I know it’s not even been a week since I said I’ll try to make my rants/reviews/rambles more objective and less subjective, but you don’t get it Aruvi is an amazing movie.
I’m not going to lie, I do cry while watching a really good tear-jerker. But I’m not an easy crier. It’s only if the lead up to whatever is sad is well done, then I’m definitely crying. And my oh my did I cry in this.
Before you read any further,
I want you to know that I'm going to spoil this movie.
I’m going to spoil this movie so bad because I am completely in love with the story and the execution and the characters that I want to analyse it to improve my own capabilities.
I’d heard this was a good movie. I watched the trailer. But I couldn’t remember it going into the movie. And the start had me hooked.
The movie starts by showing police officers and the media before cutting to a room where there’s an interrogation going on and then you have a police officer slapping Aruvi (Aditi Balan, the main heroine). See, here’s the thing, Tamil movies have stereotypical police officers. Depending on their attire, their age, facial hair, head hair and their basic stature and behaviour, you know if a police officer is a good guy or bad guy in 3 seconds, maybe even 2. And this guy that slaps our heroine is undoubtedly good and if I knew anything about the movie going in, it was that Aruvi is on the good side too. So give it to me. I need to know what’s happening because I’m rooting for both sides at the moment and that’s a bit weird because why are two good people against each other!
And you know, you want to root for Aruvi because there’s something so riveting about her. Her lack of fear when facing our good guy officer is something you want to watch for yourself. It’s not the YOLO lack of fear nor the lack of fear that comes from not respecting policemen. It’s the lack of fear that comes from knowing the truth, that comes from knowing that you’re not wrong. It’s the lack of fear that stems from faith. And at this point in the movie, I don’t know what it is she knows. I don’t know why she’s in this face-off with this police officer and yet I find myself rooting for her, wanting to trust her. And that, I’m telling you, is amazing acting by Aditi Balan.
So our police officer asks other people about Aruvi instead. The first person he asks is her dad. And the flashback starts proper. And I have not seen a better flashback sequence in my life. This flashback sequence is one I’ll remember for a long, long, loooong time. It starts from the beginning of when Aruvi is a barely a toddler, two-years-old maybe? And you see the love that she’s grown up with. Nothing is said. Nothing much is said at all. You see her grow up doing all the normal kid stuff. And the best part is really the background music. It’s not super pop or super emotional. It really is what it is: background music. It doesn’t steal the scene. It just adds to the natural setting and the scene. And then as Aruvi grows older and older, you realise this girl is something. I’m really glad the director put scenes you don’t normally see in Tamil movies, like shaving your legs, a girl staining her skirt, the embarrassment of proposing to a guy who tells you he actually likes someone else. And then you see Aruvi blatantly not giving another girl a sanitary napkin when the other girl really needs one. At this point, you start to think Aruvi is an ass.
And she is. But she is more. Her character is so well developed. I have to say, she’s the most imperfect likeable character I’ve ever seen in a Tamil movie and I mean it for both male and female characters. In all the characters that I’ve seen in a Tamil movie, I have never seen a character like hers. I mean I’ve seen interesting characters like Vedha from Vikram Vedha, but seriously, Aruvi is by far the most compelling character I’ve seen in a Tamil movie. She carries the movie. It’s not a story about what happened or what’s going to happen next, it’s really a helluva ride of what the hell is she going to do next.
This movie was so unpredictable.
Because the father’s flashback ends with the allusion of Aruvi having had premarital sex and her mother wanting Aruvi to get out of her sight, her younger brother thinking she’s a slut and her father asking her to die. What in the world, I know right. But Aruvi says she’s not like that. Nothing happened is her stance. With who, how, when, where is all not mentioned. And I’m okay with that. It’s fine. Cause I mean I’m only more curious! And I want to continue watching! But she gets kicked out and she stays at a college friend’s place. This college friend is easygoing and her dad is also easygoing. They drink and smoke. They’re not addicted, but they’re the casual drinkers and smokers (the friend and her father). And maybe it might trigger people, but I wasn’t actually triggered by this scene. I was uncomfortable, not because they were drinking but because they were going really far. The friend and her father are really close, that much you can see. But I mean which father continues pouring a drink until your own daughter passes out? Like I can understand a drink between a father and daughter, a mother and a daughter, a father and a son, a mother and a son. I can. It’s just a drink. But if you’re going crazy, losing your dignity, passing out, yea, that’s uncomfortable to watch, it’s uncomfortable just seeing two friends going crazy, losing their dignity and passing out, it’s terrible. And so it’s more so, if you’re family and you’re encouraging it. But we move on.
