With the opening credits thanking ‘The Devil’ and an aerial shot of a Chinese building — one you may have noticed in those Samurai films — Aval gives an impression of a typical Mysskin film at first. But the screenplay blends seamlessly into the narrative, thereby giving us a perfect horror film after many, many years.
Aval Cast: Siddharth, Andrea Jeremiah, Atul Kulkarni, Suresh and Anisha Angelina Victor
Aval Director: Milind Rau
Aval Rating: 4 Star Rating: Recommended4 Star Rating: Recommended4 Star Rating: Recommended (3.5/5)
A few minutes into Aval, one might start wondering how Tamil filmmakers managed to shape the horror genre into something that goes by the definition ‘bland and regressive’. In a sense that most of these “so-called” horror films, that have fetched enough moolah, are exhaustively boring with loud noise and jump-scares.
Taking this into consideration, it’s quite surprising that Milind Rau, who has also written the film, has not only taken the genre seriously but his audience as well. For instance, there’s a scene involving Paul (Atul Kulkarni) and a dictaphone that’s superbly written. You expect (or suspect?) the chill, but end up disappointed. And then suddenly, there’s a loud voice calling out “Appa”. This is one of the several guilty pleasures that Aval subscribes to.
When you’re in a horror film, it’s not the story one looks forward to, but the proceedings. Almost every film follows a similar storyline unless it’s something refreshing like Pisasu, that transformed the genre altogether.
In Aval, too, a family headed by Paul moves into a haunted house somewhere in the Himalayas. They live next to Krish (Siddharth), a brain surgeon, and his wife Lakshmi (Andrea Jeremiah). The first fifteen minutes of Aval gives us a wrong picture of a slightly average horror-thriller. It has some cozy moments, like the one where Paul’s daughter Jenny (Anisha Angelina Victor, who gives a fabulous performance) calls Lakshmi “aunty” and Kirsh “paiyen”. But the game starts right after Krish recuses Jenny from a nearby well, a must-have plot device.
Everything in Aval, be it the story of a Chinese couple or the tattoo on the head of a bald person, who uses sand art to talk to spirits, beautifully establishes the womb (ironical, yes) of the story.
For the most part, the audience in the theatre constantly mumbled, “Don’t go into that room, you fool.” This also means that the scenes aren’t written to provide a scary effect. But there’s a reason for every instance.
Every character in Aval has its own complexities. Jenny is troubled by her mother’s death and can be seen reading books like The Exorcist. Lakshmi, who’s just about to have her baby, is cautious about Jenny’s closeness towards Krish. Paul can’t leave the house because of a loan. And Krish, throughout the film, is loyal to his profession. A Chinese guy has bruises all over his body suggesting that he’s a sorcerer, which could have been elaborated. All of these details are woven together in a such a way that the descriptions never stop. Take the scene where Krish’s psychiatrist friend (Suresh) and pastor (Prakash Belawadi) discuss science and god before an exorcism. In a way, one could even argue that Aval itself is positioned between science and belief.
The first half, particularly, is lavishly shot. The unbroken single shot right before the interval ends on a high note. Despite a convincing twist in the second half, the message of Aval seems forced.
For a film that has an impressive list of terrific actors including Prakash Belawadi, Atul Kulkarni and Suresh, the hero of Aval is its technical crew comprising music composer Girishh, cinematographer Shreyaas Krishna and the person who’s responsible for a fantastic sound design. As opposed to Pisasu, what’s amusing about Aval is that most of the shots are mid-level. It’s terribly scary sometimes, especially the scene where a housekeeper uses a voodoo doll.
If not anything, one must thank Milind Rau for showing fellow filmmakers how romance really happens between adults. Do you guys remember the last time Tamil cinema had a proper lip-locking scene without any bit of skepticism from actors and producers? If and when you get an answer for this, you have another reason to enjoy Aval.