Rasavathi review: Arjun Das effectively shoulders this middling Santhakumar film

The movie has a certain air of mystery to it. You are interested in these characters' lives, you want to know why they do what they do.

ByS Subhakeerthana

Published:May 10, 2024

A still from the film Rasavathi

Rasavathi (Tamil)

10-05-2024, Thriller-Drama, 2 hours 28 minutes U/A
  • Main Cast:Arjun Das, Tanya Ravichandran, Sujith Sankar, Ramya Subramanian, GM Sundar, Sujatha, and Rishikanth
  • Director:Santhakumar
  • Producer:Santhakumar
  • Music Director:Thaman
  • Cinematography:Saravanan Ilavarasu



Santhakumar’s earlier films — Mouna Guru (2011) and Magamuni (2019) — were both fairly skillfully made and had a creative plot. However, I wouldn’t say the same with Rasavathi, his most recent outing.

Santhakumar writes in a way that is more akin to a maze of questions than a thriller. He’s not in a rush to provide us with all the details at once.

This is how he usually stages scenes. Even the slightest details he adds to each character are vital to the story.

Like Magamuni, Rasavathi takes its time weaving the story around its characters. Both the ambience and the screenplay keep the tension high.

The world of Rasavathi has a certain air of mystery to it. You are interested in these characters’ lives as an audience. You want to know why they do what they do.

Every major character written by Santhakumar in Rasavathi is flawed and has a backstory.

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On the sets of Rasavathi

On the sets of ‘Rasavathi’. (Supplied)

The crux is the thread that unites these three—Arjun Das as Sadhasiva Pandian, who runs a Siddha clinic; Tanya Ravichandran as hotel manager Surya, and Malayalam actor Sujith Shankar as the eccentric cop, Parasuraj.

Because of its unusual screenplay format, Rasavathi cuts to their stories back-to-back. It takes some time to get going (pacing isn’t exactly one of its strong points), but once it does, it picks up a lot of steam.

Sadha is a doctor, a martial arts expert, a nature lover, and a kind samaritan.

A white snake slithers by Sadha’s side. His face is still; so is the rock. You can therefore understand what Santhakumar is attempting to say. Sometimes, moments like these aren’t enough to make you like a movie.

Santhakumar’s movies rely on the story, and that is where he makes a difference as a director.

When was the last time I witnessed a heroine’s character exhibit vulnerability and get into the bed wet, because of her trauma? I admire how sensitively the writing has been done.

Tanya’s performance is so believable and convincing that you feel her pain and her anxiety. You sympathise with her situation.

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Though Santhakumar narrates a simple romantic narrative, he ends up adding a lot of elements to his plot.

Though he gives each character a well-developed arc, there is still something wrong. There is a lot to consider in each of the film’s threads — the difficult upbringing of Parasuraj, Sadha’s desire to heal others, individual ideologies, and so forth.

Each of these can be a powerful segment on its own.

However, it doesn’t paint the complete, harmonious picture that one would think all these questions would.

For example, Surya and Sadha, purely by chance, have identical tattoos. We never get to know why.

Santhakumar struggles to discern between the ideas of a hero and a villain. Instead of seeing them from separate points of view, he sees them as one.

He humanises Parasuraj’s role as a menacing cop, as a result.

The greatest strength of Rasavathi is not Santhakumar, but the atmosphere built by cinematographer Saravanan Ilavarasu. His lighting and the camera movements manifest the film’s tone.

Rather than staying true to a single genre, Santhakumar jams several issues into the script, muffles the individual voices, and transforms the story into a cacophony of ideas.

The first half of Rasavathi is engaging, terrifying, and exciting, all at the same time. The camera work, too, is very sharp.

There’s a feeling that the plot is being stretched, particularly in the second half when Santhakumar describes Sadha’s early life.

The filmmaker was unable to hold our attention and maintain the tension to the very end, unlike in Magamuni.

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Rasavathi director Santhakumar

‘Rasavathi’ director Santhakumar. (Supplied)

Arjun Das skillfully and subtly embodies the character of Sadhasiva Pandian. He reveals to you the depth of his authority through his restrained body language and verbal exchanges.

Sadhasiva Pandian is vulnerable yet strong. With his acting, Arjun Das gets that across effortlessly.

In an interview, Sujith Shankar—who acted in Ajith’s Nerkonda Paarvai (2019)—said his goal was to frighten people rather than win them over.

His intimidating police demeanour in Rasavathi reminded me exactly of what he had said.

But Rasavathi has what you look for in a film—an all-around honesty in effort, which shows in the pretty decent writing and the pretty decent performances.

I understand Rasavathi wants to be an extraordinary film, but ends up being ordinary. And, that’s sad.

The movie throws away the opportunity to be a fascinating psychological drama and falls flat.

Final take

Many things remain unanswered in our minds after watching Rasavathi, and a good deal of societal commentary is offered even as the plot thickens.

The story of Sadha needs to come to an end, but the filmmaker is hinting at a sequel. Oh, no!

(Views expressed here are personal.)