Every once in a while comes a film that grips you, makes you sit up and wraps itself around you. The Tamil film, Aruvi (waterfall), is one such. It begins endearingly capturing the bond between a father and daughter but gathers a velocity of its own as it chronicles the struggles of an HIV+ girl, exposes threadbare the double standards and chauvinistic attitudes in society, even as it makes you laugh, cry and see the anger.
The film won awards for best debut actress, best debut director, best editor and best production at the Ananda Vikantan Awards held in Chennai last month.
And both director and the actress are happy with the response the movie has been getting even a month after the release. Actor Aditi Balan, who played Aruvi, says, “Lots of people called me and cried. They shared their personal experiences. Many turned emotional. This is something I had not expected.”
The debutant director, Arun Prabhu, believes along with the overwhelming response comes a great deal of responsibility. “The film has given me an opportunity to meet a lot of new people.”
On being asked what he intended the film to do, Prabhu says, “The one concrete idea that I had when I set out to make Aruvi was that the film should reflect the perspectives of people.”
Early on, Prabhu knew he had a winner on his hands. When he narrated the script to several groups beginning with his own nephews and nieces, he remembers, “They reacted very positively and were curious to know what happened to that Akka.”
Like many successful ventures Aruvi had its share of initial delays. Work began on the film in 2013 and it was ready in 2015. It had a good festival run for a year. The international premiere was at the Shanghai International Film Festival. “And the response was simply overwhelming. Although there was a huge language barrier since I could only communicate in English and the audience wrote appreciation letters in Mandarin,” says Prabhu. Despite being critically acclaimed, the film had to wait to get a release date, as the producers had other films lined up, adds Prabhu.
On successfully playing her character, Balan says, “It was largely because the team made me comfortable. In the school scenes, I had to be myself. Usually I am a little dramatic when I speak. Here I had to speak in a more deliberate fashion. For the final shoots, I was on a 45-day diet plan to lose weight and had to get into a mental zone where I was watching videos of HIV+ patients. I acted in the film but the entire credit goes to the director.”
Another thing about Aruvi was the promotions that were done only through social media, yet the movie was a blockbuster by grossing 100 times its small budget.