Next, the police officer questions a transgendered friend of Aruvi whose name is Emily. We aren’t told how they met or anything, but we dive straight into the most beautiful of friendships. See, a friendship between females (female and trans woman) is beautiful. We don’t have enough of that in Tamil movies. BRING ON THE FEMALE FRIENDSHIPS, Y’ALL. But yes, it’s an amazing friendship. They find a job together at the local Tailor shop. And it’s great until someone calls Aruvi to tell her, her dad had a heart attack and needs money. She goes to see her Tailor shop boss to ask for an advance payment. He gives it and the story purposely makes you unsure if he’s going to take advantage of her or if he genuinely is giving money from the goodness of his heart. But the scene follows with Aruvi going to the hospital to give money. Her younger brother’s a prick. He says hurtful things and throws the money back at her. She brings home the money and I swear to god, I really love the next scene. I can’t even. It’s amazing, really. That transition was great. I haven’t seen such a good transition in a while. The transition happens and the two of them, Emily and Aruvi, are shown to be on a trip with the money. THEY ARE TRIPPING GUYS. I love that they did that with that money. I mean it makes you wonder what the Tailor shop boss will think that she went on a trip instead of saving her dad. And I was like, man you’re an ass Aruvi, but you’re hilarious to watch. And I don’t feel that conflicted about her enjoying her trip with her boss’ money because they do a lot of soul filling stuff, you know? You just know. These are not people who want to do crazy things and want to have fun with money that’s not theirs. They put it to peaceful use. They put it to attain normalcy. And it’s nice to see.
Trip is over and so is the flashback.
Third person the police officer meets is a director of a show called Solvathellam Saththiyam (Whatever is said is true).
I love this movie so much.
In real life, there’s a show on an Indian Channel which is called Solvathellam Unmai (Whatever is said is true). And I love that they dragged that show into this movie. I love it. Sure the director of the movie says he didn’t mean to drag the show. That’s fine. But I’m glad that show was dragged into this movie and it was done well. There was a GV Prakash film that dragged Solvathellam Unmai as well and even though it was funny, it was done in a bad taste. But I did enjoy it because I’m so annoyed by that show in real life. It’s a lot of screaming and fighting and it’s so tiring, and you get so angry (the show is about an anchor bringing together people with personal issues with other people to reach an understanding). On another channel you see Ellen Degeneres promoting kind deeds and sharing the goodness of people and then you have this show that’s just showing you all the terrible sides of people. I guess that’s what you call balance? I mean sure the people that come to the show are real people with real problems. And I definitely feel bad for them but I don’t know what the point of the show is. Maybe it helps the people on the show, but it doesn’t do anything positive for the audience (in my opinion). Well. As usual, I digress. I apologise. Let’s just say, the movie drags the show very well. Because they don’t actually drag it. They are just making use of the setting of the show to address other more important issues (selfish people who only care about themselves, people who use other people’s miseries for their own benefits) because Solvathellam Unmai has the best scope for the things the movie wants to portray and also the best scope for the story to develop. Becuase the main thing is this, this show, both in real life (Solvathellam Unmai) and in the movie (Solvathellam Saththiyam), tries to address social problems and personal problems the common man has with someone else, for example, a cheating husband/wife, dowry problems, love problems etc. A perfect outlet for Aruvi which is why that show is dragged into this movie (not dragged by the movie).
But yes, we go to the director of this TV show’s flashback and my god is there so much hilarity. We have so many memorable, well-rounded characters that are introduced on the set of Solvathellam Sathiyam. We find out Emily and Aruvi want to participate in this show. And Aruvi expresses that three people have ruined her life. And the show tries to get in touch with these people and bring them onto the sets.
Cue the college friend’s father, the Tailor shop boss and a freaking priest (holy man, soothsayer, I don’t know) who Aruvi met during her trip.
But you know what’s the best part, you still don’t know if she was assaulted or if she is crying wolf. Because Aruvi is not the type of victims we’re used to seeing. We’re so used to seeing broken characters after abuse. Sure they are strong because they come out to say their truth but you can also see how fragile they are.
