“Aarohanam”… All about the mother

After a movie-going season filled with crushing big-budget disappointments, it’s wonderful to watch Aarohanam. The director Lakshmy Ramakrishnan has a bracingly uncomplicated approach to filmmaking, where it’s all about writing a solid script and etching out memorable characters and, finally, casting the right people. If only more people made movies this way. She begins with a classic bit of misdirection that leads us to the plight of a brother and sister who worry that their mother hasn’t returned home – and as this aching scenario plays out, we meet wonderful, simply wonderful people. The father who’s a bit of a prick, but also utterly human. The stepmother who’s practical and kindhearted. The faithful beggar. The Muslim neighbours (one of them the actress Premi, familiar to fans of Mahendran’s cinema) who don’t need to be introduced as family – we know they are family. And the siblings who bicker and bond. I doubt I’ll see a more offhand and touching sight, this year, than that of the sister instinctively putting an arm around her cowering younger brother after he angers their mother. It’s something of a pity that the final half-hour of this brisk 90-minute feature doesn’t live up to the masterful earlier portions. Mysteries are unraveled inelegantly, and we’re slapped on the head with a big, fat explanation that’s a borderline message. But there’s too much that’s right about this very impressive first feature to fret about the wrongs. Bigger directors would do well to look and learn.

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Copyright ©2012 Baradwaj Rangan. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety without permission. A link to this URL, instead, would be appreciated.

17 thoughts on ““Aarohanam”… All about the mother

  1. Caught this just last evening. I respect and admire its ambition but it’s too flawed for me to feel the same way as you did. It seems like the kind of film that expects to be rewarded for its intentions and it has got its heart in the right place, but I felt cheated when things ended up being blown so out of proportion.

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  2. Rohit Ramachandran: Yes, maybe things “ended up” a bit blown up, but the first hour worked just beautifully for me.

    Gans: Yes, it is. Thanks. Made the correction.

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  3. ” (one of them the actress Premi, familiar to fans of Mahendran’s cinema)”

    I know what you mean :)

    Gounder’s famous “idhai EndA enkitta sonnE” comes to the mind, if you see what I mean.

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  4. Hi Mr. Baradwaj Ranagan! Extremely happy to see your review, i caught it just last night and I am thrilled. I accept the fact that the last half an hour could have been shot more aesthetically, it might sound as an excuse, anyways I would like to share the reasons for that with you!. Reg the message, it is not actually blown up and it is a fact that such people are capable of the most unexpected stuff. I have seen it at close quarters… she is no more but I miss her and feel really bad that when she was alive everyone thought she was abnormal and hysteric! She could write poems in a language she never knew to read & write!. Actually one such poem was set to tune and sung by Sri. Bala Murali Krishna, when he met her in the US.

    Now coming to the last half an hour, first of all, I should admit that i was confident only about the script and not in the ability to translate it on to the screen. For the reason that i am not technically qualified or trained for film making. ‘Aarohanam’ was my way of testing my ability to do that. Secondly, the budget we could afford was 36 lacs, and 20 days of shoot. Le meridien cost us 1.5 lacs per day and the bar 50,000 per day. We had to finish hotel portions in just one day and the song in 3 days. Had to compromise a lot, on top of that many artists did not take remuneration and I was feeling delicate to call them back for extra work! The junior artists cost us 1.5 lacs per day! And 5d! focus follow was a major problem, also we had issues with the union. By the fag end, I was almost saying ‘let me complete the shoot somehow’! That shows on screen , sorry for that! If we had set aside another 15 lacs , that portion would have been filmed in a much better fashion and ‘Aarohanam would have been a 50 lac project!

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  5. Dear friend, my apologies if we have made you feel cheated. But let me tell you, it is not blown out of proportion! Certain things you will have to see or experience to believe and this is something I witnessed at close quarters!

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  6. Sounds like quite a battle. But the viewer can base his opinion only on what he sees on screen.

    This woman you speak of is no longer alive? So you diagnosed her with Bipolar Disorder after her death, based on your experiences with her?

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  7. You might have intended one thing and I might have received another, the version I received ended up being blown out of proportion. People buy intuitively into a lot of things, it has nothing to do with witnessing or experience something at close quarters. Don’t take this the wrong way, I see your intentions are pure and honest but I’m only stating how I responded.

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  8. Somehow, your questions smell of cocky disrespect for the maker.

    If you want to judge the movie only by what you see on screen, how are you bothered about how the money will be made?

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  9. Thank you Rohit for not being concerned, it makes life easier! I can be matter of fact too… Yes, awareness was not there and we never realised what she was going through… The picture got clear after her death and that too after I got exposed to activities concerning Mental Health through Scarf & Banyan, mainly film festivals on Mental Health!

    And reg the question about recovery of investment, we sold the film to JSK film corporation and he in turn to Sun TV. Both the producer& Distributor are safe… We are working on the remake now…Aarohanam is a commercially successful venture…

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  10. Aside , its a “good” thing that the maker of the film is responding to comments on this forum – you almost never find that here or anywhere else . FB tends to be vapid fan following and Twitter is a one-way channel.

    Kudos Madam.

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  11. I caught the movie last night and liked it a lot. I had problems with the ending too (like some others in this forum), but like Mr. Rangan, when a movie gets this much right, I am not going to complain about the things it didn’t.

    And thanks to the director for coming here and responding to comments. I wish we could have more of that on this forum.

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  12. Film overall s pretty good to watch, but who makes the perfect film incl Maniratnam or James Cameroon. If what you say is really true, you’ve suceeded in attempt of comunicating what you wanted to. Biggest pls of this movie is you manage to communicate within 85 mins or so. Pls keep the trend in future, whats the point in adding 30 mins of song and making it as 120+ mins movie.

    Beside the revealing part could have been handled in bit better way, may you answered it already by mentioning you somehow wanna see this project complete. Hopefully you get enogh leverage from this film to make next one better.

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  13. Just saw the movie as an in-flight movie. I must say all the artistes particularly the trio of mother, son and daughter were splendid. I just did not understand what purpose the politico’s strand added to the narrative.
    As a practising psychiatrist I can say the presentation is not that of typical bipolar disorder. I also did not like the valorisation of mania- while many people have been creative in their manic phases, most people simply suffer.

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  14. Gaby: Agree somewhat about the “valorisation of mania,” but at the end of the day, a film exists to tell a story and not present a condition with docu-like realism. So this aspect didn’t bother me at all.

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