Aaha rating: 2.5/5
Aaha is the latest sports movie in Malayalam that revolves around the game of Tug of War or Vadamvali. After having multiple setbacks in his personal life, Ani decides to form a Vadamvali team with his friends and decides to represent their village, Neeloor. In order to coach this team of misfits, they seek help from the retired Vadamvali player of the Legendary “Aaha” Neeloor team.
Sports films, in general, are a tough nut to crack in terms of innovation in storytelling regardless of what language they are made in. It usually follows the same story beats. Makers are hell-bent on telling and re-telling the stories of underdogs-turned-triumphant stories. Because, who doesn’t love an underdog story, right?
That being said, one can still make an engaging, well-realised sports drama flick. You just need to make the characters’ journey believable or relatable to the audience.
The Writer’s Perspective
Aaha‘s writer, Tobit Chirayath, took notes from the best sports movies and tried to provide some semblance of an arc to each character. But, by not providing any depth to the struggle of each character in the film, he further alienates the audience, to an extent that they watch it with a sense of detachment from all the proceedings. After a while, it becomes quite taxing to care about their motivations to form a team. The writer uses these “road-blocks” as a crutch for the Coach to motivate them during the game. If they had established those tracks effectively, the goosebumps-inducing climax would’ve felt earned.
The Performances In Aaha
Except for Indrajith, every other performance was passable at best. The dialogues are clunky and some of the characterisations border towards caricature. There’s the delightful role of Binayak, the Bengali who joins the team at the behest of the coach. It immediately irks many of the teammates for no apparent reason other than that he’s a Bengali. It could’ve easily been one of the best-written characters and an amazing representation in the movie, had they at least given him one dialogue.
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Songs by Sayanora, especially the Aaha anthem, were good. But the background score lacked subtlety and in many places was a distraction – to a point where it takes us out of the movie experience.
The direction from Bibin Samuel is technically on point during the tug of war tournaments. However, it falls short when it comes to inducing the best possible performances from the actors, specifically the new Aaha team. With the movie running for around 2.5 hours, it was very clear that Bibin Samuel, who’s also the editor, felt reluctant about chopping off many scenes. In an age where Malayalam films’ minimalistic approach is lauded across the country, the director/ editor could’ve taken a leaf out of his peer’s work to see how to effectively trim the movie into the absolute essentials.
Aaha is by no means a bad movie. It has many redeeming factors that make it watchable; like Indrajith’s serene performance, Sayanora’s songs, Rahul Balachandran’s cinematography and Bibin Samuel’s capable; albeit sometimes unfocused direction. Aaha has everything an amazing sports drama needs. It just falls short on a couple of issues that could’ve been easily avoided.