For every measly 3 steps that our films take in the direction of non-violence, some insist on retracing 2. Arundhati is one of those that puposefully turns around and takes 10 gigantic leaps, making on-screen factionism seem tame. And that is the only complaint we have against Arundhati, an impressive past-life-revenge drama that works because the positives far overshadow the negatives.
Arundhati (Anushka), the only girl-child her family has borne in 3 generations, is believed to be the reincarnation of her great-grandmother, the most fearless queen Gadwal had ever seen. Her wedding date is all set, and there is colour, mehendi and singing, at her home in Hyderabad.
Now, the spirit of the incredibly evil Pasupathi (Sonu Sood), who was the queen's adversary, aided by his mother's spirit, is resentful of the wedding, and its intentions of taking care of unfinished business are made extremely clear through the menacing throaty voices that emanate from an abandoned palace in Gadwal.
Self-latching doors and possessed water taps cause Arundhati's grandfather (Satyanarayana) to have a fall, and she comes to Gadwal to visit him. Meanwhile, the haunted palace claims an innocent victim, whose husband is almost driven mad by the incident. When the local sorcerer, Anwar (Sayaji Shinde), tries his hand at the man, Arundhati (the junior) pooh-poohs the sorcerer and his ways. In return, Anwar warns her of terrible danger ahead, and urges her to leave Gadwal. Arundhati, of course, doesn't take the man seriously, until proof confronts her in a rather macabre way.
The rest of the story is about the bloody past, the bloody present, and the bloody battle between good and evil, with heavy doses of intrigue and dark magic thrown in (and even a reference to cannibalism, here in the jungles of Andhra Pradesh!). Overall, the theme isn't unfamiliar territory, but bits of the story are. As for the characters, Pasupathi's is highly exaggerated, and leaves you wondering why no one put a check on his iniquities until it was too late.
Be warned that the film contains some highly graphic scenes of violence, with a disturbingly bizarre focus on the cranium, and we aren't talking about merely smashing skulls. Imagine people getting speared through the mouth, or glass slabs slicing faces. If that's not the kind of movie-watching that gives you the kicks, you'll probably do well staying away.
However, to give the movie its due, the drama and the performances are riveting enough (and more) to offset any revulsion the violence could bring about. Anushka appears very, very seasoned as an actress, and gets some glam-time only as queen Arundhati. Sonu Sood is great as the repulsive Pasupathi, and even more haunting as his ghost, in a most unflattering get-up, we must say. Arjun Bajwa is in a teensy role, one which mostly keeps you worried about something terrible happening to him.
The brilliant Sayaji Shinde is in a refreshingly different role - one that doesn't see him in police uniforms or in crisp whites - and seems so perfect for it, too. And is it our imagination that his Hindi now seems more contrived than his Telugu?
The music matches the grandioseness of the film, note-by-note, specially the Jejamma song. The grand production values are evident in the visuals (though the special effects don't appear convincing) and in the flow of the script.
Needless to say, Arundhati is not a relaxing treat, and definitely not recommended for kids. Go prepared for some messy deliverance, and you will fare great.