Director Sarjun KM came across as a promising name with two emotionally-deep short films - 'Lakshmi' and 'Maa.' The movies not only had a matured craft, but the content ruffled a few feathers and questioned the depths of societal morality. Nevertheless, they were intriguing in their capacity and that, for me is the true measure of a film and its maker. His debut feature film 'Echarikkai' was not able to garner that sort of praise and in less than a year he has come out with another movie, 'Airaa' starring Nayanthara, the lady superstar in the now favorite horror genre.
'Airaa,' like any other recently released horror movie, inherits the classic ghostly revenge template, but tries to add a bit of twist with the 'butterfly effect' concept (and how lamely was it conveyed to the layman - with a flurry of graphical butterflies emerging from nowhere now and then).
Yamuna (Nayanthara), a journalist gets tired of her job and her parents' constant pressure to get married and so, decides to start her own YouTube channel with supernatural content to lure viewership. Then, she realizes that ghosts surround her for real and how she unintentionally has come under the radar of the spirit that wants to fulfill its vengeance.
The USP for the film is Nayanthara in a dual role. Moreover, the second role had her in a deglamorized ebony outlook that was meant to garner sympathy. Of course, that role had way too many flaws - it portrayed her as an unlucky 'dark girl' who gets often trolled for her looks and ill luck. That was yet another stereotypical showcase of an underdog facing torture at the hands of unfair family members and succumbing to societal dogma.
It took some time for me to realize that Nayanthara had no mainstream pair in the movie. Kalaiarasan comes across just as an afterthought and a link to connect two seemingly different storylines. However, Nayanthara has attempted to walk the tightrope by carrying the entire movie on her shoulders. Due to the director's flawed character portrayal and an uninspiring narrative, she falls well short of the finishing line, and consequently, the movie failed to impress.
Yogi Babu seemed to be tired while the other characters were just there to fill the scenes with run-of-the-mill dialogues. There weren't any interesting characters or scenes per se. The butterfly effect that was put across was alarmingly underwhelming, and the reason for the ghost to turn towards Yamuna (Nayanthara) made the audience red-faced. It was that silly a reason.
The major drawback for the movie was the narrative that doesn't care about the intricate nuances in the craft. Director Sarjun, who showed much promise with his short films before making it to the bigger league had that innate vibe that he imbibed into his craft, but the same was missing in its entirety in this movie. Everything about the movie looked formulaic, and that includes its leading lady, Nayanthara, who desperately wants to grab the screen space as much as possible.
A few positives would be the music by Sundaramoorthy, cinematography by Sudarshan and editing by Karthik Joseph. Apart from these technicalities, there was hardly anything worthy of a mention. This movie raises severe doubts for a filmmaker's command over the medium with an expanded duration.
Also, this stands testimony to the fact that merely a star's presence cannot guarantee a hit. It's early days for the director, and he deserves another chance to put things in perspective and weigh in with much more engaging narratives with the "connect" that he established with his short films. As of now, the verdict is loud and clear - just not worth the time!
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