More navel than novel
Over the years, Tamil cinema has brought to us several curious genres: comedy thriller, romantic action, action drama (Komban, for instance, is listed under this category), and now, continuing this infamous trend is Aranmanai-2, which can only be categorised under the hybrid genre, masala horror. You can easily identify this genre by how the fleeting horror scenes in these films get diligently followed by terrible comedy scenes, and then, immediately by gratuitous skin-show by the actresses, before of course, night sets in, and it’s again time for the ghost to come haunting. And as Aranmanai-2 is more concerned with having its heroine sprayed with water from a hose pipe than about being a genuine horror film, there is little time for the atmosphere to be developed. The emphasis is not so much on making a horror story that is novel, than it is on fixating on the heroine’s navel. There is no sense of dread, unless of course, you take into account the palpable nervousness that hits you when you realise that the next terrible song (Hip Hop Thamizha) or the next boring comedy scene is incoming.
This is quite possible the least scary horror film I’ve seen in a long time. The ghost often sneaks up on people, and scares the wits out of them; like a schoolboy hiding behind a pillar in the corridors to startle his classmate. It is often shown in the form of a shadowy figure whose seemingly blow-dried hair is flying upwards, like Ramba’s skirt in ‘Azhagiya Laila’. The motive of the ghost is to take out the family that lives in the mansion in a village called Koviloor (how dare the ghost!); its targets include Murali (Siddharth), his girlfriend, Anita (Trisha), his father (Radha Ravi), and his brother (Subbu). But then, of course, it has to first deal with Anita’s brother and wildlife photographer, Ravi (Sundar C.), who is to Aranmanai, what Saravanan (Rajinikanth) was to Chandramukhi. He’s a wildlife photographer only so he can use a thermoscanner in one scene to try and film the ghost. In the midst of all this are the many terrible comedy scenes involving Soori and Kovai Sarala, whose acting ability is criminally wasted in a role that sees her trying to woo Soori’s character. All through the film, she’s swooning over him, trying to make him fall in love with her. She’s even tearing her blouse apart to feign rape. Why the obsession? Because she was in love with his dead father, and can’t tell the difference between them. For a Sundar C. film, Aranmanai-2 is disappointingly unfunny.
Just like in Aranmanai, almost all the women in the film are simply used to titillate. Trisha’s opening song sees her skimpily clad in a bikini, sincerely brushing aside her top every time it seems to be covering a bit too much skin. Poonam Bajwa plays a character called Omana Kutty; do I even need to elaborate? Only Hansika doesn’t really serve up glamour, but that’s because you are supposed to feel sorry for her plight. And of course, the underlying assumption is we only feel sympathy for ‘good’ women, and that a good woman must be fully clothed, and so she is in a flashback sequence that is so uninspired that it cannot have taken more than five minutes of distracted thought.
Somewhere in the film, there’s a kumbabishekam, Khushboo dancing in devotion, a walking doll, a mute priest, another priest who has cardiac problems, and Siddharth, who has next to nothing to do in his role. At the end, there’s even a song hilariously titled ‘Party with the Pei’ to which all the leading women dance in tribute, like ‘Jai Ho’ at the end of Slumdog Millionaire. I don’t blame them. If I could make a franchise out of cheap horror films, I dare say I’d be partying with the Pei too.