You don’t see that in Aruvi. In the entire first half of the movie, the only time you see her fragile is when she’s with her family and when her family has abandoned her. And that speaks a lot to me as the audience. It shows how important she views family. And after them, it really doesn’t matter what the hell anyone else thinks. She doesn’t have the desire to prove anything to anyone which only makes you wonder what on earth is her truth.
But so, the anchor of the TV show tries to get the men talking but they maintain innocence. I was a bit unsure with the Tailor shop boss, the college friend’s father did seem suspicious (I didn’t want him to be bad, maybe he did something else, I mean there are more ways to ruin a person’s life than by sexually assaulting them, because really, it’s a friend’s father and that’s disgusting), but when it came to the priest, it was then I knew, Aruvi was definitely assaulted by all three of this trash people.
And I’m confused. Why isn’t Aruvi raging? Why isn’t she even in the least bit visually broken? Why is she so strong? So calm? It just doesn’t make sense. Because you can see that her strength is not a facade.
And then comes the revelation right before the intermission and you realise where all her strength is coming from. It’s amazing. She’s not acting strong while being fragile. Sure, she must be sad and she must hate her predicament but at some point, her predicament made her stronger. She’d come to actually revel in the power that she had, in the truth that only she knew. She was HIV positive before any of the three men ever touched her. And she knew that as they took advantage of her. So who’s really taking advantage of who? Hah. The anchor of the TV show immediately takes the side of the three men and barrages at Aruvi of how she could ruin the lives of three men, that Aruvi should have told the three men she was carrying the disease and they wouldn’t have sexually assaulted her. And I’m just there like what is wrong with the anchor? And Aruvi explains herself. And I am totally in love with the way she does. Because she prompts important questions. Why should it be her responsibility to give people a reason not to hurt her? Why is the onus on her to stop people from hurting her? People shouldn’t hurt others. Period. However, there’s something interesting about Aruvi. The college friend’s father had assaulted her when she was drunk so she might not have been able to fight the father off. The so-called priest had hypnotised her during his hypnotherapy session (sessions Aruvi went for possibly because she wanted a peace of mind) to take advantage of her, so she didn’t have much control there either. But the Tailor shop boss and Aruvi’s interaction is a very interesting one. She ‘technically’ could have gotten out of that situation. The Tailor shop boss was going to give money in exchange for sex, she ‘technically’ could have said no. But she didn’t. And I’m not slut-shaming her, I’m not. Sure, she could have told the Tailor shop boss she was carrying a virus. But in that case, the Tailor shop boss wouldn’t have had sex with her. And that would have meant no money. And she really needs that money to save her dad. So could she really have gotten out of it? Still, yes. But I don’t think she stayed because she had no self-respect for herself or because she loves her dad so much she feels he is more important than her body. I don’t think she allowed herself to be assaulted. I honestly think as much as she was assaulted she was also assaulting. She stayed because a part of her actually wanted that Tailor shop boss to suffer for his disgusting trash like behaviour. She revelled in that. I mean she owns up to the fact that she wants everyone to die when she reveals she was HIV positive on Solvathellam Saththiyam.
But her coming onto the Solvethellam Saththiyam show was her devolving. She no longer liked the person her disease had made her become. She says in the interview that she wants the world to die, that a virus should wipe us all out. And you know she says that but you know she doesn’t mean it. Or at least, she doesn’t mean it anymore. She had every reason to hate the world. She got the virus because there was a cut in her mouth and she drank coconut juice from a coconut seller (who must have been HIV positive too) who accidentally cut himself while cutting the coconut for her to drink. So she drank a contaminated coconut. (This is something I just can’t. Because it really scares me. I ain’t ever eating another coconut from any coconut seller) but anyway yes. So she got the disease for something completely beyond her control. And it’s lost her, her family, who thinks she’s a slut. And then she meets all these human garbage who take advantage of her. Of course, she wants to rid the world of such human garbage. (And seeing that she’s going to die, it had made her retrospective on life and she’d come to a conclusion that all people are scum. They’re living a crap life with nothing real to live for.) It’s such a destructive notion that has been fuelling her hatred. And as much as she revels in her power… you remember she is inherently good. Her coming to the show, although it’s initially portrayed as her seeking justice for being taken advantage of by three men, I think it’s got more to do with her trying to redeem herself. Sure, she wants the men to apologise to her, but you clearly see, this is also a girl who wants to apologise for what her intentions were. I mean the men didn’t apologise but she did and she was ready to leave the set.
