The film has plenty of moments that’s refreshing to watch, especially in its first half.

Aadai review Amala Pauls Kamini outshines the films story
Flix Kollywood Saturday, July 20, 2019 - 14:13
Worth a watch

Amala Paul’s Aadai released on Friday evening after an eleventh-hour conundrum that resulted in the morning and noon shows being cancelled. Forced to watch a film that they hadn’t booked, audiences were surprised and equally annoyed. With all its recent delays, and last-minute show cancellations, Tamil cinema has been taking its audience for granted and needs to get a grip on its releases soon but that’s a topic for another day. 

Coming back to Aadai’s release, it was speculated that the actor waived off her salary to clear the financial problems the film’s producer was facing. Even while fans tweeted their disappointment over cancelled shows, Amala’s Aadai emerged victorious with shows beginning from 6.00 pm IST on Friday. The announcement came with a poster where she’s wearing a cape and striking the superwoman pose which we quite liked.  

While this needless drama might have dampened Aadai’s opening, Amala’s performance in it more than makes up for all of that. The actor as Kamini holds you tight right from the very first frame and she single-handedly carries the entire film keeping us engaged all through its runtime. 

Kamini works at a TV channel and runs her own candid-cam-prank show called ‘Thoppi Thoppi'. Kamini is the kind of woman whose confidence you envy. She’s the life of every party and the kind of person who wouldn’t mind going overboard for something she finds exciting. She’s addicted to betting, the rush that comes with a challenge, and this much we could deduce from the trailer itself.

It’s also refreshing to be introduced to a female protagonist like how Aadai does. Kamini effortlessly pulls off a Harley Quinn but wakes up with a gasp when she dreams of herself in a saree. We’re taken through the minor specifics of her morning routine, brushing, in the lavatory with a newspaper, even while her mother goes on a rant about how Kamini should ideally behave.

Kamini’s original name is Suthanthira Kodi. While there’s lot for us to observe about her character during the first few scenes, we’ve also got a group of men, her colleagues, discussing who Kamini is, the kind of introduction a hero gets in usual Tamil cinema style.

But more than this narrated introduction, Kamini is seen more clearly from the way she interacts with the people in her life. Like the discussion she has with her mother about feminism, the way she reacts when a colleague proposes to her (her responses had everyone inside the theatre in splits) or the way in which she deals with an awkward confrontation she has with her friend Jennifer (Ramya), when she’s clearly at fault. 

There’s two ways of looking at Aadai. One, from the start right up to the monologue in the climax and then going back to rethink the entire film after having watched it fully. The film begins with an animated retelling of Nangeli’s story (the 19th century revolutionary from Kerala who cut off her breasts and gave up her life to abolish a cruel tax levied by Travancore royalty upon working class women for covering their breasts), which in retrospect we should’ve seen coming. 

Although the film has plenty of moments that’s refreshing to watch, especially in its first half with all the pranks and with respect to Kamini’s character sketch, it all feels like a letdown towards the end. But again in retrospect we should’ve seen this one coming too, if you had a super good memory that is. Do you remember this quote by Jean Paul Sartre from the film’s teaser? “Freedom is about what you do with what’s been done to you.” Well, the film has its own version of it in Tamil - ‘kedacha sugandiratha veenakadheenga’, (don’t misuse/waste the freedom you’ve got) and ‘enna than sugandhira kodi uh irundhalum, adhan sugandhiram kodi varaikum than’ (even if it’s the freedom flag, its freedom is limited to the pole). 

Aadai uses this in its literal meaning to erase everything it had going for itself. Kamini with her wild curls revving her bike in acceptance to the challenge thrown at her from racers on the road in the middle of traffic, Kamini who sits not ladylike but with her feet on the sofa, Kamini who wouldn’t mind taking off her clothes for a challenge is shown her place, a spot allocated exclusively for women by patriarchy. The irony becomes unbearable for some of us when the name of the character who gives Kamini “a taste of her own medicine” is revealed towards the very end. 

The film does have some brilliant moments, especially the dig it took on one very famous lyricist who was called out last year for being a sexual predator, and for all the anticipation it built up inside the high rise building where Kamini is stuck naked. The pre-climax scenes where Kamini, caught in this dog-eat-dog world, talks to herself, admonishing her fears is one of the best scenes. Aadai's music and background score also work very well for it, giving us the rush in all the right points. 

Aadai is surely a story to be welcomed in Tamil cinema and Amala Paul has done a great job in portraying the live-wired Kamini. Yet, when you most expect for the film to break the ceiling, it comes crashing down with a thud that echoes a lot like those stray pigeons flapping their wings inside the now-empty building.  

Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the series/film. TNM Editorial is independent of any business relationship the organisation may have with producers or any other members of its cast or crew.

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