Aadai movie cast: Amala Paul, Vivek Prasanna, Ramya Subramanian
Aadai movie director: Rathna Kumar
Aadai movie rating: 3 stars
Aadai is well-intentioned but partly paradoxical. In a nutshell, it’s the story of free-spirited Kamini (Amala Paul), who goes back to her original name, Suthanthira Kodi.
In one of the earlier scenes, Kamini asks her mother (played by Sri Ranjini of House Owner-fame), “What do you know about feminism?”— to which she replies it can be the gesture of giving extra idlis to someone in dire need. Kamini doesn’t argue further. With a smile, she leaves to work. Kamini’s mother adjusts her bra strap and lectures how it should be worn “properly”.
Kamini is independent, fearless and a badass. She drinks smokes and rides a sports bike. She works for a news channel and does prank shows. Her mother doesn’t like the way she is. In fact, Kamini picks up her boyfriend and rides so fast like a man. She is not your usual woman. She dreads wearing saris and sporting bindis. She hates visiting temples. She considers doing all of these a nightmare.
Aadai begins with the story of Nangeli who kills herself protesting against ‘Breast Tax’. Nangeli wished to dress however she wanted and fought for ‘the right to dress’. Kamini, similarly, fights a battle. From being a cliched feminist, she transforms into a different person after realising the ‘true meaning of freedom and feminism’.
Amala Paul plays Kamini with such conviction that it’s hard to dislike her—despite being the rebel she is. Kudos to the Director of Photography Vijay Karthik Kannan for having captured a lot of scenes with utmost sensitivity. For all the controversy the teaser sparked, not even in one place you find the shots suggestive or vulgar.
After an impressive start, in the second half, Aadai goes off track. But the film has its moments—like how we are made to understand “Not all pranks are pranks. Some of them are a nuisance.” In particular, watch out for this scene where Kamini tells a male friend, “If I choose to sit on your bike, it doesn’t mean I love you. It means I like your bike”. I couldn’t help but laugh at this scene where a chaiwallah tells Kamini he would become the Prime Minister someday. In another one, Jenny (Ramya) asks if she should pay the royalty for playing antakshari.
On her birthday, Kamini gets drunk with a group of friends. Without realising what the future holds, Kamini says she can read out the news naked if someone dares her to. But the next morning, she finds herself naked in the same building. ‘How’ and ‘why’ forms the storyline of Aadai.
The gutsy Kamini isn’t gutsy anymore. We are shown how helpless she feels running here and there fearing strangers’ eyes peeping into her naked self. A man approaches the building she is in and tries to barge in — but quickly leaves following a phone call. Kamini looks around if she could find any piece of cloth. Finally, she wraps herself with toilet papers and tapes. I am not saying it’s not natural. But I can’t buy this situation we are shown—that her mobile phone is out of balance. She could, at least, have sent a WhatsApp text to someone. She doesn’t. She waits for her mother to call. Next, what does Kamini do? She orders biryani, hoping someone would save her. She even requests for a female to deliver the order. Maybe, in the world that Rathna Kumar has created, all is fair and justifiable.
To cover herself, Kamini holds a broken mirror and I see that as a reflection of ourselves. Kamini isn’t a wailing victim waiting to be rescued by a man. She doesn’t trust anyone—the police or the media. She tries to escape. She fights. She does everything to get herself out of the unlikeliest situation.
A group of mongrels chase Kamini. She runs into the bathroom and shuts the door. A dog continues to howl at the door having tasted the blood. After some time, Kamini decides to take a weapon and hit back. The dog runs away. This is actually a metaphor. When Kamini sheds inhibitions and fights back, the problem disappears. That is how life is.
Even though Aadai strives to be an unapologetic feminist film, it loses its purpose the moment Kamini responds, “Naan avlo mosam illa”— when a judgemental character tells, “Nee apdiye vandhuduvanu paarthen… maaname illama!” I don’t understand why Kamini had to say those words and play a victim. She never was. Aadai, once again, emphasises ‘woman is the biggest enemy of woman’. Sometimes, it is true. Sometimes, it is not. Kamini, of course, is forgiving of the woman who caused her trauma towards the end. That is not believable. I don’t think Kamini was a saintly-figure. On the other hand, men in Aadai are shown being protective of Kamini. Though they get drunk, they neither take advantage of her nor the situation.
While, in general, Kollywood has trivialised #MeToo movement, Rathna Kumar deserves a huge applause for placing a scene, taking a dig at Vairamuthu and Radharavi — though the latter was executed distastefully.
Aadai pretty much sums up the famous quote in the teaser by Jean-Paul Sartre. “Freedom is about what you do with what’s been done to you”. Though the lead character’s name is Suthanthira Kodi, she is not exempted by society’s usual norms. She isn’t a ‘free bird’. That’s what the film ‘teaches’ us.
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