Raman Aandalum Raavanan Aandalum is the opening phrase of the blockbuster Rajinikanth song from Mullum Malarum. The full verse is "Raman aandalum ravanan aandalum enaku oru kavalai ila" (Whether Rama rules or Ravana, I don't care). In Mullum Malarum, the song is a boisterous proclamation of Kaali's bravado and morality. In Arisil Moorthy's Raame Aandalum Raavane Aandalum (RARA), it's a plea from the common, impoverished man " no matter who rules us, our situations are not going to change. The stage for political commentary is set, but does the film use it well?
RARA revolves around the couple Kunnimuthu (Mithun Manickam) and Veerayi (Ramya Pandian) who live in the remote village, Poocheri. Their beloved bulls, Vellaiyyan and Karuppan go missing. Vellaiyyan and Karuppan were gifts from Veerayi's father for their wedding. The couple treated them as their children " Kunnimuthu throws a fit every time someone refers to them as bulls. When Kunnimuthu goes to the police station to file a complaint, they send him away without taking a complaint. Hence, begins their long search for their bulls and their journey discovering social apathy.
RARA aspires to spark a thought of social awareness within the layman. The writing is well-intentioned but it doesn't go beyond the usual platitudes.
In addition, the narrative meanders all over the place with its political and social commentary, torn between being a social satire and a social drama. For example, there's a board in a small parotta stall reading, "Engineering paditha parotta master venum" (Required: Parotta masters with an engineering degree). There's a Hindi signboard in the middle of nowhere, and a Hindi-speaking food delivery person appears in a village with no roads. A Hindi-speaking trader turns up at a local festival selling bull bells and straps only to have a dialogue, "Un thilalangadi velai ellam un oorla vechuko. Idhu Tamil nadu inga selladhu." (Keep your antics in your land. This is Tamil Nadu, it won't work here.)" We get the sentiment but these quips get increasingly incongruous; they don't add much value to the main storyline.
RARA aspires to make a passionate plea for our impoverished rural population. "Saami kooda osarathula poi okandhuda poyachu angerunthu namma kashta kandukida naal aachu," it says. (Even the Almighty has found a high throne for him. He doesn't hear our pleas from there.) But do its people really care? The disappearance of Kunnimuthu and Veerayi's bulls snowboards into a larger political and development issue, but the film's people do not involve themselves in this quagmire. Even when Narmada (Vani Bhojan), a well-meaning journalist, makes a passionate case about the village's lack of development, it gets no visible reaction from villagers. How will the audience root for a cause when the stakeholders are so dispassionate about it?
Despite earnest performances from the lead trio " Ramya Pandian, Mithun Manickam, Vani Bhojan " RARA fails to go beneath the surface. I quite liked Vadivelu Murugan and Lakshmi Patti's organic humour, who make endearing additions on screen. But the film's biggest limitation is its lack of emotional depth. The lead couple's arc remains agonizingly two-dimensional, where we know precious little about them apart from their love for their bulls. We don't even know what they do for their regular livelihood. Thus, the film's emotional core remains stagnant for a major chunk of its duration.
With all these digressions and a few too many songs (even though this is a commendable debut as composer for singer Krishh), RARA runs way longer than it should. There are way too many loose ends that further dilute the film's authenticity. (For example, the view count in a YouTube video reduces from 56,35,218 to 63,28,13 in subsequent frames " a silly error.)
It tries to stay relevant with its political references, and also attempts to be holistic. But it falls short to create any lasting impact with this superficial take. RARA's heart is in the right place, but the rest is unfortunately not.
Raman Aandalum Raavanan Aandalum streaming on Amazon Prime Video India.