Saturday, May 25, 2024

Aavesham has a lot to say about Fahadh Faasil’s Ranga, but not much on bullying

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Jithu Madhavan’s Aavesham is a volcanic, unruly beast of a film. It shifts gears, upends any sort of predictions from what can be called a gangster flick, and becomes its beast. At the heart of this unapologetic film about masculinity and the loss of innocence lies the performance of Fahadh Faasil as gangster Ranga. Rowdy, boisterous and eccentric, Ranga owns the room wherever he goes. The actor snatches the film from the very first second he arrives and gives it a thrilling dose of energy and fun.

A still from Aavesham, which stars Fahadh Faasil as the gangster Ranga.

Fahadh has been terrific in recent years, but nothing can prepare the viewer for the heights he reaches with this eccentric gangster. Aavesham lands mostly because of Fahadh’s charismatic performance, but one unavoidable contradiction remains within the context of this great film. One wonders why Aavesham treats the subject of bullying in such a matter-of-fact fashion. Let us take a deep dive. (Also read: Aavesham movie review: Fahadh Faasil makes this gangster comedy outstanding)

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Aavesham takes shape before Ranga arrives

Ever since the release of Aavesham, the film has received widespread acclaim for Fahadh’s performance, the script by Jithu Madhavan, and Sushin Shyam’s music. The film is also a massive commercial success, having collected over 150 crore so far in its theatrical run. There is no denying Aavesham’s impact and the case which makes for its tormented and wounded protagonist Ranga. He is a gangster with a heart of gold, one whose rise to power is fascinatingly told through anecdotes. He commands power but also earns the trust of his gang members. Ranga takes a keen eye on three college students and alters their lives forever. Yet, Aavesham begins with the story of these students first and then finds its way to him.

Fahadh Faasil’s Ranga first makes his entrance in Aavesham exactly 28 minutes into the film. Until then, the main conflict has already occurred. Aju (Hipzter), Bibi (Mithun Jai Shankar), and Shanthan (Roshan Shahnavaz) are the three students who have enrolled in the Vaana Veekshan College of Engineering in Bengaluru. They decide to live in a hostel outside the campus. Over the next few days, these three boys witness how ragging is a menace inside the campus. One of the first-year students is called by the seniors the next day. He reports back, saying how he was ragged and severely beaten by the seniors. The scene treats him like a scapegoat, passable for a moment of comic relief.

Aju takes the matter seriously and tells the other first-year students that they have to stay united as a front whenever they are on campus. Only then they will be able to save themselves from being ragged. This trick works, but unfortunately, only for a day or two. Soon, Shanthan rubs one of the seniors in the wrong way. He is backed by Aju and Bibi in a succeeding confrontation. But to their horror, they realize that this exact senior is Kutty (Midhutty), the dreaded leader of the senior bully gang himself. Later at midnight, Kutty arrives with his entire gang on bikes and takes the three boys to their den. Aju, Bibi and Shanthan are stripped of their clothes and beaten black and blue for the next few days.

Ragging exists as a norm in Aavesham

These scenes of physical violence are somehow perceived with a tonal indifference in Aavesham. The consequences are no less dangerous here. Aju, Bibi, and Shantan are spared no degree of harassment- both physical and mental. Their heads are banged on the walls, they are kicked in the face and treated no less than animals. The rage in Kutty builds to a saturation point, and he takes a huge stick and beats the three boys more relentlessly. The harassment finally stops. In the next scene, Kutty calls the three boys to sit with his gang and says that from this day onwards, the three will be under his call. A seething Aju is not convinced by this offer.

Thus begins the search for ‘local support’, where Aju, Bibi, and Santhan want to avenge Kutty and his gang with the help of a powerful presence in the locality. Sure enough, Fahadh’s Ranga is the answer. The film, from this point, loses its momentum to tell the story of Ranga. So, Aavesham makes the point that to deal with a small bunch of bullies, one has no choice but to call a bigger bully. Be a bully to deal with a bully. There exists no other alternative. It seems to be the only resolution that Aavesham offers, as Ranga and his bunch of men, now give Kutty and his boys a taste of their own medicine. They are beaten in front of the whole college, inside the campus.

Throughout the first half of Aavesham, the institutional powers of the college are absent. There is no governing body on campus and no mention of anti-ragging in even one instance. The governing body only makes its presence when the three students fail in all the subjects in the semester. Their parents are informed by the executive board member, and a strict warning is given to the students that they must take the retests and pass all the subjects.

Final thoughts

Why were the parents not called after the three of them were severely ragged by some of the students on the same campus? Where was this strict action when it came to ensuring that the campus was free of ragging? For all the nuance and layers Aavesham allows for Ranga and his internal helplessness in the second half of Aavesham, there is no such restraint shown towards the issue of ragging and what made Kutty such a spoilt character in the first place. The three boys must suffer at the end of it all. Kutty and his gang continue to operate.

By this time, Aavesham has moved on to another bully altogether, in the form of Ranga. Will Ranga ever leave the three boys on their own? One wonders why Aavesham ignores the aspect of ragging so wholly, as if ragging is a norm, a socio-cultural reality of academic institutions. This casual depiction of the status quo and layers of hierarchy in Aavesham is acutely problematic. A character like Kutty is not to be dismissed so easily. These characters are very real, and their inexcusable actions are a prevalent reality in this nation. One wonders when Indian Cinema will own up to project the menace of ragging not just as some sort of comic relief but as a cruel and punishable act.

Aavesham is available to stream on Prime Video.

This is The Fault in Our Films, where Santanu Das writes about one acclaimed film/series per week and what stops the ‘good’ from becoming ‘great’.

 



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