Aval Tamil Movie
The horror genre continues its bull run in Kollywood, catching the frenzy of the new breed of filmmakers who have largely contributed towards diversifying this horror genre - one sub-genre being "horror comedy" - sounds like an oxymoron, but we've been lapping up the legacy of dubbed 'Vittalacharya' classics to the likes of the contemporary 'Kanchana' series that made merry at the box office. The other one in my view is the serious ones where the creators have no qualms in displaying blood and gore and introducing sinister backstories - ranging from the yesteryear 'Yaar' to the more contemporary 'Maya' and now, 'Aval' - which also claims to be "based on a true story".
The movie opens up in the year 1937, with a grainy black and white scene set in the midst of the pristine Himalayan landscape, at a palatial bungalow, where a Tibetan/Chinese pregnant woman and her little daughter are shown bonding near a well. Before my faint memory reminded me of 'The Ring', the scene abruptly cuts to 2016 where Sidharth and Andreah make love in bed over a smooth jazzy number in the background - whistles and catcalls from the frontbenchers say it all! Certainly, that was the only number, which was fully utilized to not only gain some commercial brownies but most importantly to establish the relationship and chemistry between the lead pair.
The couple resides near the same bungalow which was shown at the beginning of the movie. New neighbours move into the bungalow. Of course, Jennifer (debutant Anisha) the eldest daughter in the family starts 'seeing' and 'experiencing' things at her new place. Krish (Siddharth), being a neurosurgeon, with his mentor Suresh, naturally fit into the plot because of the psychic angle. Then, a pastor (Prakash Belawadi) and a Tantrik (a bald Avinash with an evil tattoo at the back of his head walks straight into the movie from the sets of 'Jil Jung Jak') join the fray for exorcism and other climatic rituals alluded with such films.
'Aval', as the name suggests is a horror movie that centres around the aspect of feminism (if I've read between the lines correctly). Like most other horror movies, here too, the evil in question are females. But there is a twist in the tail of another devil that gets revealed towards the climax. No more spoilers, I promise!
Debutant director Milind Rao has set the story several hundred feet above sea level - the Himalayas. We've seen eerie plots set in hill stations like Kodaikanal or other offbeat places, but a place as high as Himachal was a novelty. But, had he couped in authentic supporting actors and extras reflecting the local milieu, it would have been more authentic. Yes, the maid in the house was a Nepali/Bhutia lady. Otherwise, the others in the cast and largely the medium of conversation in the background was largely Tamil. Maybe, those scenes could have been canned in Ooty or Coorg, because of the budget.
Performances - Siddharth and Andrea brought forth the yuppy mature couple's equations (lost count of the lip locks) to the table and were a perfect fit for their respective roles. Anisha as the girl next door was a 'model material' who struggled to hold her presence in a scene. As a possessed girl, she passed muster, but as a teenager who nurtures a secret crush for Siddharth, she was more of her own.
Atul Kulkarni looked older than the gentleman who portrayed the role of his father. The little girl who played Atul's younger daughter was sweet and articulative. Prakash Belawadi as the pastor was a necessary evil for the plot, but seem to have curtailed expressions. Suresh as Siddharth's mentor was another cliched role. Overall, the casting and performances were full of hits and misses.
Plotwise, the director has made sure to have those momentary scares in place with excellent angles, music and the eerie atmosphere, but everything fell apart with a lazy and run-of-the-mill backstory that had a lame excuse. It 'eclipsed' the plot that was carefully built till then. Yes, there was a twist in the tale as I mentioned before, but still, the backstory could have been more layered and sinister as we've seen and heard them in the past. Also, weaving in a feministic propaganda doesn't fit in with the emotional value that the director pleads us to take back home - yes, "the message" appears on the screen at the end! Director Milind needs to learn the art of subtlety - after all, why do we have dialogues and actors?
Major strengths of the movie were Shreyas Krishna's cinematography and Girish's background score. The angles, lighting schema, colour tones, camera movement and the entire milieu were captured with a lot of detail. The camera sailed through with the characters and the plot in its entirety. BGM, on the other hand, went hand-in-glove with the proceedings, creating the scares and leads (and sometimes purposely misleads) the audience to fear for the 'unknown'. Technically the movie was excellent. I loved the overall craft dished out by the director with his relative novice (read it as young and enthusiastic) crew.
The movie, though cannot be labelled as a 'must watch' as I haven't found a unique aspect to it. But certainly, it did what it was meant to do - to induce the scares - of course with inspiration from its counterparts from the west. The director apart from thanking the devil (during the initial credits), should have also thanked other Hollywood directors for inspiring him. Worth a watch!!