A sports movie about taking charge of one’s destiny

Story: After ‘losing face’ in a couple of key moments in life, Ani aims to set things right again by getting together a team and excelling in tug-of-war competitions

If ever there was a feel-good genre, it would be sports movies. Aaha by editor and newbie director Bibin Paul Samuel builds the film around tug-of-war; it seems a strange choice of sport, but he manages to bring in the elements of friendship and rivalry that we are used to and expect in a film of this sort.

Most of the drama happens in picturesque settings, with forested hills and a small waterfall, which are beautifully portrayed, but cinematographer Rahul Balachandran has also captured the tug-of-war sequences in a gripping manner, conveying the tension and the work the sport entails.

Indrajith plays Kochu, who was part of a legendary village tug-of-war team named Aaha Neeloor, that had a long-standing winning streak. But during an important game, in a moment of stress about the safety of his pregnant wife (Santhy Balachandran) who was home alone on a rainy night, he buckles and costs the team their win. It is a loss that leaves a bitter taste with his ashan, played by Manoj K Jayan in a too short cameo, and rival Chengan, portrayed by Ashwin Kumar.

Fast forward 20 years to when the rest of the film is set and we get back into the sports again following a bit of domestic drama surrounding the life of Ani, played by Amith Chakalakkal. After taking a couple of bad hits in life, Ani, determined to make the village proud by doing well in tug-of-war competitions, ropes in his friends to build a team. After some not-so-stellar performances, he persuades Kochu, now a recluse, to coach the new Aha Neeloor team. Kochu does so, imposing some conditions, like bringing in a Bengali player, that seem to be introduced just to add drama to the story.

The movie, written by Tobith Chirayat, is then about the characters battling their demons, rivalries that extend beyond the sport and brotherhood, among other things, as they progress fairly successfully in the game. While this seems good, at a running time of 148 minutes and with a game that is so not common that the proceeding doesn’t really get us excited, the film begins to sag at some points.

Indrajith is solid, as can be expected, in a role that is mostly tragic and doesn’t his mischievous smile or glint in the eye. Amith Chakalakkal brings a lovability to the role, in how he is a typical youngster with friends the father doesn’t approve of and in his insecurities. Composer Sayanora Philip offers a variety in the music, with a sports score, rap and romance, and does a praiseworthy job.

Aaha is interesting to watch with friends and family, for its good, clean story, and the messages of friendship and learning to take charge of one’s destiny.

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