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Tamil Film Aelay Is An Exasperating Father-Son Story



Aelay(Tamil,  Netflix)

Starring Samuthirakani and Manikandan

Written  & Directed  by  Halitha Shameem

Rating: **

More thn  24 hours after I finished watching this  annoyingly selfconscious dramedy about a father  who sells icecream and a son who screams  and screams  at his father’s juvenile antics, I am yet to figure out what exactly the  tone of the narrative wants  to convey. That it’s okay for a 40-year  old man  to behave  like  a pre-teen  brat?Cycling all over the  village  with his home made ice cream  creating a  nuisance and  embarrassing his  little son and daughter.

Weirdly for a  film directed  by a woman  the  daughter is completely sidelined by  the script. As is the case with the award-winning  film Minari ,the focus is on the father(Samuthirakani) and his  son(Manikandan) and the unholy tension that stands between them  . The son hates his  father’s obnoxious  ways.Who wouldn’t! 

There is a sequence on a  bus where the young son(child actor Kailash) is reduced to  helpless  tears as  his father gets  into  a  slinging match with  a woman who turns out to be  the  boy’s schoolteacher.For me  any hope  of a redemptive  spark in  the father was extinguished  in that scene in  the bus. His behavior grows increasingly  obnoxious as  the  plot progresses. Towards  the second-half the narrative interest swerves from the father and  son to the now-grownup son  wooing the daughter  of a local politician.

 It   all seems  fairly unnecessary and pointless, though one can sense  a semblance  of  sobriety  tucked  under tons  of bantering. There  is a story  about parental responsibility and  filial  failings hovering somewhere  within the folds  of frivolity.  But the  film’s tone doesn’t allow us to feel  any empathy  for  the  father even when he  indulges in  flashes  of generosity towards his children.

At one point we we are told  the father drops his son at a well-to-do couple’s place  as they are childless, and collects  money from the couple for his  largesse.Are we  supposed to be amused by this parental  aberration? Is this father to be taken seriously?  Writer-director Halitha Shameem  certainly doesn’t. 

Till the end , the father remains  an irredemable  scumbag.  The  film opens  at the end when the father is dead. The  visitors  and relatives’  artificial  grief was  done  far more effectively in the recent  Ramprasad  Ki Terahvi. Among  the  pseudo-mourners  there is   a  professional mourner who  tells the grieving son to  record her  moans and  wails as she  must leave for another  funeral.

 The  films’s  strenuous  lightheartedness feels that. A recorded version of   real emotions rather than  the  real thing.Going through the motions rather than experiencing the emotions. If  you want  to watch a grounded  powerful father-son film see the Marathi  film Baba. This  one is purely for   those who crave  for  the cheesy in their evening  entertainment.

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