Who will win? Iron-Willed Lady or Unwashed Maniac?
Jejammaaaaaaaaa! O Ammaaaaaaaa! Jejammaaaaaaaaaa! Hey Ammaaaaaaaa!
That's our favorite song from the spectacular horror film-cum-feminist fable Arundhati. Evil rapists of the world, you better watch yoselves! Little 10-year-old Arundhati is going to beat you so hard "even dogs are disgusted by the corpse"! And after she ties you to your horse and runs you out of town, she's going to run the kingdom as the most beloved queen of all. Oooh, Jejaammaaaaaa!
Round 1: Evil Pasupathi still retains some vestiges of hotness, even if he is just a demon in human form.
Nevertheless, 10-year-old Arundhati still wins. Ha!
A highly appealing film that was a big hit earlier this year, Arundhati is a tale of reincarnation, haunted mansions and super-charged girl power. Because when a girl says "no", she means it - and she can back it up with some martial arts and ancient swords made of BONES.
Much like the Hindi film Paheli, Arundhati is steeped in feminism and an earthy Hinduism full of mysticism and the supernatural. Except now just pretend Paheli had been directed by Quentin Tarantino. Talking puppets and handsome ghosts? Kid's stuff! Arundhati's characters spend most of their time covered in either gore or mud, and when they aren't fighting each other or casting spells on each other, they're probably dying in some horrific, spectacular way.
Round 2: Okay, now we bring out the big guns. You want to play this supernatural, Pasu-frickin'-pathi? Bring it!
I see your incantations and raise you an Agora!
Essentially, the film is about a war of wills between super-heroine Arundhati (Anushka Shetty) and her arch-nemesis (and brother-in-law!), the sadistic sex maniac Pasupathi (Sonu Sood!). This war spans generations, reincarnations, undead zombie stuff, and leads to much decimation and destruction all around. You wouldn't want to be an innocent bystander around these two, as you'd probably die horribly. The film also features a scene unexpectedly pilfered from Zhang Yimou's House of Flying Daggers. But that's OK, we love Zhang Yimou films and we love zany, primal destruction. Oops, did we say that out loud? Well, we do! (Can't wait 'til 2012...)
The direction is a bit mindlessly hyperactive, with bizarre use of CGI backgrounds, over-fast cuts, sloppy pacing and a wacky taste for excessive, computer-ketchup gore. This often gives the film a vibe of an extended, overly violent episode of Xena: Warrior Princess. The performances are reasonable: Anushka Shetty is satisfyingly magnificent in her moments of flinty, queenly resolve. Sonu Sood won lots of Tollywood love for his portrayal of the evil Pasupathi, though honestly - maybe because of his incessant good humor and good looks (even in the dreadlocks and awful manicure) - he was much more comically demented than genuinely threatening. Mad props go to Sayaji Shinde, who played an indestructible Muslim fakir, and the little child actress who played Arundhati as a child. She was amazing!
Hmm, a little familiar.
Overall, while we had one or two moments of shock, we were never really scared. According to Ebert's criterion, then, Arundhati fails to achieve its objective and should be panned. But it certainly succeeds - perhaps unintentionally - as an all-round entertainer and occasional comedy. For that reason alone, we give it a thumbs up. Heeeey Jejammaaaaaaa!