[Pic Courtesy Sify]
Blame Aaru on Tamil cinema's unwritten rule that refuses to accept a hero as a mass hero unless he plays a rowdy. Vijay did it(and still keeps doing it!). Ajith did it. Vikram did it. They all did it with varying degrees of success though. Surya did it disastrously once before in Sree but now that Ghajini has put him on the verge of superstardom, he has predictably done it again. The itch to do such a role is by itself not surprising considering the prize but the vehicle he has chosen for satisfy that itch is disappointing.
Almost all movies featuring a rowdy as the hero(the last one being Thotti Jaya) have a pretty standard storyline of the loyal rowdy eventually turning against his master and Aaru doesn't deviate from this one bit. Here Aarumugam(Surya) gets not one but four masters - brothers Viswanathan(Ashish Vidyarthi), Boominathan(Rajkapoor), Loganathan and Jagannathan. Mahalakshmi(Trisha) is the rich college girl in love with him. When Aaru, who treats the four as his brothers, realizes rather harshly that they consider him as little more than an expendable commodity, he turns on them.
Aaru is not too sure about where exactly it should fit in. On one hand, it is too violent to be a crowd-pleasing, masala film. On the other hand, it has too many commercial ingredients to be called a gritty, realistic film about a rowdy. In the end, it lurches between the two, with episodic scenes of gratuitous, brutal violence interleaved with a filmi romance and sparingly funny comedy.
Unless Sivakasi figures among your favorite movies of the year, you should starting watching Aaru only after the first quarter. After a good introduction for Surya, the film stoops very low as it lays the groundwork for later happenings. This section of the film is loud, crass and vulgar, with two duppanguthu numbers, crude jokes and double entendres galore.
A heart-wrenching incident eventually brings about an improvement in the film. Surya turns serious and as long as the focus remains on him and his mission, the movie works. He is a man on a mission and since he has 4 bad guys to take care of, he is able to get results immediately rather than play games with 1 villain or keep clashing with nameless henchmen. So the movie manages to maintain its pace though the comedy and romance still serve as regular speedbumps. But the villains' brutality and Surya's ways of dispensing revenge make sure that we never get a respite from the violence. This is one violent movie and Surya and Hari better have their heads checked for proclaiming that it is a "film for the entire family".
Surya and Trisha pretty much play a ping-pong match of romance as they keep loving and then rejecting each other one after the other. But the romance does manage to rise above the cliches of a rowdy-rich girl love story. It is not as cute as the romance in Dheena or as mature as the one in Thotti Jaya but it is developed in a pretty sensible fashion considering how mismatched the participants are. There are some tender moments that work and the couple's behavior remains sensible to their character arcs throughout.
Aaru is tolerable only because of Surya. He is convincing as the rowdy and inspite of mouthing foul language and spewing unprintable expletives, the likeability that he has earned in his last few movies manages to see him through. And inspite of all the shouting he does(some of which is indecipherable as he speaks too fast), it is clear that subtlety and quiet emotions are his strengths. The scene in a marriage hall and the scene where he quietly delivers a threat using one of the villains' cellphone confirm that. Trisha looks cute(or is it just that I've missed her?!) but her collection of expressions looks pretty small. Vadivelu has a pretty substantial role but there are only a few throw-away lines that raise some chuckles. Most of his episodes(like the one where he runs into people who seem to have survived big accidents) seem to be buiding up to a good finish but than fail because the punchline doesn't exist or is just too weak. Ishwarya, with her face darkened artificially, adds to the loudness with some crass language but I admit that she does so convincingly. The villains are pretty much indistinguishable from one another. Kalabhavan Mani once again proves that he is much better as a bad guy rather than an overacting comedian.
Aei Thottute Thottute... is the pick of the song sequences but thats mainly for its location. The barren landscape with the rock faces and the castle built right into the rock face provide a great backdrop (was the location the one used in the climax of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade?). Dhrogam Dhrogam... provides a nice background for some sequences and the lyrics and the tune match Surya's anguish and intensity. The slow version of Nenjam Ennum... plays in the background while the fast version earns our irritation just because of the time it pops up.
Aaru is a ratha aaru.