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Some Ramblings - Arundhati
By Srinivas Kanchibhotla

Is this what the horror/thriller genre been reduced to - a cacophony of screams, yelps and shouts, amped up by the modern advancements in sound design, an unbearable ritual of violence, gore and bloodbaths (literally), aided by the exponential improvements in special effects department? With any kind of subtlety being beaten to death with the sledgehammer of excess, 'Arundhati' is the best illustrative example to the age old saying 'picchi vADi chaetilO raayi'. In this age of sourcing, re-sourcing and recurrent themes, where makers openly acknowledge that it no longer about the content, but all about presentation, 'Arundhati' stands tall and proud for its original content in the horror realm, by not being some overt or covert variation of the 'The Exorcist' movie. That probably remains the sole shining point - the original story - in this orgiastic mess of over-indulgence, over-action...over-everything. If the aim of the movie is to (technologically) beat the audience into subjugation by overpowering their senses (in the worst possible way), it certainly did meet its goals. But if the original intention was to scare the audience and send shivers down their spine, the original mission statement seemed to have been thrown out the window within the first 10 minutes of the movie. Horror succeeds in its understated nature, thrill thrives in a proper build up. But when in every other scene, the characters scream at the top of their lungs, and blood squirts out like out of a natural well spring, the point is no more about just scaring; it becomes one about creating a visceral reaction, a revulsion of sort, a physical objection to the carnage on the screen; it is about n(d)umbing down the senses from feeling anything. From that point on, involvement in the movie reduces to a detached observation to the proceedings on the screen, very much like watching a surgical procedure in an operation theater, with the patient not administered an anesthesia.

Employing sight and sound in a manner befitting amateur movie making, 'Arundhati' has completely erased the defining boundaries between 'horrific' and 'horrible'. Horror is never about what is seen/shown, as much as it is about what is hidden and left to the imagination, the classic 'fear of the unknown'. Horror is amplified in anticipation, it is magnified in the possibilities of what might happen, much more than what actually happens. And once the suspense is revealed, and the shock is absorbed, wisdom lies in quickly pulling it back, without revealing the whole game. 'Arundhati' makes a sorry case for a horror movie, as the suspense (trump card) is revealed within the first few minutes, and the rest of the movie is spent in vastly exaggerating the scare of the known, with ear-piercing sound effects, and laughably bad CGI effects. The makers seems to have lost the plot as far moderation of the scare and judgment of the moment are concerned. Almost every other dialogue by every other character is shouted out as his/her guts were being ripped out. There is no sense of any mood, tempo, build up and a crescendo. Horror relies heavily on sanity of the characters, in that, it is this violation/stretching of the sanity to the extremes is what that becomes eventually horrifying. Consider the classic, 'The Exorcist'. The innocence and the purity of the little girl defiled by the devil is what is truly frightening about the movie. Added to that the juxtaposition of the normalcy and the insanity (like, in the first meeting of the possessed kid and the Father, in her bedroom) at every encounter is what that enhances the shock value. But if the regular characters speak and act as though they were possessed themselves (like the 'taaLLa saayibu' character) in top of the roof voices and loud actions, it just becomes a screaming match between the devil and the devil-ridder, and the audience would have a tough time choosing between the lesser of the two evils.

If 'Arundhati' wasn't meant to be a horror piece but just a thriller, it fails miserably even on that front. Consider the last genuinely spooky thriller, Vamsi's 'Anweshana'. The cat and mouse chase between the killer and the victim with the victim barely escaping at just last moment, and the menace of the killer constantly lurking in the background (not to mention, an creepy background score) creates the necessary aura around evil, without necessarily revealing it. The anonymity factor that is absolutely essential for spooky thriller genre (Psycho, The Omen, Jaws, Rosemary's Baby and other such low budget thrillers) and seems to be found largely wanting in 'Arundhati', as it tries to hide its lack of even the slightest tension behind the special effects extravaganza ('extra' being the operative word).

To what use is a special (computer) effect, if it is glaringly and painfully obvious that it is indeed a computer generated image? Is the intention to demonstrate the capability of the computer or use it as a necessary tool in the story telling process? It is an unstated rule that a special effect has to blend in with the action, and it should be near impossible to tell apart the real one from the recreated one. That is when an effect is said to have fulfilled its purpose/destiny. If it is obvious to one and all, that the majority of the (ill-conceived and misplaced) effects are unreal, to what use are the crores of budget spent against them? In the early 60s, Robert Wise made an excellent movie 'The Haunting', about a psychologist bringing a bunch of normal people to a haunted place, to study the psychological effects of fear on people. The entire movie is an skillful exercise of inducing fear psychosis with light and shadow, not ghosts, not special effects. Much of the fear is suggestive and implcit. Hollywood during the 90s (the time when CGI really took off) remade the same movie, this time overloading and underlining every scary moment with a CGI effect. The creaking doors, the muffled sounds, the long dark shadows of the previous venture became CGI ghosts, moving doors and crashing buildings. Whatever danger lurked behind the close doors was brought out in the open, making the new one, one of the worst remakes ever. It is like trying to scare someone with the torch light underneath the chin, except during broad daylight. Likewise, the innumerable special effects shots in 'Arundhati' at the most inopportune and unnecessary moments, neither come to the aid of story, nor drum up any chills. And the only real chilling moment in the entire movie is when Arundhati offers herself to be sacrificed, which ironically is a regular sequence sans any special effects.

With unreal effects, near absent direction, loud (over) acting, ear-splitting sound effects, 'Arundhati' is a waste of time, energy and resources. And that goes for everyone - on the screen, behind the screen, and in front of the screen.

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More Ramblings on films
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Slumdog Millionaire
Quantom of Solace
The Dark Knight
Wall - E
The incredible Hulk
Indiana Jones and the kingdom of crystal skull
Speed Racer
Iron Man
Jodha Akbar
There will be blood
Chrlie Wilson's War
No Country for Old Men
Om Shanti Om
Lions for Lambs
American Gangster
Michael Clayton
Happy Days
Chak De India!
The Bourne Ultimatum
The Simpsons Movie
The Grindhouse
Casino Royale
The Departed
Lage Raho Munnabhai
Superman Returns
The Da Vinci Code
Sri Ramadasu
Rang De Basanti (Hindi)
Jai Chiranjeeva!
Munich (English)
Sarkar (Hindi)
Mangal Padey (Hindi)
Kaadhal (Tamil)
Anukokunda Oka Roju
Batman Begins (English)
Radha Gopalam
Mughal E Azam
Virumandi (Tamil)
Lakshya (Hindi)
Yuva (Hindi)
Kakha Kakha (Tamil)
Mr & Mrs Iyer
Nuvve Nuvve


This article is written by Srinivas Kanchibhotla
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