Sunday, July 03, 2005


After a lot of hassling and fighting, I finally got my chance to see Shankar’s latest movie – Anniyan. Despite having heard a lot of negatives about movie to the tune of, “It’s a rehash of all his earlier movies”, “He has just copied stunts from Matrix & Kill Bill”, etc I knew one thing for sure – I needed to see the movie for myself to make the decision. Tastes in this world are never one and the same, a good example being Gilli running for 200 odd days while Anbe Sivam struggling to hit the 100-day mark. As I came out of the theatre, there was just one thought in my mind – stunning!

If Indian talks about one man’s fight against corruption, Anniyan takes a slightly different issue. At the outset, they might seem similar, but nope! This is a movie that hits hard at public apathy. The problems that irk the protagonist are day-to-day occurrences, events that flit past our busy lives with not even a passing glance from most of us. What’s even more painful is the treatment meted out to people who do not stop with just a glance, but step down into the slush and get their hands dirty in an effort to clean the system.

Err..system is actually the wrong word here. Anniyan’s message is simple: “It is all well and fine to blame the system (govt, bureaucrats, et al). But the core of the problem lies with us. If all we are going to do is just talk about how bad this country is, how dirty the politicians are, all that your country is going to progress is zilch. We need to be active.” And by public participation, it doesn’t even talk about the noble dreams of the social service enthusiasts. Yes, those people deserve all the praise for their endeavour against the bigger issues of life. But, what Anniyan propounds is doing the small things right; things that do not require any extra-ordinary effort from our side, except the barest minimum of will to overcome the threshold of apathy, and the thickness of a skin to outlast the passing hecklers.

A classic scene in the movie when a guy is dying on the road, and Vikram (as Rules Ramanujam) tries to help him. There is this person who says, “Somebody go get a first-aid kit. Somebody go call the ambulance. Somebody go inform the police.” One question – Mr. Why don’t you do these things? Err…I just remembered that I’ve got to be elsewhere. !#$%#$^

Fine, giving the allowance that you do have a few people who wouldn’t hesitate to get into the so-called bureaucratic mess, what about the following of traffic rules? We Indians are always in a hurry. It doesn’t matter if we aren’t supposed to get onto the wrong side and zip past all the patiently waiting vehicles. It is our birthright. Hmm…no, change that. It is a sign of my incredible smartness and the absolute stupidity of the losers adhering to the traffic signal. Oh another thing…a typical response from any such person, “What’s wrong!! Look at blue-shirt, he is doing the same, look at the black-jeans, he is also doing the same…what’s the big deal if I do the same? I am in a hurry”. !#$%#$^
And what surprises me is this – We are all in such a hurry, but never do we reach any place on time. (???)

Interleaved with these daily annoyances of Rules Ramanajum are his futile attempts to woo Sada. If the former leads to the birth of Anniyan, the latter leads to the emergence of Remo. How one personality gets submerged completely, while the other quelled temporarily is the rest of the story. A compelling tale indeed.

The flaws of the movie begin and end with the choice of the heroine. Sada acts as the perfect dhrishti for the movie. I admire Vairamuthu’s tongue-in-cheek humour when he penned the lyrics “Iyengar veettu azhage…” keeping Sada in mind. :P

The music. Apart from “Sukumari…” and “Andankaakka”, none of the others matches up to the standards of a Shankar movie. But that is to be expected given the vast bridge between Harris Jeyraj and Rahman.

The obvious heroes of the movie are Vikram and Vivek. After lying in the dredges of vulgar humour – atypical to Tamil – Vivek comes up with a great performance. The “Kamal-sir” joke, and his comment on “sappa figures” bring the theatre down.

Vikram continues to impress. There was nothing surprising about his performance, given the high expectations after his Pitamahan performance. His portrayal of Rules Ramanujam is awesome, even to the minor detail of holding the mirror while applying the sreecharnam. Sigh! I only hope my mother doesn’t get ideas on how I am supposed to follow the typical Iyengar lifestyle after seeing the movie. (I do not have any qualms about imitating Anniyan though. :))

I think one important example of public apathy that Shankar missed out is on the issue of movie piracy. Not only does it give him an opportunity to hit the audience hard and make them feel uncomfortable, it is self-serving as well. Pirated VCDs have been the bane of Tamil cinema for quite some time now, and it is my personal opinion that any person who supports this “industry” needs to be asked to shut his mouth on voicing any cribs about the nation. As I told my aunt who used to be an avid VCD watcher, “Do you want the blood of another GV on your hands?” GV, brother of movie maestro Mani Rathnam, was forced to commit suicide because of this very disease – video piracy. When a man as accomplished falls prey to such public negligence, I pity the first-time producers. As S Ve Shekar rightly puts it, “How would you feel if your father works hard for 30 days of the month, and then some unknown guy collected his salary on the 31st?!”

That is exactly what the public is doing. And they do not seem to realize the gravity of the situation. Even as I write this, there would be people around the world who would be watching Anniyan on pirated VCDs. It makes me wonder whether people are justified in saying that the murdering of people, as Anniyan does, was a bit of hyperbolic reaction. Maybe extreme situations do need such extreme measures.

