There are very few filmmakers who have a firm grip over the medium. They would explore and work on any genre of films with ease and elan. Director Vasantabalan is one of the few whose 'Veyyil' and 'Angadi Theru' were contrasting films but managed to garner all attention besides accolades.
Now he has explored yet another territory - period cinema. His 'Aravaan' speaks about a particular community which lived in south Tamil Nadu during the 18th century. A serious filmmaker, he has managed to recreate their lives in an engrossing manner.
When a filmmaker chooses to do a movie based on a novel, challenges are aplenty. Vasantabalan passes the muster here too. 'Aravaan' is inspired by 'Kaval Kottam', a novel by Su Venkatesan that won Sahitya Akademi award.
The script seems to have undergone thorough research and detailing is visible in every frame. Aided by a strong technical team, Vasantabalan seems to have made the tight rope walk look easy.
The secret of a good movie lies in apt casting. Vasantabalan wins the battle well before it began, by casting artistes like Aadhi, Pasupathy, Karikalan and the rest. They have lived their roles lending credibility to the script.
The movie begins with Kombuthi (Pasupathy), the chieftain for a particular community in a hamlet near Madurai. He heads the community that thrives stealing from the rich. But they adopt some rules and integerity is the word they follow in their profession.
He comes across Varipuli (Aadhi). A bravado Varipuli also steals people. Inspired by his daredevil acts, Kombuthi takes him along with him to his hamlet.They gel well and come close. He forms part of the community and leads Kombudhi in his operations.
During a heist at Maruthur palace near Madurai, Kombuthi gets caught by the guards. However a brave Varipuli risks his life and rescues him. The guards at the fort are startled to see Varipuli. They eye for his life and chase him madly which leaves Kombuthi puzzled.
As events unfold, Varipuli is caught by the guards from Marudhur and they claim that he was one Chinna who escaped a few years ago from them, fearing death.
Now a flashback reveals that Varipuli was indeed Chinna. He was a guard by profession. For the death of a youth (Thogaimayan) from neighbouring village, the King had infact ordered one youth to be given as offering to the Almighty and Chinna was the choice.
Sequence of events lead to Chinna escaping from the offering only to find out the mystery behind Thogaimayan's death. But that was too late as too many things happened in his village by then. Now he goes on the hiding.
Cut to present, Chinna is taken to be offered to God. What happens then forms the climax.
Aadhi is impressive. He emotes well and his daredevil stunts complimented by his well-built physique makes it look authentic. He is there giving a solid performance. As Varipuli his antics deserves all applause. He is there leaving his mark as a trusted friend, adorable lover, dutiful guard and man with a mission. Pasuparthy is the pivot around whom the whole movie revolves. His body language, facial expressions and dialogue delivery lends grace to the character Kombuthi.
Dhanshika plays Aadhi's love interest who appears post-interval. She has a couple of songs and few scenes to do, which she does with grace.
Archana Kavi plays Pasupathy's sister. She is chirpy and bubbly on screen. The likes of T K Kala, Thirumurugan, Singam Puli, Swetha Menon form part of the cast. Bharath and Anjali play a cameo. A blink-and-a-miss role but have an impact in the story.
Three cheers to Siddharth, the young cinematographer. He has captured the chase, stunts, grandeur of a fort, all in his lens with quality. Life in a jungle has also been picturised well.
The songs 'Oore Oore...' and 'Nila Nila...' are worth to mention. Not to forget the background score lends solidity to the script. S Rajendran's costumes and make-up by Sarathkumar and Nageshwara Rao make the film seem realistic.
Vasantabalan should thank T Siva who has managed to produce a mega film with no hassles. The movie is entertaining and engrossing from the word go. There is some lacunae in second half with too many sub-plots. But what makes it count is that it is indeed a honest attempt.
Go for 'Aravaan', a novice attempt that's worthy of your time.