In one of the absurd scenes, Kamini (Amala Paul) accelerates her sports bike on a traffic signal along with other bikers. It’s a way to challenge each other for a race on a crowded highway. Of course, Kamini wins it. The problem is that reckless and wild riding on a highway, without a helmet, is hinted as a feminist win. Ironically, director Rathna termed the film a ‘responsible piece of cinema.’ I don’t take high moral grounds while watching a film, but that doesn’t translate an irresponsible act into a celebratory feminist view. Aadai is composed of such ‘misunderstood’ feminist elements.
Aadai is a piece of cloth used to cover the body. Writer-director Rathna Kumar uncovers ‘Aadai’, metaphorically and literally, to expose the fundamental issue with freedom of expression & freedom of speech in the country that has misinterpreted ‘freedom’ for a freewheeling right to do as it pleases, without the regard for anyone else.
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Kamini is a hyperactive, free-spirited feminist media-anchor. Raised by a conservative mother, she often runs into pity arguments with her mother regarding the conservative and traditional views against the feminism. Kamini subverts from societal norms that dictate the behavioural and social practices for a woman in this patriarchal society.
Kamini attains the fame with her new-age prankster show on unsuspecting people. Recall, Chhupa Rustam and Cyrus Broacha’s MTV Bakra that marked the beginning of prank shows in India. While both the prank show received a fair amount of criticism but the makers were aware of boundaries. The recent explosion in social media usage drove many pranksters to cross the line of modesty and come out as completely offensive. The fame and quick money it guarantees pushes the prankster to drop moral and social obligations to achieve the numbers in this cut-throat competition.
Rathna Kumar tries to imbue the prankster-video culture rising outrageously in India and address ‘freedom of expression’ through the Kamini’s prank show. The plot device to show its horrific consequences feels contrived, scattered and outlandish.
After a bad trip in an empty office, Kamini wakes up to find herself naked without any of her friends around. The whole struggle of Kamini trying to save her modesty and get out of the situation becomes an impossible chore to sit through. It feels as if someone has written and directed the film after a bad trip on magic-mushroom.
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The incoherent screenplay and over the top performances makes it even worse. The revelation, in the end, is less shocking and more questionable. It’s hypocritical and contradictory to teach Kamini about the morally responsible boundaries of freedom of speech by breaching it and reducing Kanini to the flesh.
Aadai is an exercise in mediocrity. Every technical aspect, writing, direction and performances reek of overconfident but lazy work. The social commentary on the misuse of social media and freedom of choice is on the nose and feels heavy-handed.