Aaraattu Movie Review: A bloated, brain cell-obliterating endurance test
There is a lot of things happening in Aaraattu, but hardly a few are memorable
Some Friday releases make me wish I didn't have to review them. Aaraattu is one of them. It's a movie that revels in excess, be it in the performances, references, style, and duration. It seems to be hell-bent on assaulting your senses. A little bit of restraint on all fronts would've benefitted the film. But, hey, this is supposed to be an 'unrealistic' entertainer. Fine. This 'unrealistic' tag even shows up once the end credits begin. This 'unrealistic' tag is used as an anticipatory bail to sell anything in the name of entertainment. Or perhaps it is to disguise shortcomings in storytelling. Maybe there are takers for this kind of bloated, poor jokes-laden storytelling, but it's certainly not for me.
Director: B. Unnikrishnan
Cast: Mohanlal, Sai Kumar, Siddique, Vijayaraghavan, Nandu, Shraddha Srinath
There is a lot of things happening in Aaraattu. There is a lot of characters in Aaraattu. But hardly a few are memorable. By the time the true motivations of one or more characters are revealed, I stopped caring because I was too tired to care. The first 90 mins made sure of that. Yes, the film has three or four goosebump-inducing moments that appealed to the Mohanlal fanboy in me, but when thinking of the three-hour film as a whole, it's the brain-cell obliterating moments that I remember more than the others.
I liked how director B Unnikrishnan and writer Udayakrishna subverted some 'mass' tropes, but it works only up to a certain point. And this parody-like treatment makes so much sense when you see the third act. While an unhinged Mohanlal is a delight to watch in some places, the over-the-top silliness becomes a heavy endurance test in many others. To give you an example, we get an absurd moment with Indrans playing the bed-ridden father of two daughters. Mohanlal's Neyattinkara Gopan sees here an opportunity to establish an alliance with the locals through an act of benevolence. He starts singing that track from Chandralekha to bring the man back to his fully functioning state. I must admit that this scene did give me a few laughs, but after a point, I had to pinch myself to check whether I was dreaming. I asked myself, "What did I just watch?"
In one scene, Mohanlal says, "There are two Thiagarajans in me. One is the music lover and the other, the fight master." That line alone is an indication of the film's interest in duality. We get two types of Mohanlal here. I preferred the sober version more. In my book, the actor shined the most in scenes where he puts the hyper Gopan to sleep and activated the sober one. But then it's also interested in springing some surprises -- never mind the logic -- even if you can see some of them coming from a mile away.
The core idea -- of a mysterious man from a different place arriving for a mysterious purpose -- is straight out of Aaraam Thampuran. And it's not the only Mohanlal film from which Aaraattu borrows. We get visual and musical references to Chithram, Narasimham, Lucifer, Devasuram, Balettan, Manichithrathazhu, Pingami, and more. Even a Mammootty film reference creeps in. And all the moments where a sunglasses-clad Mohanlal 'pleads' with higher officials, especially Shraddha Srinath's RDO character, for various reasons, reminded me of Vellanakalude Naadu. (By the way, it's nice to see Shraddha getting a lot of screentime as opposed to the female leads in most masala entertainers, but despite that, she doesn't get to do much other than sport an irritated expression most of the time.)
Don't get me started on the other female characters, though. They are chiefly required to laugh at Gopan's jokes and dance around him. It's like the equivalent of watching a stage comedy show where all our superstars recreate the best moments from their filmography, with everyone laughing and clapping. And I have no idea why Gopan delivers Telugu punchlines when the character in front of him is a Malayali. I guess the immediately obvious explanation is pandering to the non-Malayali market. But shouldn't impressing the local audiences take more precedence?
Among the film's small pleasures is the dynamics between Mohanlal, Johny Antony and Siddique. As a comedian, the former is currently going through a golden phase. And those of you who enjoyed the Mohanlal-Siddique confrontations from Ravanaprabhu, there is a chance you might appreciate the opposite version of that here. Also, no matter how exaggerated they are, the fight scenes are exciting, particularly the post-interval one. These are fine displays, yet again, of the superstar's remarkable agility.
As a whole, Aaraattu gave me a headache. Actually, it didn't. But since we are talking about an 'unrealistic' film, I guess a little hyperbole wouldn't hurt. An oft-repeated line in Aaraattu goes like this, "Nenu chaala dangerousu." (I am very dangerous.) You know what else can be chaala dangerousu? Something like Aaraattu, for your brain.