And then one of the three men had to screw it up for everyone else. The Tailor shop boss is so angry that she’d call him up, get him to come down to the set, scare him that he’s got the virus and then apologise. I must add, after her revelation, the TV crew conducted a HIV test. The three men were not infected which makes it all the more annoying because she was easily infected and then these men get away despite their actions. But I guess it’s important that they were not infected. Because you can only have one character that has nothing to lose. Her strength and her craziness stem from that fact and it’s why everyone else in the set becomes afraid of her because after this tailor shop guy goes ballistic on her, she pulls out a gun. (Why she even has a gun is adequately explained in the movie, how many bullets she has… I’m not sure actually. But we’ll look past that.)
But the gun raises a very interesting question. Why did she bring a gun to the set? See, we did see her trying to leave before she got attacked, before she even used the gun. And if my theory of her coming onto the show was actually her redeeming herself, it doesn’t make sense for her to be bringing a gun. But all I’m going with this is that the gun was never meant for someone else. She never meant to kill anyone. And I think she knew she could never kill anyone. That gun was not a weapon, if anything, it was a shield. But that’s just my thoughts.
So she pulled out a gun and she claimed her kingdom. She had everyone on the set who looked at her in disgust for being HIV positive as her hostage. And let’s face it, she liked that power. And it’s not new to her. She’s had that power everytime a man had taken advantage of her. Only, she was the only one who knew she had power since she didn’t tell anyone. But now everyone else knows. And she is going through that turmoil of that power. She’s come a long way from having that power and not wanting it and now being able to wield it. And she doesn’t know what to do. And so she asks to play truth or dare and as a rule, those who get chosen must do whatever she tells them to. They can mess up their first time, but if they do it wrong the second time, they get their heads blown up. Why the hell is a game making an entry now? I love this tie-in. Maybe I’m over thinking it but in her college flashback, she’s shown to stop a fight between two girls by pulling one of them away and asking to play truth or dare. The girl who gets her hair pulled is annoyed but it very clearly diverts the girl away from the fight. And it’s my inference that Aruvi plays the game to change the mood because she doesn’t know what else to do and there was an empty bottle on the set. (UPDATE as of 26 January: I’ve been putting Aruvi songs on reply and I, for the first time in like a hundred times, just noticed Aruvi spinning pencils in her toddler flashback. I’ve seen the scene so many times, but I was more interested in the puppy in the scene rather than the pencil she was spinning!!! Loving all these subconscious tie-ins!) She doesn’t have a plan – you don’t plan to play Truth-or-Dare with your hostages if you don’t bring a bottle to the set, people. So this is why I believe she didn’t plan to hurt anyone.
And then we have the actual dares. The first person who gets picked by the bottle is dared to say the 7 times table. And maybe the people on the set think she’s crazy. She is. She has power. Something these people on the set stripped her off when the show started. So when the guy messes up his first chance and shows so much fear, she revels in it.
But the fearful faces also reminds her that it’s her they’re scared of. But she isn’t the monster they think her to be. She doesn’t want them to be afraid. Because I don’t think her end goal has ever been fear, her end goal has always been love, acceptance and respect. So when the next person gets picked, a boy, she asks him to do charades. To act out a movie title and someone else must guess it if he wants to live. And she tells him a movie name. The boy says that name is too hard, to give him a chance to live. And do you know what she does? She changes the title for him.
Does that sound like a killer to you?
The second title is something the boy has never heard of (which I’m thinking is a porno) and Aruvi changes the title again. Seriously, she’s not a monster, she’s not crazy and she doesn’t want to kill anyone. Another instance is when she gives Peter, another hostage that has been respectful towards her prior, a scenario where he is in love with her, so he must propose to her. He acts out a proposal scene. And it’s terrible. So she gives him a second chance. In a prior encounter, he had said he wanted to be a director (or a producer I can’t remember). So she asks him to tell her an amazing story that will run well. And passionately he starts on a story…. that’s really trash. I mean it’s not trash, but when your life depends on an amazing story and you dish out something about a 1980s Landlord who used to be previously loved by his family but suffered a misunderstanding so he ran away from his family then during his dying days he writes a letter and some guy in the village gets it and he goes on a journey to find the letter writer’s family and brings them all together………. I can’t even, even the other hostages are thinking Peter is dooming himself. But Aruvi doesn’t kill him. Instead, she asks Peter to get back in position and calls someone else out.
