Aayirathil Oruvan’s “The King Arrives”: A Small Step for Parthiepan; A Giant Leap For Tamil Cinema!

A tribute to a phenomenally written and staged sequence by Selvaraghavan, on his birthday…

Mani Prabhu

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If you thought Pudhupettai was bold, you had to wait till Selva’s Aayirathil Oruvan to get a glimpse of film-maker’s maverick sensibilities as a writer.

Exactly at the half-way mark, Aayirathil Oruvan transforms into this unimaginable monster that consumes you scene by scene, moment by moment, till you are left strangled, gasping for air.

Believe me; it’s like nothing you had seen before.

The boundless darkness that lurks the bizarre settlements. The macabre milieu that screams of squeamishness in every blood-churning sight. A staggering counter-evolution – over centuries of physical and mental torment – forcing the ‘near-human’ inhabitants through the opposite spectrum of the Darwin’s scale in the Palaeolithic age. The starving savage-brutes who wouldn’t give a rat’s arse to turn cannibalistic. Their queasy moral compasses. Their nerve-shuddering rituals. Their idea of riotous celebrations. Horrific mob-manias at the slightest hint of the abstruse of conflicts. De-skinned war-prisoners that are used as foot-rests and dining stools! Primitive instincts slaying off societal niceties to start with, slowly proceeding to gorge on whatever humanity, that is left of.

The re-imagining of one of the most revered of Tamil dynasties (habitually portrayed as altruistic royals coated in blemish-less gold and silver) as a destined, reverse nature-selected rabble of grisly, blood-curdling barbarians – killing each other for food and survival – needs the guts of someone like Selva to see the light of the day. And what a priceless fortune that it did!

And more importantly what a spine-chilling spectacle, the whole thing turns out to be! This sequence, which happens right after the break, downright knocks our socks off with its horrifying intensity after the rather-formulaic first half.

Even as we are lead to beleive that the adventure trail would continue for another hour or so, with an escalation of Indiana-Jones  troupes, mind you, we are served this… with a disturbingly unsympathetic nonchalance. It’s like a sucker-punch to the guts. Trust me, it instantly feels dizzy. When you first see the blood-splattered slaves pulling the royal chariot in the background of the diabolical percussions and the looming shadows of the fire lamps, you could hear some blood vessels burst and your diaphragm almost collapse. The chaos is deafening.

And now it happens. It’s akin to a sinister orgy, albeit, one that is forcibly stripped off intercourse. Amidst psychotic cries of reverence, strange convolutions of the dance form and howls of long-gnawing indignation, the ‘king’ makes an appearance. The recurring fade-to-blacks and the intervening ghoulish imagery makes it look like a bad ‘speedball’ trip. You just hold to anything ‘grabable’ and stare ahead, shaking off the rocketing chills.

A crater of raw-animal flesh is brought to the arena. The ‘almost-walking-dead’ rush in like lifeless zombies, attempting to grab a mouthful. The guard slays the creatures, one after the other, with a vacant stare on his face. And now, the king takes on the baton with an alarming fanfare. Slaves are beheaded. Blood bathes the screen. And the man steps out on the reddish-brown wetness.  You jump out of your skin.

The king then goes on a brutal killing spree on some more voracious commoners, who are turning hysterical in ravenous hunger. A woman carrying a baby walks out to him, pauses a moment and squeezes her nipple. Blood squirts out. You instinctively look away. Words fail. It’s like being pulled into whole new world against your will, and a few nails thrust down your heart. Sometimes, it’s unbelievably painful. At other times, you realize that it’s just one of those fevered dreams.  The best parts are the times when you can’t tell the difference. That’s Selva for you, unleashing his magic, from a pedestal far far away from mainstream Tamil Cinema.

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