Synopsis: School student Senthil (Veeresh) comes home after school one day to find that his mom Nirmala ( Viji Chandrashekhar) has not returned home after work. His sister Selvi (Jai Queheni) is to be married in a couple of days, and all are worried. He sets off in search of his mother, and it turns out to be a long night of discovery…
Movie Review: This could easily be the best Tamil film of the year, and not just because it is timely. The bigger reason is that it tackles a very important issue — mental illness — with a sensitivity that is rare to Tamil cinema, and does so without being judgmental about the main characters and their actions. Hopefully, the movie will sensitize our directors and bring about a change in the way they portray disabilities or disorders.
Viji, who has been missing from the screens for quite some time, returns with a role which will count among her best performances and guarantee her a place among the greats of Tamil cinema. Yes, it is an author-backed role, but she hits the right notes to ensure that her role does not end up the cliche that passes for mentally ill people.
In Carnatic music, Aarohanam means the ascending of the swaras, and the movie is also structured the same way. Nirmala’s character is revealed to the audience slowly in bits and parts, only to end in a crescendo in the form of a song at a discotheque. As it progresses, the movie involves viewers so deeply in her life that they start ignoring the fact that there is something wrong about her and start celebrating her joie de vivre. In fact, this is one of the strengths of the movie – the fact that it shows Nirmala having as close a normal life as possible and taking care of her children all by herself, despite the fact that she has bipolar disorder.
Veeresh and Jai Queheni start off tentatively, but settle in their roles and acquit themselves fairly. The rest of the cast comprises seasoned actors like Marimuthu as the estranged husband of Nirmala, Jayaprakash as the politician and Krishnan as his personal assistant, Sampath as the psychiatrist and Rajee and Uma as socialites, all of whom bring their best to the table.
For a debutant director, actor Lakshmy Ramakrishnan has taken up a very challenging subject, one whose timing is just perfect. A lot of recent films have had incorrect portrayals of mental illness and bipolar disorder, and Aarohanam helps in dispelling the darkness among the audiences. Her writing is inclusive, and choice of cast and technicians is perfect. Something which bodes well for our cinema.
Tip-off: A must see for all lovers of good cinema.