Thursday, April 26, 2012

7aam Arivu: with science like this, who needs sci-fi?

Note to all Indian filmmakers, but particularly A. R. Murugadoss - sometimes the less scientific plot solution is the more believable one. 

7aam Arivu (translates Seventh Sense) is a big Tamil action entertainer that aims to educate the Tamil-speaking audiences about the greatness in their history, and to not to play down the achievements of the past. Surya plays both Bodhidharma, the ancient Pallava prince who ends up teaching medicine to the Chinese, as well as inventing martial arts, and the modern-day circus actor Arvind. Shruti Haassan is the genetic engineering student, who's got a special interest in Arvind..

I'm pretty good at suspending my belief, and a lot of films I love have questionable applications of medicine, psychology or science. But sometimes there comes a point where a film is trying a little too hard to sell you the reality of something, and your brain just fails to come to terms with it. So I sat there, watching this film, constantly going, "But genetics doesn't work like that! But hypnotism doesn't work like that! But that's not what genetic memory means!"

So I thought of alternatives, and came to the conclusion that even reincarnation, a concept that I don't personally believe in, would have been a more passable solution here.

As good as the action masala ingredients are here, the message and the fervour in which it is sold to the audience, end up undercutting the film's true potential. The crux of the matter is a good point made about the self-deprecating views expressed by many Tamils that often apply to colonised people. Since the colonisers have sold the idea of their culture being superior, the colonised feel inferior, and that feeling might linger in their cultural subconscious long after the period of colonisation. Regaining this self-confidence in your own history is important. But the way this message was delivered could have been so much more subtle and less aggressive, and padded with something more believable than the blatantly science-fictiony science presented as current fact. Also slightly uncomfortable is the portrayal of China as the Big Bad here. 

It's a bit tragic that a film that could've explored say, the roots of martial arts in Tamil culture, gets bogged down in fantastical science and Tamil jingoism so much that even the good stuff (mostly comprised of Surya's performance and the handsome action) gets shadowed by the sheer wasted opportunity.

I read an article somewhere that Aamir Khan was once again so impressed by this Murugadoss film (as he was with the 2005 Ghajini that I reviewed here) that he's planning to remake it in Hindi. Oh, Mr Khan, please stay away from this one, or at least radically reform it. 

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