When a friend asked me how Kadaram Kondaan was, my response just flew from my mouth faster than I could swallow. But when I was asked about ‘Aadai’ I had to stop and think. Was the movie good? It seemed good…it had the right elements..it began well..but I couldn’t bring myself to say it was a good movie. It was as if I went to a lunch buffet to The Park when I was really hungry, but came out feeling unsatisfied, disappointed and with mixed feelings about the many options that were served. Aadai left behind the same aftertaste.
The thing about Aadai movie is, I want to like it. The first half, and quite a bit of the second half had a good number of positives..but somewhere in the second half it lost it’s mojo.
Here are some things which makes me want to love the film –
1. There were more than 2 women acting in it who had strong roles to play. It passed the Bechdel test which is saying something! (more about the Bechdel test here)
2. It was one of the very few women centric films that’s been released, and one with the lead character having a meaty role. More like a one woman show.
3. It was a new attempt. A movie with a character trapped in a building with no clothes on her.
4. The first half and the beginning of the second was something exciting to Tamil cinema world, and would keep one glued to the screen.
So yes, I feel like I should like the film for all the reasons stated above. But, as the second half progressed, the storyline got so disappointing that I could hardly wait for it to end. It was frustrating, because the movie could have been one of the best-made ones if only the director had stuck to how Kamini ended up losing her clothes, making it a thriller of sorts, keeping us guessing which one of her people did this, and how she was going to avenge him/her.
Instead the director chose to give out so many social messages in a sorry attempt to justify the reason behind the plot. This completely fizzes out the high the first half delivered and made the rest of the show a sham. Felt let down when the “mystery” got solved in the way it was.
But wait, it was not totally bad. It’s the way the movie ended which left me with the sour feeling. Kamini, shown in the first scene wasn’t the Kamini shown in the second half. It was as if the director slowly let go of Kamini’s character thread by thread and towards the end, we are left off with someone who we didn’t pay to watch.
Amala Paul’s character Kamini, had an out of the world intro scene, totally unexpected, raising the bar on what could be expected from her. The first half stayed true to her character and kept us guessing and waiting for what’s coming next. It was refreshing, new, and like the teaser said, bold. Every time she said “Bet katriya?” she looked so charming that you couldn’t help smiling at her. The men who were Kamini’s friends would keep you chuckling every time they came on screen. Till the last minute, the director kept the audience wondering which one of these friends had been “the bad one“, kudos to him for that.
Enter intermission, and Kamini wakes up naked (no spoiler alert here). That’s where the story line gets so intriguing and we experience every single emotion she goes through. We rack our brains to think of what we would have done if we got stuck in her situation and feel strangely gratified to see her doing those same things. The mirror scene might remind you of a short film, where a woman would wear a mirror pendant on her necklace, to show the people’s sick mentality to themselves, when they catch a look at themselves, staring at her breasts.
The director keeps us to the edge of our seat when he shows a guy in the opposite building who zooms in on her using his phone. The woman in me shivers wondering how Kamini is going to handle this but this angle got dumped off quickly before it could even begin.
As she helplessly tries to break the tiles, we in our mind do the same with her, connecting with Kamini’s character and putting ourselves there. This connection continues, till the point Kamini finds her phone.
The director had this gripping story and we stayed with Kamini, got into her groove, understood her, and could resonate with her – until the point she found her phone. After she finds her phone, every thing that she does, just seems foolish! No, I am not talking about ignoring her mom’s call, or the games she plays when she clearly is in a situation.
Instead of the biryani call, she could have actually ordered a set of clothes to be delivered Amazon prime or through a shop. Or instead of calling customer service, she could have called one of her friends to get her clothes. It felt silly, the way she was listening to the entire story from the constable while she was running of battery and in a predicament herself. So yes, the audience somewhere part ways from her after she finds her phone.
