeraja), who Arvind is in love with, “Naanga kashta pattu valappom. Neenga love pannuvinga!” And you thought we were past the dark ages of villains being made out of angry parents who are against ‘love’. At a time when producers are distraught at being unable to release their films, it’s a pity that somehow, Aaranyam has made it through the cracks and to the screens.
It portrays women as weaklings who need to be protected. And worse, money-grabbers. Divya, almost proudly, says that women could make men spend money even on Mars. Oh, and be ready to see people change characters abruptly. Arvind, shown to be a pretty ruthless robber, suddenly, randomly, gives away a lump sum to a family affected by dowry problems. The very reason he goes to their house in the first place is to steal their jewellery. Divya, who’s watching this from a distance, falls in love with him immediately after this gesture. When her friend stops her from meeting him alone, she says, “Avan thiruttu paiyan. Rape laam panna maataan.” A small part of me died somewhere. Their romance is so fake that it seems like China had something to do with it.
The comedy tracks are among the most unfunny you’ll ever have the displeasure of experiencing. There’s a bit about a forest ranger being violently kissed in the mouth by… a bear. Yes, you read it right. A big, burly, god-damned bear! And you are expected to laugh at it because the forest ranger’s lips are bleeding from the encounter. Somebody somewhere must have been smoking some really good stuff to be able to write scenes like this.
Around that time, I had become so thoroughly desensitised that even a disturbingly extended shot of the hero wearing a vest, with his extraordinarily long armpit hair flowing out, didn’t bother me as much as it should have. It’s the sort of film that makes the Amma films seem thoroughly entertaining. Consider yourself warned.