Arisil Moorthy’s directorial debut Raman Aandalum Ravanan Aandalum borrows its title from a song in superstar Rajinikanth’s film Mullum Malarum (1978). The song shows the hero celebrating his freedom, as he announces that no matter who holds the power, he will always be the king of his life. It is a song of rebellion that flies in the face of authority and power. In Raman Aandalum Ravanan Aandalum, however, the title nods to the other end of the spectrum. It says that no matter who is in power, the lives of some people will never change for the better.
The everyday political issues that dominate our news channels, social media feeds and WhatsApp debates are far removed from the issues that actually matter. The alleged wrongs committed by a 13th-century king have no significance for a girl who has to walk miles every day to fetch water. And then trek under scorching heat to reach her school, which is also miles away from her village.
Raman Aandalum Ravanan Aandalum opens with Kunnimuthu, played by Mithun Manickam, leaving his slippers at the doorsteps before entering the police station. His body language and lack of confidence while speaking with people in power tells its own story. But, this diffident man is ready to physically take on powerful people for the sake of his bulls as he considers them his children. So does his wife Veerayi (Ramya Pandian), who seems content with rearing the animals instead of bearing children of her own.
When these bulls suddenly go missing, Veerayi sits at home and cries while Kunnimuthu wanders around in search of his children. Narmada (Vani Bhojan), a reporter from a news channel, is looking for an issue that would help the dwindling TRP ratings of her network. And she sees an opportunity in Kunnimuthu’s agony and seizes it. Her news report creates a sensation, forcing other news channels to also dedicate all their resources to finding Kunnimuthu’s bulls.
But, the market-driven media is not the story. The story is that the media has been busy reporting non-issues as politicians and bureaucrats siphon off crores at the cost of villages like the one Kunnimuthu lives in. In a scene, Narmada says, “While we are all talking about Kunnimuthu’s missing bulls, we failed to notice that an entire village has gone missing.” That should have been the story, instead of just a passing reference.
Arisil’s understanding of certain political and social issues lacks maturity. His take on the issue of Hindi imposition reeks of chauvinism and shows contempt for those who speak the language. Director Karthik Subbaraj in his last film Jagame Thandhiram had discussed how discriminating against a person based on his or her mother tongue is also racism. Raman Aandalum Ravanan Aandalum fails to distinguish between political agenda and private citizens. The director fails to grasp the subject that he’s dealing with, which reveals itself in the incongruous and convenient climax.
Irony is inherent in the deteriorating political discourse in India, and it doesn’t take much of an effort for the filmmakers to capture it. Making a political satire on the times we live in is easy. But, that doesn’t mean that the filmmakers should take a lax approach while dealing with such an important issue. Arisil’s social commentary lacks panache or punch.
Raman Aandalum Ravanan Aandalum is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.