Updated: May 23, 2020
Aadai, a tamil movie directed by Rathna Kumar starring Amala Paul. Before I get into the movie experience, the story, plot, etc., let me talk about the director and his earlier ventures first.
Director Rathna Kumar's debut Meyaadha Maan (The deer that doesn't graze), a light-hearted romantic comedy, tasted fair success in the box office and also critically despite releasing alongside the Vijay mega movie 'Mersal'. The movie is a short-film-turned-feature. After that comes Aadai with a paradigm shift in the genre - a thriller. That itself, according to me is a bold step because not all directors would shift genres in subsequent films. In his second movie itself the director decided to change gears - kudos to that.
Now let us come to the movie Aadai. Aadai means dress/clothing. The title is very significant for the movie. The movie starts off with the story of the 'breast tax' that was levied upon the lower caste women by the king of Travancore during the early 19th century. The mulakkaram (breast tax) was a tax thrust upon the lower cast women by the upper cast chauvinistic society. In this tax, the lower cast women were supposed to pay some money as tax to the king if they wished to cover their breasts in public. Further, the amount paid was proportion to the size of the breasts. But in the kingdom of Travancore, there was one rebel, a woman by name Nangeli, who refused to pay the tax, nor did she uncover herself in public. One day, when the village officer comes to her house asking for the tax she refuses. After continuously being nagged for it, she lays a banana leaf in front of the officer (as is the tradition in Kerala before serving food), chops off both her breasts and serves them to the village officer. The village officer is shocked to see this as the woman bleeds to death. Nageli's husband unable to bear the separation from his wife commits suicide by committing Sati. After this, eventually the mulakkaram is abolished. Nangeli is worshiped as a deity in parts of Kerala. Kudos to the director for choosing to keep this story as the credits rolled as it kind of sets the premise for the whole movie. It raised some questions in my mind like, "Is it a feminist movie? If yes, does it resort only to man hating kind of a movie or talks about actual feminism? Is the story in the beginning just a sham?" All these questions were answered gradually as the movie progressed. The movie is about Kamini, who is a free spirited, bold, impulsive girl who doesn't shy away from voicing her opinion or gets scared of betting people on the most absurd of things. A journalist by profession, she doesn't think twice before committing or betting. Whether it comes to locking her own colleague up in the toilet to win a bet or racing against random strangers on the road, she just doesn't think twice before committing. When such a girl is put into crisis what would she do forms the remaining of the movie. Well, I am not going to get into what kind of crisis she gets into or about the struggles that she faces during the crisis. The movie certainly has a justification to the title which comes at the end of the story. Also, there is strong message at the end of the movie. Now let's talk about the technical aspects of the movie. The movie travels solely on the shoulders of the protagonist Kamini (Amala Paul). The maturity that has come over the years being in the industry is clearly seen in the way she portrays the character. Kudos to the cinematographer Vijay Karthik Kannan for bringing out the intended imagery in a wonderful manner. The lighting in the movie was not like it is generally there in any Tamil film that we have seen over the years. They are very well toned down and the only time you see a mix of colors and lights is during a scene where the friends along with Kamini accidentally intake some drugs. The 141 minutes run time of the movie could have been cut down as some of the scenes which are intended to establish the character Kamini just become repetitive after sometime. Also, some of the preaching towards the end of the movie also is a drag. Let me now put down some of my thoughts after watching the movie. Aadai, to me is a film, that is not bold just because there is nudity in it. It is a bold because it challenges some of our beliefs. It raises questions like, "Should we care about what others think of us? Even if we do, should we change ourselves? If yes, how much should we change? If we don't care about what others think of us, how dissenting can we be? Is there a limit? If not, is there a balance that we have to find?"
To me Aadai, is more than just a movie. It is a gong, that wakes people, breaks some stereotypes, asks a lot of questions and finally answers close to none. The questions that it raises have no definite answer. If you don't give a shit to what others think of you, how much of a dick can you be? Is there a balance, or not? It also asked me how far should I go with being human?
Aadai is a mirror to the society and it's mindsets that we live in. Through some of the dialogues in the movie that are cryptic and blink-and-miss it raises some really serious questions as to what is feminism and the understanding of the previous generation and the current generation.
On a whole, Aadai is a must watch for all. It is a bold film and for sure would make us think and ponder on the way we think.
Please watch the movie for more questions. I know some of you might have already watched it but I felt it is important to write about the movie now as it is relevant, today, tomorrow and forever. Till the next time it is your flibbertigibbet signing off... Sayonara
This post is written by Ganapathy P.