Director: Arisil Moorthy
Cast: Ramya Pandian, Mithun Manickam, Vani Bhojan, Kodangi Vadivel Murugan
On the face of it, Raame Aandalum Raavane Aandalum (or RARA) is about Kunnimuthu (Mithun Manickam) and Veerayi (Ramya Pandian), a young couple desperately searching for the two Kangeyam bulls they love. Karuppan and Vellaiyan are like their children, and the bulls, majestic as they are, wait for their human parents to return before they eat. Something happens, and the bulls disappear. The two are unable to fathom why, and it takes Naramatha (Vani Bhojan), a reporter from a news channel, to point them in the right direction, though you can spot the reason from a mile away.
This, then, is the biggest issue I had with the film — bringing in outside folk to deliver lectures and remind people as to what they’ve lost. This, when the local villagers are not that clueless, and the smartest of them all is Veerayi, who does not hesitate to speak up, even if the person opposite her is a state minister. She does not think twice before asking him if he’ll accept children from another street if his kids go missing.
Not that RARA is without its moments. The director Arisil Moorthy has not compromised on the nativity of his film, even if it means having to settle for some cameos by actors who are not very natural. They are the children of the soil, though, and that matters. Like the smart-alecky grandmother who fixes a wedding between her grandson and the girl of the house they ran into to hide, the one person who knows how much the two love their bulls. She peers hopefully into a bag looking for something to eat, but finds only cattle feed.
Little scenes like this, including one in the village fair, where Veerayi buys neck decorations for the bulls, show how much the bulls are a part of their lives. The only thing the usually passive Kunnimuthu knows is to hit people who he thinks are hurting his bulls. He cares for their physical welfare, and comes alive only in such scenes.
Progressively, though, when a character walks in asking if there’s no puzhu poochi (colloquial for pregnancy news) as yet, Veerayi looks at her cattle and says why should she crave for puzhu poochi or worms and insects when she’s already the mother of something so majestic? My heart leapt in joy, after years of films where pregnancy or the lack of it is such a touchy topic in films. Which is why it sits strange when Veerayi allows Naramatha to lead the proceedings and guide them. After all, she is a woman capable of handling life without help.
Mithun Manickam stars as Kunnimuthu. It’s his debut film and while the hesitant walk and speech initially seem on point, there’s little variation in his demeanour in keeping with changing circumstances. Ramya is as always assured as Veerayi. She walks with the quiet confidence of someone who knows her place in her world. Kodangi Vadivel Murugan is Manthinni, Kunnimuthu’s friend who is the village loudmouth, and who doubles up as the comic element. Mercifully, the humour is typical village-style, filled with nakkal and political commentary. From petrol prices to Hindi imposition, everything finds a place, including ‘Hindi Theriyaadhu, Poda!’
At its core, the film has an interesting premise, but something about the execution falters. Is it because of the forced explanations in scenes, scenes that swing back and forth in time or the heavy documentary feel that seeps into what is a feature? The scenes of politicians making a beeline for the couple’s house might have had an impact, but only end up looking cliched, because we have seen too much of this already.
However, credit where it is due, the film actually does a big service to farmers by not forcefitting them into every dialogue. The film aspires to say a lot, but does not drag in every rural issue to prove a point. Even the lake restoration has a poignant backstory, and a lesson about fighting one’s own battles.
A word about the cinematography by M. Sukumar. Unlike “village” films that are painted in greens and yellows and lush harvest scenes, the film keeps this real for Poocheri, a village that has not seen rain in years. Arid fields, parched land, shrubs and a brown-tinted landscape showcase the dreariness well.
This is the first of 2D Entertainment’s four-film deal with Amazon Prime, and you can understand why it might suit the OTT audience. There’s enough soul to keep you engaged, but it’s debatable if it is enough to warrant a trip to the theatres.