Prabhu Solomon’s trilingual Aranya tries to be many things at once but doesn’t do justice to any of the things that it tries to address. The story of the film is relevant as encroachments in the reserve forest zone are a reality; however Prabhu Solmon wastes a terrific opportunity. The film is also an indirect tribute to Jadav Payeng who is considered to be the forest man of India. Like Payeng Rana’s on screen character is also credited with planting several trees but the similarity ends here as the protagonist’s journey here is a fictional one. The only thing which remotely works in the film is Rana’s performance and some of his scenes with the Elephants in the second half.
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In Aranya Rana’s character name is Narendra Bhupathi but he is better known as Aranya. He has grown in the lap of nature and understands every call of a bird or animal. He particularly shares a good bond with the herd of elephants. On the other side of the coin you have the central minister, and a real estate firm along with their many subordinates who want to invade a reserve forest zone. Elephants are at a huge risk of losing their access to their most fundamental need – water.
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The biggest problem with the movie Aranya is the mishmash of sensibilities which irritates you. A good example of that is the character of Vishnu Vishal. His style of acting will get on your nerves very quickly as his acting would work more with the Tamil audience than the Telugu ones. It would have been much better if you had a Telugu actor. To make things worse, his character is also very loosely written. You never understand why he is helping the minister’s men more so since he is in love with a naxalite played by Zoya Hussain. Also the track ends very abruptly and it doesn’t add any significance to the story.
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The sub plot of the Naxalite movement could have also been dealt in a far better way. There is a mention of it in the beginning but after a point it is reduced to more of a background thing. The characters of the tribal people could have also been more impactful. Their only purpose in the film seems to be rallying behind Rana’s character and make him do all the heavy loading.
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Bhuvan Srinivasan’s editing also needed to be much crisper as the length is also a major issue. This can be seen in the very beginning where it takes forever for the title cards to end.
Shantanu Moitra is a good music director and he has done some good work in films like Parineeta and 3 Idiots but here the music director looks completely out of touch. The songs look lost in Translation.
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Technically Aranya is a sound product thanks to the cinematography and the art design by Rasool Pookutty. However here also there are certain issues. There are some images which feel very repetitive.
Over the years Rani Dagubbati proved an efficient performer and here also the actor delivers a committed performance. The energy and the conviction that he brings is commendable. The scenes of him and the elephant in the second half will evoke some emotion from the audience. There is a segment where a misunderstanding occurs between Aranya and the elephants as they think that he has killed their fellow friend. Rana’s scenes where he tries to convince the elephants that he didn’t kill are quite impactful.
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When making a trilingual film there are certain things that a director needs to be extra careful. It is not enough to take actors from different languages; the sensibilities of their acting should also match the regional cultures.
On the whole Aranya aims big but doesn’t do justice to its vision.
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