I love Aruvi. She has so much power and yet she does not do harm. She still has that charm of a child. It’s not craziness, you know. It’s not that she’s gone bonkers. It’s really just that fact that she doesn’t want to do harm.
And I love the people on the set. Not for the same reasons. No. I love the people on the set because I love what fear has done to these people. They’re so afraid and are doing all kinds of ridiculous stuff to stay alive.
Meanwhile, people nearby, who’d heard gunshots, had called the police. The police and the press have deemed Aruvi as a terrorist. See this is why I like Singapore’s lack of freedom of speech. The media people are just looking for the next big scoop instead of being responsible for their content. No one will dare term anyone in Singapore as a terrorist until there is irrevocable truth. I mean you could get sued for inciting fear and unrest amongst the public. I once again digress. But anyway then with the media frenzy, the police frenzy and the public frenzy, you know what else we see in front of the hostage building? This group of people having a funeral procession and they want to go through police barricaded area. You don’t understand how much I love this detail. There’s absolutely no necessity for this scene but it being there is everything. India at its finest description.
So we see our good guy police officer taking control of the situation and he asks Aruvi what her demands are. She initially has none, and then comes up with a list of……. Food and alcoholic beverages for her hostages after which she agrees to let everyone go. The police gives it to her. She informs her hostages after they eat, they can go and once again apologises if she’s hurt them. She and her hostages eat and party literally. And everyone is now in a more jovial mood. Even her rapists. See this is another thing I have with this movie, Aruvi forgives her rapists (the first being the way she gets the virus, I mean okay look, it’s hella possible BUT IT’S HELLA UNFAIR AND I JUST CAN’T FORGIVE THIS MOVIE FOR IT). I really think the idea of forgiveness was well depicted in the sense that the movie humanised one of the rapists. So we can safely assume the other two have some redeeming characteristics too. But for Aruvi to look past their betrayal and to forgive them just… I won’t say it doesn’t settle with me. Because I can understand that she’s dying, she’s tired of hating and she wants to let go, and the humanising trait of her assaulters would have actually made forgiving easier. So do I think she should have forgiven her assaulters? No. But do I think the circumstances make it possible? Yes. Would someone else in her exact position end up forgiving the assaulters? Possibly.
So all’s good. And the misunderstanding is cleared that she’s not a terrorist but she still committed a crime. So she’s put in a camp because people with HIV can’t be in prison. And we see her health deteriorate and I’m telling you, it broke my heart to see her like that. And just when you think it can’t get any more emotional, she runs away from the camp not wanting to die in four walls.
No one knows where she is and after a while, she makes a video to tell people how scared of death she is and how much she misses her dad and everyone in the hostage situation and sends it to everyone involved in the hostage situation. She tells them she too wishes to have had a man, a marriage, a child and to have been a good mum. She tells them she’ll be happy if any of them have a daughter, name her Aruvi and tell their daughter to grow up to be good people. And it really broke me man. This is a good person.
After seeing this video, Peter rallies everyone who was in the hostage situation and even her family to go and visit her like his Landlord story. I love that tie-in. I love it. I absolutely do. Some might think it’s melodramatic, a cheap shot at targetting emotion, but to me, in my opinion, things are a circle in life and I like these kinds of closure.
And then Peter gives her a card with just I love you written. And I mean the audience knows there’s a cuteness to this scene because, during Aruvi’s college flashback, she had said to her friends that she wants a card with ‘I love you’ nothing else extravagant and that’s the best type of love proposal. And obviously, Peter doesn’t know this detail. Not only does this make the ending sweet because the audience knows the importance of this small scene and how important it is to Aruvi, but it also just, you know, it just shows how much the universe (the director) is putting everything together. It gives a sense of hope, you know? That even in your darkest of times, there is a light, that you are not forgotten, that you are where you are supposed to be and you don’t have to worry. This is why I love good tie-ins. It’s not just a happy ending, it’s something that leaves you with hope.
I love this movie and Aruvi is such a great character created by the director, Arun Prabhu, who has been portrayed excellently by Aditi Balan.