Anti-establishment movies were a norm during the 1980s. Either the rebellious attitude of Tamil cinema directors was healthy, or the politicians were more accommodating during the golden period of Tamil cinema. But it all changed after the 90s due to the political climate in the state. The high-handedness of censor board and the political clout in films altered the scenario.
The last few years, we see right political cinema from the new crop of directors, but also we are seeing commercialisation of activist cinema. For instance, Kaththi was a sad example of how to portray a social issue, and it even described the activist as a loser while a violent rogue takes over his place. Aramm, on the other hand, is an excellent activism cinema that perfectly portrays an issue, interestingly told but doesn’t compromise and indulge in any commercial aspects.
The movie starts with an investigation on a district collector on how she handled a crisis in her district. The story is set in a small village near Sriharikota where people struggle to get good drinking water. The commercial tankers make deeper bore wells in private lands and fetch water for business establishments while people have to travel hours to bring few buckets of drinking water. There are consistent roadblock protests from various villages, and after solving one such issue, District collector Madhivadhani (played by Nayanthara) receives news that a small child had fallen inside an unprotected bore well. She immediately gathers a team to rescue the child and meanwhile learns about the power politics, real problems of the villagers and how the system is devised against the poor. The rest of the story is about how Madhivadhani sticks to her guts to rescue the child and how it changes her life.
Although the movie is about a child trapped inside a bore well (I got reminded of Malooty – Malayalam movie with Shamili in the lead), the subtexts on politics, water crisis and organised plundering of natural resources make Aramm a compelling watch.
I found the idea of a child stuck inside a bore well as more allegorical to the fact that the real India is trapped inside a claustrophobic system that keeps on preying on them while improving the lives of select few. Gopi Nayanar (writer-director) hints us with the narrative when he switches between the scientific advancement of sending a rocket into space while there are no technologies to save a child from a bore well.
The child trapped inside the well could also be seen as a metaphorical representation of Madhivadani’s position as multiple intermittences constrain her from doing the job. Her character is a representation of various such honest officers who are stuck in limbo. Nayanthara’s calm and composed acting elevates the character, and she holds forte with her under-play. Deepa Venkat’s background voice has played a significant role in the shaping of the character.
But the movie is not just about Nayanthara, the strong supporting act by Ramachandran (Dhanshika’s father), Sunu Lakshmi (Dhanshika’s mother), Vignesh (Dhanshika’s brother) and Baby Mahalakshmi (Dhanshika) move your heart with their performances. Even the smallest of the characters make a lasting impact at the end.
The film is marred by the interspersed talk show with activists. While Gopi Nayanar took a satirical tone at every other aspect, he chose to have a TV debate with few activists he supports. It might have been included to educate the audience or to show his bias, but it reduced the tension that acted as the lifeline of the movie.
Although I agree that the scientific inventions have to be used for the betterment of people, Indian space program has become self-sustained over the years, and it has inspired many young kids to take up science. But it’s our responsibility to teach ethical values while giving the power of science to kids. The inherent bias of the director comes out during these scenes.
You might not agree with what Aramm purports. But it’s a movie that you should watch to see the alternate viewpoint. Even if you don’t want to think about the issues, it’s a beautiful drama about how a child is saved from bore well that keeps you on edge until the end.
Gopi Nayanar accused AR Murugadoss and Pa Ranjith of stealing his stories for Kathi and Kabali. We don’t know what conspired, but it’s pretty much evident that Araam is what Kathi should have been.
I go with 3/5 for Aramm, and a must watch even if you don’t agree with the views of the director.
1. I have given the same by-line that I gave for Kaththi’s review few years back. You can read it in the below link
2. Trivia – The name Madhivadhani is the name of LTTE Chief Prabhakaran’s wife.