A butterfly flutters into the traffic and enters a bus, distracting the driver. He slams into the vehicle in front of him, setting off a chain reaction which ends with someone bumping into Yamuna's (Nanyanthara) two wheeler and breaking the tail light.
Quite literally, the butterfly effect.
KM Sarjun's Airaa is all about a small incident snowballing into something that alters the course of lives. The director has tried to spin an emotional tale with supernatural elements, with parts of it reminding us of Mysskin's Pisasu. The effect, however, is rather underwhelming.
The film begins on a chilling note. Two policemen go to an eerie bungalow in Pollachi when someone calls for help. They witness strange happenings and are dragged away by a demonic force and then...cut. We are taken back to three months in time where Nayanthara gets a superstar introduction, uttering-but-not-uttering a Tamil cussword to cheers from the audience.
As Yamuna, Nayanthara plays a spunky journalist who decides to go to her grandmother's (a sufficiently spooky Kulappulli Leela) house in Pollachi for a break. Yogi Babu appears as her cousin, Mani, and the two of them try to recreate the Kolamaavu Kokila equation half-heartedly. For a film that makes a show of taking a stance against shaming someone for their looks later on, I wonder why Yogi Babu had to be cast yet again in such a role where his appearance is a point of amusement.
The first half offers a few jumps and scares but these remain as fleeting moments. The film doesn't really build up the suspense to set you on edge. The butterfly element, too, is overused and since the CGI isn't exactly convincing, it proves to be annoying beyond a point.
Kalaiarasan plays Amudhan, a man who is investigating a series of suspicious deaths. The two storylines intersect at one point and we get to meet Bhavani. From the film's promos, it was clear that Nayanthara was playing dual roles, one in which she looked like herself and the other in which she's dark skinned. The dark skinned Bhavani portion is shot almost entirely in black and white and is high on melodrama. Considered to be accursed, people around Bhavani are constantly telling her how ugly she is.
But Bhavani is being played by Nayanthara and however much you try to "uglify" her, the woman looks anything but unappealing. So, scenes when people tell her things like "Who will marry someone with your face?" simply look absurd. Nayanthara has done a commendable job, changing her body language and expressions to suit a woman who suffers from an inferiority complex and is withdrawn. But the script is so relentlessly maudlin that it just offers too much crie and too little conviction. Why can't we just cast actors who are naturally dark skinned instead of blackfacing people?
The extended flashback portion ends up becoming a drag and the climax, too, leaves us feeling cheated. Would it have hurt to give Bhavani at least a wee bit more spirit than a harmless insect?
Sundaramurthy's background score is subtle when it needs to be and allows enough silences for us to wonder what's going to happen next. The red colouring in some scenes, however, appeared to be overdone.
Airaa has a decent idea at its core but loses its way fluttering around it rather than taking the plunge and really shaking us up.
Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Neither TNM nor any of its reviewers have any sort of business relationship with the film's producers or any other members of its cast and crew.