Seeing how the climax of the new Indrajith Sukumaran film Aaha focuses on the spirit of the tug of war sport, I really wished it had a better build-up in the first half. Directed and edited by debutante Bibin Paul Samuel, Aaha is definitely not a lazy product. But it somewhere felt like an overwritten product that needed a better focus in the initial portions. The balancing between the game and the personal emotions of the character needed a little more fine-tuning.
The film is inspired by the story of Kerala’s prominent tug of war team Aha Neeloor. Back in the ’80s, they were this unbeatable team. But Geevarghese’s team loses a crucial match due to the mistake of their front Koch. That mistake ended up in the dissolution of the Aha team. In the present day, Koch has left all his association with the tug of war and is living a lonely life after the demise of his wife. A young guy named Ani decided to create a team for Neeloor, and the story of the movie Aaha is the journey of that team which had Koch as its coach.
Sports dramas are always challenging to crack because the audience is well aware of the end result. We know that the teams of Bhuvan and Kabir Khan will ultimately become the winners in the climax. So the tricky part in a sports drama is making the characters’ journey believable or relatable on an emotional level. Writer Tobit Chirayath is actually aware of this aspect and has created a fight story for each character. But the issue is with the emotional impact we get to experience on screen. When Koch uses the insults faced in real life by each of the players as a tool to motivate them, I really loved the construction of that moment. But the problem is that, till that point, the movie can’t really make us root for those characters. Ani is facing humiliation because of his marriage. Another one has religious issues, and like that, every team member has a problem. If they had established those tracks effectively, the climax would have succeeded in creating that Goosebumps.
Indrajith Sukumaran gets to play two phases in Koch’s life. The older version has him being this quiet guy who doesn’t want to intervene in anything, and the shift towards being that strict coach was perfect. Amith Chakalakkal was fine in terms of performance, but the partially comical tone to his character’s presentation causes problems. Ashwin Kumar was good in his role, and his vigor helped the movie a lot in the last portions. Aswath Lal’s was one performance that sort of stayed with me after the film.
Edited and directed by Bibin Paul Samuel, I felt he was very reluctant to chop off scenes that weren’t helping the movie get that agility. There are patches in the script where the film lingers on for too long, which reduces the area for us to witness the team’s growth. The rise of the new Aha team from an absolute nobody to a champion team is happening in a really quick span of time. They knew the ingredients necessary for creating a sports drama, but it’s just that the proportion was a bit messed up.
Aaha is a watchable movie with pacing issues. The structure we see in every sports drama is visible here as well. But the weightage given to the backstories of the characters was a bit too much. A tidier representation of the backstories would have made it a lot more compelling. For instance, the only character I found myself rooting for was Binayak, the “Bengali” who may not have seen the dubbing studio.
Aaha is definitely not a lazy product. But it somewhere felt like an overwritten product that needed a better focus in the initial portions.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended