Summary: It’s a shame that AR Murugadoss lacked the “Arivu” to tell the more interesting historical tale but instead opted to create yet another dull and forgettable Kollywood movie – a wasted opportunity.
Do you know Kung-Fu? In fact, do you know who invented Kung-Fu? ‘Im pretty confident most of you would now picture an old mystical Chinese man with a white beard, practicing a variety of kung-fu moves whilst balancing on twig. Well, you’re wrong! Shaolin Kung Fu was in fact invented by a 5th-century South Indian Tamil prince called Bodhidharma.If you dont believe me, Google it and you will come across thousands of historical articles that credit him for bringing Zen wisdom and Shaolin Kung-Futo China. Even to this day, Bodhidharma (known as Damo in South East Asia) statues are worshipped in Shaolin temples across the globe. Bodhidharma is a very interesting Tamil historical figure and I have always wondered why hisstory is never taught to Tamil children and why he has never been depicted inTamil movies. As I said earlier, just Google his name and you will find countless stories and legends about his adventures in China. Reading his story makes one proud to be a Tamilian.
Unfortunately, after watching 7 Aum Arivu I forgot about “Tamil pride”but instead wanted to jump on the first plane to Chennai to have some serious words with one particular Tamilian – Mr AR Murugadoss, the writer and director of 7 Aum Arivu. He had in the palm of his hand the opportunity to tell the genuinely interesting tale of Bodhidharma and he wasted it. This movie could have been the Tamil equivalent of Braveheart; an inspirational and little known tale of a true historical Tamil hero, but what we got instead was yet another derivative piece of Kollywood story telling.
7 Aum Arivu tells the story of circus artist Aravind (Surya), a descendent of Bodhidharma (also played by Surya in a fantastic prologue), who meets and instantly falls in love with Suba (Shruti Hassan). It turns out that Suba is a scientist who believes in the theory that the skills and intelligence of our ancestors can be passed down from generation to generation via our DNA, and that Aravind could be the key to bringing back the skills and medical knowledge of Bodhidharma that had been lost over the centuries. In a parallel storyline, the Chinese government have secretly declared war on India (the motive is never revealed) and plan to wipe out the Indian population using a deadly virus transmitted via Indian street dogs. Upon hearing about Suba’s research they despatch a deadly psychic assassin, Dong Lee (Johnny Tri Nguyen) to kill both Suba and Aravind and prevent the return of Bodhidharma (through the DNA of Aravind), the only man who can save India.
Let’s talk about the positives;the movie begins with a 20 minute prologue that summarises the life of Bodhidharma;a 5th century Tamil Pallava prince and warrior, who leaves his beloved wife and children on the command of his father to go on an epic journey to China to cure a deadly disease that had been prophesised to wipe out humanity. Whilst in China, he cures the disease, fights evil warlords and teaches the Chinese his vast knowledge of wisdom, medicine and martial arts.When he wishes to return home to his family, he is poisoned by the very people he saved in a desperate act to keep his body and perceived “magic power” in China. That in itself is such an awesome story! It’s fair to say that some poetic licence had been taken with the back story, but even Mel Gibson’s multi Oscar-winning film Braveheart sacrificed historical facts for the sake of entertainment. In my opinion, the first 20 minutes are the best moments of 7 Aum Arivu, as it left me wanting to learn more about the man. Instead I was left disappointed because instead of a 3 hour epic movie, Bodhidharma’s story had been crammed into 20 minutes. It is also during this first 20 minutes where Surya displays his acting talent; he is absolutely fantastic as Bodhidharma and displays a screen presence akin to Russel Crowe in Gladiator. The prologue made you wish that Kollywood made more ancient historical epics.
Unfortunately, when the story shifts to the present day and the story of Bodhidharma’s 21st century descendent, both Surya and the entire film are let down by a very weakscript. The sub-plot involving China was just plain ridiculous and underdeveloped. It left you wondering what exactly China did to upset Murugadoss. The love story between Aravind and Subha was not convincing and felt forced; one minute she is boldly telling him to “throw his love in the bin”, the next minute she has filmed herself on her mobile declaring her love for him. The main bad guy, Dong Lee and his hypnotic powers become tedious after a while and the actions sequences were dull. The music of Harris Jayraj was also uninspiring, and you get this feeling that you have heard it all before.
In regards to performances; as I said earlier, Surya is fantastic as Bodhidharma but is let down by a weakscript when it came to his Aravind character. To his credit, he does try his best, but the script turns him into a spiky-haired buffoon who spends most ofhis time prancing about with his shirt off (I’m sure the ladies will forgive this part), and looking confused when the people around him attempt to talk science. Shruti Hassan does a decent job in her Tamil movie debut. It’s quite refreshing to see a leading lady in a Tamil movie who actually knows how to speak Tamil, and dubbed using her own voice. In regards to the Oriental actors; they did what they were hired to do – look “cheenan” and evil.
AR Murugadoss wanted his movie to make all Tamils proud, but unfortunately I was left disappointed. Had he kept this story in the 5th century and gave the story of Bodhidharma the full historical epic treatment, I am confident we could have had the first true Tamil cross-over movie, a hit with all audiences throughout the world and made us all proud to be Tamil. Unfortunately, rather than subtly inducing Tamilian pride in all of us through the quality of the Bodhidharma story, AR Murugadoss felt it necessary to concentrate his efforts on the dull present day storyline and ram “Tamil pride” down our throats via numerous big speeches. It’s a shame AR Murugadoss lacked the “Arivu” to see great historical story he could have told. The end result is yet another forgettable Kollywood movie. I’m sure the Surya fans will make it a massive hit but it could have been so much more, I give it 2/5 – a wasted opportunity.