'Raame Aandalum Raavane Aandalum' review: A patchy satire marred by simplistic writing

The commentary isn’t deep enough, the jokes not funny enough, and the sentiment not moving enough.

Published: 25th September 2021 09:55 AM  |   Last Updated: 25th September 2021 09:55 AM   |  A+A-

A still from the film

A still from the film

Express News Service

Overheard two members of the audience discussing Raame Aandalum Raavane Aandalum (RaRa) and throwing in, what seemed to me, to be the mandatory Peepli Live comparison. The temptation is understandable, for, this film too is about the circus that ensues when a villager suffers from a trouble related to farming (we will get to that later). This film too speaks of the systemic apathy towards the problems of those perceived to be insignificant. The title of this film itself is a commentary on the longstanding neglect of those in power. Rama? Ravana? Does it even matter, the film seems to ask.

And yet, where a film like Peepli Live manages to be consistently poignant and funny and bitingly satirical, RaRa feels like a pale imitation in every way. The commentary isn’t deep enough, the jokes not funny enough, and the sentiment not moving enough. And this really is the problem with RaRa, which despite the occasional sharp line and the occasional funny takedown, remains a victim of simplistic writing. The craft isn’t great either; as for the story, it largely feels like isolated easy digs stitched together. Right, let’s throw in a scene about police indifference. How about a dig at Hindi speaking? Sure. Have we covered demonetisation? No? Let’s do that. And on and on it goes.

The premise is interesting though. It’s about a couple who have lost their bulls—Vellayan and Karuppan—animals they have raised as their children. That’s also when it becomes clear why 2D Entertainment, a production house known for its family-friendly, message-y films often centred on farmers, had taken this film on. The bulls-children analogy is taken quite seriously in this story, which begins by having Kunnimuthu (Mithun Manickam) register a complaint at the police station that his children are missing, in a scene that’s far longer than it needs to be.

Furthermore, these bulls don’t eat in the absence of their parents, and Kunnimuthu, for his part, can’t bear to see them suffer any sort of pain, even if it’s unavoidable. For instance, when ‘bull shoes’ are nailed to their feet, he can’t bear to look. These are details I found reasonably engaging in this film that shows a keen interest in rural life. The film details the process of how a loan is procured on evidence of bull ownership, it speaks of castration of these animals, it shows how local medicine works, it shows how local charlatans take advantage of the naïve… these are interesting portions.

But these snapshots of rural life establish the setting. What of what happens in it? What of our expectations of biting commentary, exploration of systemic complexities, dark humour, and at least, an emotional connection with the central characters? RaRa is unfortunately found wanting in every area. It’s a film with relentless dialogue, and there’s often the tendency to say, not show. For instance, Kunnimuthu’s wife, Veerayi (Ramya Pandian), is frustrated that strangers are leaving electrical equipment as gifts without realising that there’s no electricity in the house. It seems like an interesting grouse, but then, we don’t see this. We simply hear Veerayi say this aloud to nobody in particular. Like Veerayi, many characters in this film can often be found speaking to nobody in particular, including the one played by Kodangi Vadivel Murugan (whose presence I rather liked though).

By the time we get to the end in which, like in Kushi, the separated parties seem to wilfully ignore each other, only so their eventual unity can feel gratifying, the film’s promise of an absorbing satire feels long forgotten. Towards the end, as the bulls step up on behalf of their owners, in what feels like a climax straight out of a Rama Narayanan film from the 90s, I wondered if I might have perhaps enjoyed this film better, had it simply restricted itself to the animal-human bond, like the late director’s films often did.

Director: Arisil Moorthy
Cast: Mithun Manickam, Ramya Pandian, Kodangi Vadivel Murugan
Streaming on : Amazon Prime Video


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