Some of the fundamental responsibilities of the media include conveying enlightening messages & facts, spreading awareness about current burning issues (economic/political/social), and entertainment if possible. Whether all these can be achieved with utmost effectiveness in a span of 3 hours through the visual media is certainly arguable but the effort is definitely laudable. ‘7am Arivu’ is a standout movie that defies the beaten path and takes a new route in search of magnificence but falls slightly short of attaining the pinnacle that it set out to conquer at the outset. The movie also steers clear of clichéd masala recipe that is being fed in abundance these days in the name of “paisa-vasool”. Despite being different in most of the departments, it also has its share of logical pitfalls but they are few and far between and eclipsed by a strong and unique plot.
For those who have failed to catch up with the plot summary having missed those (pre)diwali programs on Tamil TV channels, here is a quick rundown (some details are deliberately omitted to not ruin the thrill of watching it on big screen). Bodhidharma, the 3rd prince of a Pallava king in the 6th century and an expert in martial arts, medicine and hypnotism is sent to China to prevent a viral epidemic. He reaches a Chinese village where the outbreak was believed to originate and saves the villagers’ lives from the deadly disease and spends the rest of his life serving the locals. In the present day, Arvind is a circus artist in Chennai and he falls in love with Subha, a genetic engineering student. Arvind later discovers that Subha is after him with a selfish motive. Meanwhile Chinese government sends Dong Lee, a martial arts specialist, to India to assassinate both Subha and Arvind. Why is Subha behind Arvind and what is the conspiracy behind Dong Lee’s visit to India form the rest of the plot.
The novelty in the plot is extremely refreshing and it manages to keep the thrill factor intact especially in the second half in spite of the predictability of events that unfold. The majestic nature of the first 20 minutes takes the movie watching experience and the testosterone levels to a whole new intensity. It literally works like a virtual time machine enabling the audience to travel back in time and witness ancient India and China at its realistic best. Post the exciting first few minutes, the pace goes down for all genuine reasons (romance, songs, comedy etc) but it picks up steadily until it reaches feverish levels during the climax. Citing a country’s name and its involvement in a conspiracy against another nation could have been warded off.
AR Murugadoss deserves a standing ovation for his endeavor to throw light on our glorious past that is forgotten by our own citizens. His effort to display authenticity in every frame of the Bodhidharma’s scenes after an arduous research with minimal artifacts is truly commendable. The characterization of Arvind as a circus artist could have been better but the flaws are more than made up by Suriya’s flamboyant portrayal of the character. The technical departments of the movie could not have done any better because their output is obvious to the naked eye with its sheer brilliance, be it art direction or cinematography or the breathtaking stunts. When Shruti mentioned during one of the interviews that she couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity to enter Kollywood, she was probably right as she has a meaty role to play in the movie and she has grabbed it with both the hands to give a remarkable performance. Her Anglo-Indian looks work against her when it comes to believability of her hailing from a small town in TN. Johnny Nguyen as the villain is so fiery that it makes us believe that nobody could defeat him except Bodhidharma himself.
It’s beyond doubt that no other actor from the current lot could have done more justice to Bodhidharma’s character than Suriya. It makes one feel that he probably unknowingly activated Bodhidharma’s DNA in his cells while shooting for this movie. He has learnt quite a few intricate circus tricks for scenes that don’t last even a minute and that demonstrates the sincerity and diligence in the actor to push himself to give maximum legitimacy to the character. The martial arts skills displayed by him in the movie are perhaps unprecedented in Tamil film industry, which is visible in every defense and attack moves of his. His efforts for portraying Bodhidharma was so humungous that playing Arvind’s character turned out to be a cake walk for this immensely talented artist. Suriya is only destined for greatness if he stays on the same path of exponential growth with his every other movie.
Overall, 7am Arivu is a must watch for all Indians for its glorification of our history and an original sci-fi thriller narrative. There are innumerable positives going for the movie than the negatives. The movie title when translated to English becomes “7th Sense” and I recommend it for everybody as it does make a lot of sense. (3.5 stars out of 5)