Airaa review: A story that would have worked better, out of the horror template
A film that gives things to ponder about, but, its horror template doesn't do justice to the story nor the idea it tries to tell
Why do some people get everything when others don’t? It is a question that Yamuna (Nayanthara) asks herself in the film. “God created men. But where did he go then? Was he sleeping?” she adds. Airaa, KM Sarjun’s latest, argues that life is a gigantic malfunctioning Rube Goldberg Machine of which we are parts. (The opening credits has an animated version in the background). It argues that mostly, we don’t understand why we get hit; we just deal with the after-effects. Airaa follows one such thread that links Yamuna, who seems to have it all, with Bhavani (a darker Nayanthara) who loses everything.
As ideas go, Airaa gives you a lot to ponder. I had my initial doubts over Nayanthara donning dark make-up to play Bhavani, but in the film, it acts as a metaphorical layer. Bhavani could have essentially become a Yamuna -- educated, successful and independent (almost to a fault). But the society she grew up in ridicules her for her skin, and blames her for things she has no control over. Airaa wants us to question this rising apathy we have for our fellow beings. It's horrific injustice, but is horror the right genre for this story?
Cast: Nayanthara, Kalaiyarasan, Yogi Babu
Director: KM Sarjun
The horror portions are the film's weakest, as it gives us nothing new in the genre. Also, it doesn’t help that the film takes its entire first half to get to its emotional core. What is the need to have Yogi Babu in a tired attempt to infuse humour? There’s an indication of conflict between Yamuna’s grandmother and her father. Why? We don’t know and the character also gets a convenient end. I am glad that Yamuna doesn’t become a YouTube celebrity with her very first video going viral, but what was the need to bring in Blue Sattai Maaran to ‘review’ non-film content? Is making a joke out of reviewers the new trend in our cinema?
In a recent interview with us, Sarjun mentioned that having a co-writer meant that he could focus more on direction. The positive results are quite evident. Airaa’s cinematography is aesthetically pleasing and so is the editing. Unlike usual horror films which use a lot of blue, the film adapts a yellow-focussed palette with a smattering of red. While it is not exactly realistic, it does give a stylish, sophisticated tone to the visuals.
A special shout-out to KS Sundaramurthy who delivers some exemplary music -- the haunting Meghadhootham refuses to leave your mind. The young composer’s violin-bass heavy score is perfect, and hits unpredictable notes. It all would have had more punch, if only had the screenplay come to the party. I did quite like Priyanka Ravindran’s dialogues though, especially in the film's black and white portions, where the writing feels the strongest. For example, where Amudhan (an effectively subtle Kalaiyarasan) says, “Vayasaaiduchu Bhavani. Nera vishayaththuku varen. Kalyanam pannikalama?” It's to the point, effective. I wish Yamuna got such writing too.
I would have loved to see more of Bhavani. Similar to our male superstars, even Nayanthara, of late, seems to be getting into a sort of template. If the male superstars had to be squeaky clean heroes, Nayanthara had to look perfect in every frame. But as Bhavani, she is refreshingly beautiful. Nayanthara brings out her vulnerability, innocence, and later rage in perfect measures. I remember Sarjun mentioning that the team asked Nayanthara to play the character because they began rooting for Bhavani. Despite the tepid climax, I rooted for her too. It is time we see more such women onscreen. It is time we realised that women like Bhavani can be the heroine, even if it isn’t the Lady Superstar playing her.