Maybe if there was no phone or no battery in the phone, it would have made for a gripping thriller throughout. The director would have given us a good tale of what goes wrong to a person who’s a confused woman like Kamini, on a night went wrong, and how she comes out of it, fighting the hungry wolves. He could have shown us the mirror of our society, how men, women, children and dogs react to such a scenario. He could have been ruthless or kind or both. That is what I came to watch. It would have made a great film.
But instead, he brought in the phone and showed us whatever happens after she orders food. All of these diluted the effect. There was already one scenario which was exciting, but instead of building up on that, the director kept adding more and more things to it, making it a masala story, and we lose the thrill slowly. That’s where the movie fails.
Climax (#whereisKamini, #mainMessageDisappears)
This is where all the loose knots are tied up, and we find out who did this and for what. The reason given for such a “show” is a good one, but the way the dots are connected make us snicker more than sit up and take it seriously.
And then come the messages. See, I am all for social messages in films, but only wish they were given the proper importance they deserve. Throwing off random one-liners, compressing everything to mean nothing rings a false note. Just how the “Smoking is injurious to health/ Pugai pidipathu putrunoi vilaivikkum” message makes us feel when it is put up before the movie starts. For the messages to have an impact, the entire movie should be about it and delivered throughout subtly, instead of all together, all of a sudden at the end. And so many messages at that!
So yes, the ending, sadly, was terrible.
If you think I am being too harsh, here are some of the messages implied at the end, to…not sure why.
Message 1 – If you prank people in an attempt to “test” their reaction, then people will never realize what is real and what is a lie. Should have just stuck to this.
Message 2 – Freedom has a line, and no one shouldn’t cross it. They talk briefly about “Free the nipple” movemen stating that while earlier people fought to hide their breasts, now women are protesting to free their breasts. Making it feel like an unnecessary movement. The Free the Nipple campaign is about giving women the option to be shirtless, free of harassment and judgement. The campaign was to remove the fetishization associated with women’s breasts, the same reason why the woman cut off her breasts in the beginning scene of the movie. There are so many arguments for and against this movement but the director carelessly throws this name across, with a sad attempt to prove that freedom has boundaries.
What’s so ironical was that the director felt ‘Free the nipple’ movement was abusing women’s freedom just to show gender equality or to drive home a point, when his whole movie was involving freeing everything, nipples or otherwise, to drive home a point! Wish someone had talked to him about this.
Message number 3 – NEET problems, how people from different states are affected, how difficult it is to crack, the checking that is undergone while writing UPSC tests.. A 2 minute talk that felt oddly out of place in this movie.
Message number 3 – “Only prank people you know”. I really couldn’t understand this message. Shouldn’t it be don’t play pranks on anyone, you don’t know what they are going through?
Message number 4 – Put the prank method for good use instead of scaring people away with it. Another one.
So there you see, a bundle of messages all tied up and delivered towards the end, with a dose of #meToo at the end. Maybe if he had stuck to one message, the first one, the boy who cried sheep message that is, it would have suited well to this movie.
Amala Paul’s acting in the entire first half is enjoyable. She would remind one of Deepika Padukone at times, where she shines like a star in the first half. After the intermission, in the second half, we can praise her for her dare, and for the dog scene. The way Amala breezes through this scene was remarkable.
Apart from that, there is the climax character, Ananya (Nangeli) who needs to be mentioned. This person emotes equally well if not more, in all her scenes with Amala Paul. So many expressions and she pulls it off flawlessly and with such ease! A great find. But for all the social messages she delivers, it all goes bussss when she begs for forgiveness at the end. Kept nagging me Nangeli was made to say sorry while Kamini doesn’t for her actions.
On an ending note – first half was unbelievably new and refreshing. Second half – begins well, but falls short, due to story line going far off from where it started. The teaser promised us that we will get lost in the world of Kamini, who is arrogant, audacious and wildly artistic. The movie keeps up the promise in the first half but disappoints us in the second half.