'Aranya' will head to theatres on March 26 (Friday). In this section, we are going to review the hits and misses of the Rana-starrer.
Aranya (Rana Daggubati) has been looking after a forest near Vizag for 50 years. When Kanakamedala Raja Gopalam (Anant Mahadevan), the Environment Minister, gifts a portion of the forest to a corporate company for a refinery, Aranya becomes a crusader to save the habitat of elephants.
A group of Maoists and a mahout (Vishnu Vishal) are in the same forest. If the Naxals are defending the rights of tribals, the latter is helping out the villains without realizing what is at stake. The climax is about whether Aranya can redeem his mission.
For Rana, this has to be one of the most challenging roles ever. The actor is on record stating that doing 'Aranya' was physically more exhausting than playing Bhallaladeva in 'Baahubali'. He brings an earnestness to the table and makes us feel for his mission. Vishnu Vishal's acting is sincere.
Zoya Hussain, who plays a Maoist, doesn't have much say in the story. Shriya Pilgaonkar as a young and idealistic journo is good. Anant Mahadevan's villainous character gets beefed up by his act. Raghu Babu is surprisingly good, especially in terms of how his character takes a turn as the story progresses. Ravi Kale plays a run-of-the-mill cop.
Shantanu Moitra's songs ('Chitike Se Aa Chirugaali', 'Vellu Vellu', and 'Hrudayame') are placed well in the scheme of the story. His BGM, together with George Joseph, has flashes of inventiveness. Resul Pookutty's sound design is high on technique.
AR Ashok Kumar's cinematography is okay. One feels that it would have been elevated better with the right kind of VFX work. Bhuvan Srinivasan's editing is another plus.
Writer-director Prabhu Solomon doesn't focus exclusively on the thread revolving around Rana's character. He allows Vishnu Vishal's mahout to have a love story.
The stated run-time of the movie was 160 minutes. But about 25 minutes of the length was trimmed. Perhaps because of this reason, we don't understand what exactly determined the release of a key character from a mental asylum. There are a few other misses.
The scenes in the run-up to the climax present a new sub-plot, where Aranya becomes ultra-emotional. But this segment doesn't add much weight to the proceedings, given that almost all the villains of the piece (politicians, compromised bureaucrats, etc.) have been reduced to run-of-the-mill baddies by then.
‘Stunner’ Sam and Stun Siva mount the action sequences with care. With better execution on the part of the director, they would have looked novel. Mayur Sharma's production design stays true to the genre. Costumes by Kirti Kolwankar and Maria Tharakan are kosher.
Vanamali's dialogues are complemented by the emotional disposition of the key characters. But nothing more can be said about the writing in general.
'Aranya' is not your breathtaking adventure drama. It comes undone by typical characters.