What’s it about?
After planting nearly one lakh trees single-handedly, Aranya (Rana) is awarded as the ‘Forest Man of India’. His grandfather gifted hundreds of acres of their land to convert them into the forest. Aranya does anything to save flora and fauna.
A businessman (who is also a minister) tries to build a township in the forest and builds a wall around it obstructing the natural passage of the elephants. Naturally, Aranya opposes the idea of encroaching forests for a township.
He vows to stop the township and demolish the wall.
The story of Prabhu Solomon’s ‘Aranya’ seems to have been inspired by the Kaziranga elephant corridor case in Assam. The topic that is discussed – the encroaching forest lands in the name of development projects and causing animals to habitats – in the film is relevant. It has a strong message.
The film begins with Rana sitting in the deep forest near a pond and observing a herd of animals and recognizing each of them by names. The lush green visuals (captured by Ashok Kumar brilliantly), and the tranquil mood (music and Resul Pookutty’s sound design) arrest you instantly. It gives a feel of watching the Jungle book for few moments. Then, it looks like a children’s movie.
Soon the tranquil mood wears off, as the film doesn’t offer anything beyond the single line conflict point – a forest man opposing a greedy developer’s township.
Prabhu Solomon introduces a journalist’s character, and a naxalite leader (both are women) to add some drama. Then enters Kumki guy (Vishnu Vishal) who is enchanted by the beauty of naxal woman. This sequence is added perhaps to create some light moments and a romantic thread. However, it abruptly ends. Plus, none of these characters add any value to the overall plot, except fattening the runtime.
While the message is good, the narration is boring and dull. Many scenes defy the logic. We are told that the Prime Minister would reach the township in half-hour. The next scene has PM sitting in his Delhi office and watching the proceedings on TV.
Even Rana’s character and his behavior are not convincing.
‘Aranya’ with 160 minutes of runtime is an over-the-top message movie. For me, how a film is told/narrated is more important than what it tells about. ‘Aranya’ scores on message, but it gets thumbs down for the narration.
Talking about performances, Rana has done superbly. As a man obsessed with protecting nature, Rana Daggubati is convincing. Apart from Rana, none of the actors make an impact. Raghu Babu is okay. Vishnu Vishal, Zoya, and Shriya Pilgaonkar are wasted. Ananth Mahadevan fits as the politician well.
The film completely belongs to technicians. Cinematographer Ashok Kumar, sound designer, and visual effects team have given the best. Director Prabhu Solomon’s writing is predictable.
Bottom-line: ‘Aranya’ is a well-intentioned environmental drama but it gives a déjà vu feel with its beaten-to-death story arc, and one-note characters. It has some stunning visuals, terrific sound design but flaccid narration bog down the technical dazzle.
By: Jalapathy Gudelli
Cast: Rana, Vishnu Vishal, Shriya Pilgaonkar Ananth Mahadevan
Music: Shantanu Moitra
Cinematography: AR Ashok Kumar
Story, Screenplay, & Direction: Prabhu Solomon
Release Date: March 26, 2021