Saturday, November 5, 2011

7aum Arivu - a detailed review

It's raining here in Chennai. And as can be expected, the monsoon is worse than the summer seasons here. After washing two full loads of laundry, we had absolutely nothing to do at home yesterday evening. And so, we decided to go see a movie. Mom suggested 7aum Arivu and that settled it. We drove on; the three of us.

To be honest, I was anticipating the release of this movie but mom suggested we wait for the reviews to surface before plunging in. And strangely, they appear to be mixed. That was when I decided that I would form my own conclusions on the movie and now, having seen it, I call tell you what it is.

The review is long. Proceed if you wish to read on...
The movie starts off with an anonymous voice narrating the story of Bodhi Dharma, the patriarch of Chinese Zen lineage.
This is the only pic of Abhinaya I could find! (T-T)
The scenery starts in China before moving to the Kancheepuram, 1600 years ago. And let me tell you... that one scene where the camera takes the birds' eye view of the capital and pans over to the gurukulam outside it in the midst of the woods, I was genuinely awestruck! It was an amazing 30 seconds there... and now, when I look back to the movie, those scenes (and another one) are the only ones that really stuck! They show Bodhi Dharma, an erstwhile prince of the Pallava dynasty practicing his various martial arts and Suriya manages to get right into character there! And then, the scene moves to that of Suriya getting the blessings of his parents before he takes on the arduous path to China. And here, for a total of less than one minute, we see the wife of Bodhi Dharma. And let me tell you, Abhinaya managed to convey so much in those fleeting moments that the heroine of the movie could not for the whole movie! That scene where he rides off and turns back to gaze for one last time at his wife and her yearning gaze back at him was the most poignant scene in the whole movie!

From there, the Pallava prince travels to the Nanjiang province and after a slight misunderstanding with the locals, gains their trust when he cures them of something akin to the Bubonic Plague. This trust is further cemented when he defeats some bandits who try ransacking their village. I should mention it here that the director seems to have paid enough attention to the Chinese texts which call Bodhi Dharma to be the "Blue eyed Barbarian". Suriya's eyes close up had a tinge of blue in them. It is also clear that the director seems to read a lot of "Naruto". I could swear the entire business with the "nokku varmam" and the way it was showed reminded me of Uchiha Itachi and his Sharingan! (For those of you wondering, that's a genjitsu technique that has similar effects (if not stronger) to the "nokku varmam" thingy used in this movie.)

And the rest, as they claim, is history. Bodhi Dharma lives, dies and is buried in that tiny village. Not a word is mentioned about his going anywhere outside that village! I don't think it's fair to let an important fact like that out and left open for speculation because that, defeats the whole purpose of his travels there! Oh well... I guess sticklers for facts like me will never be satisfied. :P

The story starts to unravel from this point onward. Wait... it has barely begun, you say? Well, there you have it then! The movie loses much once it leaves the ancient realms and steps into today's times. We have our hero who's a circus artist. Pair him up with a heroine who claims to be a genetic engineer looking out for our hero because his genes match that of Bodhi Dharma's to the convoluted T (read 83%) and throw in a chinese villain who seems to have perfected the art of Uchiha Madara's Mangekyo Sharingan with the backing of the Chinese government to spread the very disease that Bodhi Dharma tried eradicating from that tiny village, and what do you get? The setting for the rest of this movie.

