“Aranmanai 4: Resurrecting Tradition with Folkloric Twists – A Box Office Triumph”

Horror-comedy franchises such as Aranmanai and Kanchana, despite being critically lambasted, have carved out a surprisingly lucrative niche in Tamil cinema. With the highest number of sequels in the region’s film history, their success is a testament to their appeal among audiences, with box-office figures to back it up. However, a common critique from fans is the franchises’ tendency to recycle familiar tropes: an innocent woman meets a tragic fate, becomes an avenging spectre haunting a grand mansion, setting the stage for Sundar C’s character to intervene, vanquishing the restless spirit and restoring harmony among the living.

Aranmanai’s fourth instalment, though, distinguishes itself by elaborating on a backstory absent in its predecessors. Not merely another tale of vengeance, Aranmanai 4 introduces audiences to the Assamese myth of the Baak, a sinister, shapeshifting entity that preys on souls. When this malevolent force targets the family of protagonist Selvi, played by the capable Tamannaah, resulting in several deaths, it falls upon Selvi’s brother Saravanan (Sundar C) to unravel the enigma and restore tranquility to both his kin and the village at large.

Despite treading familiar ground with its supernatural themes culminating in divine intervention, the Aranmanai movies resemble the nominal antagonists of the Scooby Doo series, where poorly executed scares and sporadic humor mask the underlying layers of sentiment and emotion that drive the franchise’s narrative. Central to its ethos is the question of how far one is willing to go to shield their loved ones. While Sundar C’s characters typically bear the brunt of the action, in Aranmanai 4, he takes a step back, allowing Tamannaah’s Selvi to take the lead – a welcome change given the series’ history of underwhelming character development.

However, familiar comedic elements that fell flat in earlier films persist here too. The stale slapstick is more miss than hit, and distractions from the main storyline are frequent and unengaging. For instance, there’s a particularly trying joke involving Yogi Babu’s character engaged in an ill-conceived comedic bit with actor Delhi Ganesh that might have audiences wishing it weren’t true.

The film’s adherence to supernatural tropes is not its only venture into well-trod territory; it gleefully nods to Western superhero cinema. Audiences are treated to scenes reminiscent of iconic moments from Marvel blockbusters. The ghost morphs into a creature akin to Venom, echoes of Doctor Strange resonate throughout, and the climactic battle would not feel out of place in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. When the film’s funniest moment incorporates the Avengers theme music, it’s clear that subtlety wasn’t a priority for Sundar C when crafting this homage.

Nevertheless, Sundar C has orchestrated a notable resurgence with Aranmanai 4, selectively absorbing criticism from his recent projects and significantly dialing down the glamour to produce an engaging – if not fully rounded – spectator experience. Balancing out its cinematic borrowings with a cameo by two acclaimed Tamil cinema dancers, the movie may well be the shot in the arm needed to reconvene crowds in movie theatres.

Aranmanai 4 continues to play to audiences, solidifying its place in the roster of Tamil cinema, and by extension, the wider corpus of Indian cinema, evidence that a healthy dose of the supernatural, coupled with a dash of humor and heartfelt storytelling, can still spell box-office gold.

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