A little girl falls into a deep borewell, and her rescue becomes a huge professional and personal challenge for a collector.
Aramm is structured as a tense thriller about a rescue attempt, but what the film's director, Gopi Nainar, is more interested in is hard-hitting socio-political commentary. That it is effective as both is the director's achievement. The film unfolds as an enquiry into an incident. We see IAS officer Madhivadhani being questioned by her superior over an incident involving a child trapped in a deep borewell. This approach also helps keep the audience unsure about the fate of the child.
And the film flashes back to that ill-fated day, which proved to be a day of reckoning for the young collector. But before the mishap involving the child, Dhanshika (Mahalakshmi), Gopi introduces to her family and her village, a barren landscape where water is scarce. So much so that when a nurse (Vinodhini) administers polio drops, a character tells her to give medicine that will stop the kid from feeling thirsty. Dhanshika's father Yugendran (Rams) is a painter, whose daily wage is barely enough to feed the family. His wife, Sumathi (Sunu Lakshmi) also does odd jobs, like the other women in the village. Their son, Muthu (Ramesh, the kid from Kaaka Muttai) dreams of becoming a swimming champ, but Yugendran, who dreamed of becoming a kabaddi player during his youth but couldn't, wants him to focus on studies instead, for he feels the system is against them. In short, theirs is a life that is equal parts frustration and hope.
And when Dhanshika falls into the borewell, Gopi uses the rescue mission, which soon turns into a media blitz and constantly threatens to turn into a riot, to comment on the society. From apathy of government officials to the greed of power-hungry politicians and the urban-rural divide, Gopi goes all out in making his stand clear. Repeatedly, Gopi brings in the analogy of rocket to signify that as one India soars high, the other India — the real India, in his opinion — sinks further and further, trapped and with hardly a chance of an escape. Yes it gets preachy often and melodramatic at times, but we cannot ignore the forcefulness with which Gopi drives home his points. This is a 'Message movie' with a capital M, but Aramm wears this tag proudly on its sleeves.
Aramm is also proud to be a star film. Madhivadhani is painted as almost a saint, the only one who empathises with the people when the entire official machinery is ready to consider the impending death of the child as a mere statistic and get on with their 'jobs'. And Nayanthara's portrayal of the role further cements her superstardom. She understands that the film is interested in her not as an actor, but as a star whose words people hang on to as if they are commandments. She mainly has to recite her lines not like conversations, but as editorials (though, why she chose to not dub for the role is puzzling considering she acquitted herself well in Naanum Rowdydhaan), and provide reaction shots (act concerned in front of the paper and the people of the village, act tough in front of the officials, repeat) that make the audience root for her. In short, it asks her to step into the shoes of a mass hero, and this, she does in style.