I'll give it in points on what went wrong -

  • For all the research that the director claims to have done, he seems inadequately prepared to tackle those issues related to science. Imagine this - being able to reawaken hereditary talents to such an extent that it break through every single tenet of logic. I understand that genetics and science in general is sometimes incomprehensible. But to just take things for granted because the actual thing isn't all that one expects it to be is beyond inane! What was portrayed to be possible in this movie is an insult to every single person who has spent nearly all their life honing those very talents that the scientists in this movie claim to imbue into the hero; and all of it in just 12 days! And not to mention that our hero lies sedated for all of the 12 days while the villain trains like his life depends on it only to get beat up because some dude decided to play with the tenets of science. For shame!
  • Okay... I know everybody believes DNA to be that double helix structure that's shown in almost every show that even remotely has the word genetic in it. But please! Enough is enough! DNA sequencing is a procedure whereby the entire DNA is mapped and sequenced. It does not mean one manipulates with it! And even if one does, it doesn't work wonders. The most one can hope for is to know which nucleotide base is where. One does not change the DNA and even if it were to be done, it does not imply that one can actually change the very inherent genes of the subject so much so that they become another person! Lobotomy works better, or so I heard! AARGH!!!! Seriously people! It isn't rocket science!
  • I personally feel that the best movies have the best villains. And this movie, unfortunately, does not have that. Johnny Tri Nguyen, bless his soul, seems to have only one thing to do in this film - stare eerily into the camera and have the other folks do all the work. It's kinda sad that instead of making him the intelligent secret agent that he ought to have been, they made him seem like so dude from P.C.Sorcar's retinue!
  • Shruti Hassan looks a million bucks, no contest there! But unfortunately, that seems to be the only thing working for her. Even in situations that would have made a normal person show their worries through their vocal chords, she sounds like she's reading the weather report. And for the kind of love her character claims to have for the language of Tamil, she seems to assume a weird accent I've heard among the tweens of Anna Nagar's affluent houses when she speaks the language. No offence but I think she would've been better off having someone else dub for her. And as far as acting goes, it is extremely mediocre. She needn't exhibit as much in this department as daddy dearest (and he overdoes it most of the time!), but to actually seem believable would be a good place to start!
  • The final fight scene that happens very much in Chennai has falling maple leaves! MAPLE LEAVES!!! IN CHENNAI?!!!! What the heck? True, this is a teensie-weensie mistake but seriously, the art director needs to be fogged if he thought he could mess with vegetation and get away with it!
  • The Chinese government folks had their parts dubbed by Indians and that was painfully evident! The least the dubbing artists could do was at least try hiding their Indian accents! Sheeesh.... that was such a buzz-kill there!
  • The songs were okay for most parts. Except for the Chinese song that seemed really soothing and apt, I can't say that the rest of the songs were all that great. Sorry guys, I had really huge expectations here.
  • The entire movie made Bodhi Dharma to be some sort of Superhero and stressed more than enough on the present generations lack of veneration for the language of Tamil or the ancient practices that have a scientific reason backing them up. But strangely, I find it hypocritical that more than a handful of the dialogues on the 'valour of the Tamil people' was cut out when the film was released in Sri Lanka. In the end, it seems nobody is immune to the virus of commerce.
Now, the movie also had a few plus points!
  • Suriya - one reason why I would recommend watching this movie. This man carries this movie on his shoulder and boy... the first few scenes with him as the prince..... the way he turns back to glance at his wife one last time.... * Le siiiiiiiiiiiiiigh*
  • Cinematography = Awesomeness! Even with the absurdly placed maple leaves and the weird villain with an Uchiha complex, the scenes are above average. The story may stink to high heaven but the camera work sure does not! Especially the ancient period shots... and the birds' eye view of ancient Kancheepuram!(I've mentioned it before, right? LOL... you should see the movie for that one shot!)
  • The stunts! Oh. My. God. Especially the final fight scene. Screw the fact that in reality the hero character would get his ass whooped in! The fight was awesome! Awesome does not even begin to describe what the sstunts in this movie are! Peter Hein-san, wonderful work! Really wonderful work!
All in all, go to the theater, sit through the initial fifteen minutes, walk out, go on a date, read a book, take a dump and then come back for the final thirty minutes. You wouldn't miss much! :D
Final Verdict: There's heart in the movie, I'll accept. But with just that, it gets difficult making a good two and a half hours fly by. I'll give it 2 on 5 stars.

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