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Critics Review
Aaha movie review: Indrajith's sports-drama gets weighed down by ordinary narration

As with every sports drama, it's the training montages that infuses the much-needed push to Aaha's narrative. Bibin tries to focus on telling the backstories of all its characters and that too in great detail

3.0
Sanjith Sidhardhan
Nov 19, 2021
cover image
Aaha poster

Story: Twenty years after the tug-of-war team Aaha Neeloor loses a match-up, Kochu, the member whose slip-up was responsible for the loss, is approached by a group of youngsters to mentor them. But Kochu, who has isolated himself, lost much more than his team on that fateful day. Could the request give him hope and reclaim a part of what he has lost?

Review: Editor-turned-filmmaker Bibin Paul Samuel's Aaha is inspired by the famous '90s tug-of-war team named Aaha Neeloor that were on top of their game for about 15 years. What made their story rousing and inspirational was that the team comprised entirely of manual labourers, rubber tappers and others who worked in the day and turned superstars at night by competing in tug-of-war events across Kerala. Their stories of toil and glory have an earthy appeal and that's probably why Bibin and its scriptwriter Tobith Chirayath picked the tale to make into a movie.

The movie revolves around Kochu (Indrajith Sukumaran), who was seemingly responsible for a loss that split the Aaha Neeloor team. However, on that fateful day, Kochu lost much more than his team and chooses himself to distance himself from the sport and others for 20 years. In the current timeline, another youngster Ani, who has had to face a set of failures, decides to form a team and approaches Kochu to mentor them. How does this change Kochu's life and that of the motley crew of youngsters?

As with every sports drama, it's the training montages that infuses the much-needed push to Aaha's narrative. Bibin tries to focus on telling the backstories of all its characters and that too in great detail. This weighs down the film to great extent and doesn't achieve its desired effect in the end either. For instance, the character of Ashwin Kkumar, who sows the seed of doubt in Kochu's mind, and even fights with the latter, is left by the wayside in the second half, only to appear in the end with a revelation.

Indrajith doesn't quite look the part of a hardworking labourer who uses his strength to lead the team from the front. While as a coach, he does lend the maturity, he almost sleepwalks in the role that doesn't push him too much. Amith Chakalakkal gets the lion's share of the screentime and does a good job at playing a character, who has to suffer humiliation but still wears a pleasant smile on his face. The film also has cameos from Manoj K Jayan and Santhy Balachandran, both of whose talents aren't explored in the script. In fact, the past portions slow the narrative further and doesn't quite explore the relationships of Kochu or what truly went into making the Aaha Neeloor team. The movie somehow fails to do justice to the legacy of the real-life team.

Sayanora's music helps bring the excitement in the sports bit, but in the long run, even that slacks off. The movie also lingers in most of its scenes even after conveying what's required. Bibin being an editor himself could have chopped those bits and tightened the narrative. Despite a strong second half pulling up the film, Aaha doesn't quite rise to its potential.

Verdict: This sports-drama, though set in a rural backdrop, isn't taut enough to hold your attention for long. While it does have its heart in its right place, the movie could have benefitted from more trimming and focus on the sporting aspects.


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