We have seen in multiple carbon copy films in this genre. Even still, it’s astonishing how little Aranmanai 3 seems to care about being novel.
The truth is, they are not even trying anymore. I speak not just about this franchise but about the horror-comedy genre in general. In all of Aranmanai 3, I doubt there’s a single new idea, a single genuine moment of storytelling that occurs organically. Having endured the previous Aranmanai films, you know what to expect, in a sense. A haunted mansion. A bunch of characters running about, as the ghost plays peekaboo with them. A flashback designed to manipulate you into caring for the ghost. Some sneaky objectification of the heroine, a couple of double entendres… And towards the end, a prayer to god that solves all problems. It’s what we have seen in multiple carbon copy films in this genre. Even still, it’s astonishing how little Aranmanai 3 seems to care about being novel.
Director: Sundar C
Cast: Arya, Sundar C, Raashii Khanna, Sampath, Vivekh, Yogi Babu
In these films, all you really seek are the guilty pleasures. Have your characters scamper about in the mansion, but please ensure that the jokes land. Have your mandatory exploitative flashbacks, but please ensure that the emotional beats are moving. Have your duets, but please ensure that the songs and visuals are pleasing. Have your silly ghost, but please ensure that we root for it. Aranmanai 3 fails on every single count. It’s 150 minutes of insulting mediocrity.
With Sundar C, you expect at least the jokes to work, given his track record—and how he has actors like the late Vivekh and the now-trending Yogi Babu to work with in this film. Yogi Babu—named Abhishek in this film only so he can attempt to rhyme it with ‘milk shake’ in a dialogue—largely resorts to insult comedy aimed at his associate (Manobala). “Palli moonji!” “Onaa moonji!” “Butter biscuit!” When these insults fail to work, the director tries to bring back an old idea from Tamil cinema comedy of yore: The sharp-objects-pierce-posterior idea. As Yogi Babu howled in pain when yet another object found its way into his posterior, I didn’t laugh. I empathised with him, as it seemed like it was pretty much what I was going through as well.
As for the late Vivekh, I hoped that this film would serve as a reminder of his unique comic ability, but the writing does his talent no justice. He complains through the film about not getting any sex from his wife, and it’s used as an opportunity by other characters to look at the woman in rather lascivious light and draw attention to her virginity
If such be the sorry state of the humour, what of the emotional payoffs? Andrea plays the vengeful ghost (is there another type in these films?), and to set this up, we are shown yet another flashback featuring an exploitative murder. Given the uninspired iterations of this idea over the years, I took it all in, numbed by the sheer repetition of it all. For a brief moment, it seemed that Andrea’s character had something interesting to say, when she rebels against being treated like property. But that’s merely a smokescreen. Watch how this film is careful to write her ‘infidelity’ as taking place before the marriage. None of it matters anyway, as the ghost-woman herself is rather classist and spiteful. She cares more about the child of a “velaikkaran” being anointed to privilege than she does, it seems, about the fate of her own child. Imagine the state of a film, in which you don’t even feel empathetic for a murdered woman.
I remember a few snapshots of this film. A ghost child speaking parseltongue. Actor Arya looking quite pissed off for some reason. Vivekh running around, complaining about his sex life. Raashii Khanna, looking dainty and meek; Nalini getting body-shamed and making TikTok videos. In classic Aranmanai style, suddenly, temples and rituals make a comeback too. And towards the end, I think I remember seeing Shankar Mahadevan and Hariharan on stage, singing a devotional song. But I couldn’t be sure, for, by then, I had mentally signed out of this film.
I doubt anything I say in this review could summarise my experience of this film as much as a line said by one of the characters towards the end: “Munnalaam indha aavi baadhipu indha alavukku illa.”
This review was written for Cinema Express and was originally uploaded here.