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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