Someone seems to have convinced debutant Sai Sekhar that food adulteration is the new ‘agriculture message’ of Tamil cinema. The filmmaker has over-invested in the idea and doesn’t convey as much as he tries to shove the message down our throats in the strangest ways possible. For instance, the antagonists in the film love adulteration so much that when they burn a man alive, they say, “Ivan asthi-a kadal la kalappadam pannunga da.” Another character who faces betrayal from a friend commits suicide, shouting, “En saavula kooda kalappadam irukka koodadhu!”
The film regains focus every now and then, and begins addressing actual problems in our food products. Even in those scenes, the film hardly kindles interest and feels like a mediocre Youtube video. The overdose of cliches in this film is, in fact, the biggest evidence of adulteration.
The director wants to establish his heroine as a kind-hearted soul, and what does he do? He makes her a nerdy middle-school teacher, who volunteers in old homes, bathes the homeless, and frees caged parrots. He makes her an anosmic patient, who lacks a sense of smell, in order to cash in on your sympathy. Like in the rest of the film, this is overdone too. In a scene, Jyothi (Catherine Tresa) is asked to bury a dead dog, and just before covering the pit, she says she wishes to be born as a dog in her next birth! Her reason? Its sense of smell. But thankfully, she isn’t just a muttal dhevadhai, as Jagan (Siddharth) describes her.
The portions featuring her as a teacher are decently crafted and I particularly liked her conversation with the kids eating sathunavu. Aruvam could have been one of the better performances of Catherine if they had just stuck to the teacher angle without forcibly blending it with the loosu ponnu flavour.
Aruvam, I suppose, can be called a progressive film in a way, considering the male protagonist lets the heroine take centre stage. I also liked that this family film is devoid of vulgarity. But these merits are weighed down by the poor screenplay.
Aruvam has Siddharth playing an upright food safety officer. The initial promos that featured him folding his cuff and delivering a punch dialogue, did excite the masala film fan in me. But a few minutes into his portions, the actor oversells the role and seeing him perform feels like an over-enthusiastic beginner recreating Vijay’s Madhuravel in Madhurey. Well, the similarity doesn’t end with the common goal to eliminate adultered food. Siddharth’s Jagan even sounds like the aforementioned character. While the signature yell of the protagonist in Madhurey is the high-pitched, “Arrest pannunga!”, it is a very similar “Seal pannunga!” here.
Jagan goes on a sealing spree and shuts down every single restaurant, departmental store and food-processing unit within his sight. After a point, the entire ‘seal-it’ episode turns unintentionally funny that he starts reminding us of Vadivelu’s inspector Telex Pandian, who shoots the red lights hoping to put an end to prostitution. Despite Jyothi being the science teacher in the film, it is Jagan who keeps teaching the audience about chemicals like formalin, caustic soda and melamine.
He’s too into science that he even calls love as ‘Vedhiyal maatram’(chemical change). Though the film discusses in length about the problems of adulteration, there is no solution on offer. And oh, we also have a shape-shifting ghost, capable of creating a tsunami with just a snap. But the entire ghost angle hardly leaves an impact, somewhat like the Chandramukhi snake.
During a particular scene where the bad guys confront Jagan, one of the antagonists states that it would be impossible to make quality products for the masses within a short period and they aren’t forcing anyone to consume theirs. You could almost imagine Aruvam’s director telling you the same.
Director: Sai Sekhar
Cast: Catherine Tresa, Siddharth