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Aadai (2019)

CRUMBLIES…

So, here’s the pitch: beautiful woman wakes up in abandoned office and finds she is naked. And has to piece together her memories of the night before, indeed life before, and manipulate the world to get her carefully filmed self into clothes and back to the Mum she ordinarily disdains. She scowls, she’s beautiful, she’s bounding about with some of the reality of physical bareness, she’s in search of Aadai. (Ok, it translates to English as ‘dress’, so, apologies, I’m taking that as be dressed, get a dress, don’t forget to address who you really are because of how you’ve dressed up your nature…). Anyway – Aadai.

An object lesson in arrogance and hubris, this is a lively, beautifully shot adventure in the slow, almost moralistic humiliation of its lead. And that is Amala Paul as Sudhandhira Kodi or Kamini. Old Jack liked her: a media noise producing candid camera films (which seem singularly cruel: forcing people to react to others who seem ill, dead or in full-on street breakdown) in a TV company that is exiting its building. Paul is terrific, all energy and modernity, but at the expense of her mother. Ha – thought the cold hearted oldster – this has an undertone of respect for us lot. It’s there, but the film is made by boys who’ve found their dream conceit…

Kamini is a show-off and competitive. She locks her friend in a loo so she can pretend to be an earnest news-reader – and comes out of it well. Then she collapses in on herself by getting stoned in the empty building with her friends. One dare was to read the news naked and Kamini causes her own inciting incident in a blur of lights and film school fades…

And wakes up in the similarly denuded office, friends gone. So – yikes.

The film holds you by the panic thereafter. She’s not in any great danger, but the shame is only ever a scene away. And her attempts to get out of there are hampered by a dying phone, fainting delivery girls and – when she gets out – dogs that chase her back in. There’s also broken glass to run over, so the titillation isn’t the endgame.

Arguably, nearly-nudity is part of the game however. Police have reason to wander the same floor Paul hides on, and things come perilously close to a delight for straight men as Paul tumbles in and out of shot, into shafts of light and shadows, avoiding very neatly any flashing. It’s a tease, though, so…given where the films ends up ( a moral judgement of Kamini’s character), there’s a degree of cake eating going on. It’s a nice looking cake, but, Paul is young enough to be old Jack’s grand-daughter, so that’s not a reason to watch it, got that?

And then, in lousy weather and with clothing solutions identified, the film ends. That moral judgement lands like stone rain, though. There’s a neatness to it, but it feels like a vicar writing the last chapter of Lady Chatterley. A bit weird and properly wrong, but it’s fun getting there.

Amala Paul owns the film throughout. Whether she’s being a bad daughter, arrogant TV type or a desperate soul in hiding, she is distinct and deftly comic to the end. And that’s quite something given the circumstances and the arty cinematography she’s asked to skip through.

Alas, the subtext of respecting your parents (even if one is dead) is very subtextual indeed. But it is there and the redemption made old Jack smile – if only at its obviousness.

Give Aadai a go. It’s modern, telling, beautiful and floats by like a shiny advert. And it’s not just about a naked lady.

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