Let me end this review (?) of Anniyan (interspersed with my own thoughts) with this quote by Kamal Hassan that I heard in his interview prior to the release of Mahanadhi.
“Do people think before spitting into a river? No…they just think nothing is going to happen by the acts of a single person. But if a million think the same, the Mahanadhi wouldn’t be a maha-nadhi anymore, it would be a maha-gutter. One person has to think about this implication and swallow his saliva and pull back.”

Very true. Very very true.


At 9:14 AM, Blogger madatadam said...

hey sridhar.. im varath's friend and came by ur blog thru him.. nice blog but i differ on many points in ur anniyan review. i hope u wont mind if i add my comment to ur review.
1. the movie is overdone: too much emphasis on the little things - exaggeration is necessary in art but this was just too much.
2. it is not original - a hodgepodge of seven, killbill, matrix stunts etc.
3. as an iyengar, i aver that none of vikram, sada or vivek act like typical iyengars and anyway that was not necessary for the story.
4. vikram overdoes all his roles. pithamagan was good and vikram did a really gr8 job but here he just goes overboard. both remo and ambi are irritating and anniyan is simply the macho spouting speeches and guzzling blood.
5. what is the point in the movie? murder is acceptable when begging or breaking traffic rules is not? is it a message to psychos to come and slit throats when their OCNs are not diagnosed properly?
6. prescriptions and teaching r all fine and make us want to do sth - especially idealists among us; but do they really mean anything or r just gimmicks exploiting particular sentiments? and do we accept only those msgs that r close to our hearts?
7. apart frm the movie review, i disagree with ur idea of piracy. i think the capitalist society ensures it in its own way. gv committed suicide not just coz of piracy: it was the lifestyle of the richn famous that did him in. im sure the kind of life he(and his peers) led inspired the intelligent-but-with-little-opportunity local teakadai fellow to try and bend his way around the wall of social and legal mores and that is what piracy is about. im also sure that this local fellow once he reaches a point where he has to fight against his peers will one day contemplate suicide. where money, success and fame are everything such accidents are bound to happen.
anyways sorry for literally blogging on ur comments page.. just had to get this out of my system :)

At 2:05 AM, Blogger Sridhar Raman said...

Hey madatadam, not a problem at all. My rebuttal (If I sound a tad harsh, forgive me. My "anniyan" peeps out at times. :-))-
1. When the crux of the movie is to drive home the fact that we do not do the "little things" properly, I don't see how it could be called "overdone". This had to be "done" to show the implications.

2. Thats a good one.
Seven? because at the scene of every murder, there are words written nearby. And I thought that was common from the times of Holmes to Vittalacharya!
Matrix stunts? I do not recollect a single Matrix stunt that was not copied from an earlier martial arts movie. And the originals were minus the CGI & ropes. The supposedly original scene where Neo fights the 100 agents has been depicted in countless MGR fight sequences, including the part of twirling a stick. All that Reloaded did was package it differently, and Shankar used that cinematic tool. In fact, Anniyan managed to vanquish them while Neo, after wasting our time for 20 mins, simply flies away - a thing he could have done right at the beginning!
Killbill? Dont hurt me. This is a movie that had anything original? If all the stunts, scenes were supposed to be tributes to Bruce Lee, Kurosawa, where exactly did the originality come in?

The story of Anniyan is original. Period.

3. Now, it would be hard to define a typical Iyengar wouldnt it? I have seen people do all the things that Ambi does. I am not going to tell you that this is how an Iyengar should lead his life (or not). But this is also a way that Iyengars lead their lives. Could you please tell me which were the acts that were misrepresenting typical Iyengars?
Well, the Iyengar lifestyle was to just set a platform for the story. When Ambi says, "Dont hit me. I am a guy that eats only curd-rice.", you are not only moved by his plight, but also urge his transformation to Anniyan.

4. Finally, something we agree upon - Remo was irritating. Ambi was a definite natural. Anniyan was the macho. So, whats wrong in portraying the machoism? At the end of the day, these 3 are just different personalities within the same person. Just like how we would have an off-day when we snap at everything, scream at others, that is represented by Anniyan. Exasperation is defined by Ambi. Suppressed fliratious urge -> Remo. So, maybe Remo is meant to be irritating. And Vikram does a good job at that. (Its like calling Maggie Wheeler a bad actress just because she plays irritating Janice in Friends)

5. I obviously cannot speak for you. But the message that I took back home is very clear, and I have already mentioned it in my blog. If somebody reads the Mahabharatha, and then says that the message he understood was - to have 14 years of uninhibited pleasure, it is alright to strip a girl in public, what can i say!! To each his own.

6. The reason why the teaching in this movie is not just for the idealists is simple - it is doable by the average man. Forget grand dreams. Do the little things in life the right way, and notice the difference.
Shankar is not left with much of a choice. If he makes a love story, people are going to say, "How many such movies do we have to see? Is entertainment the only motive behind making movies?". He makes this, people say, "It is so unrealistic. Does he think he can change the world?" If the public cant make up its mind, dont blame the moviemakers.

7. Oh, thats a nice bit of logic. I am selling roadside charlatan medicines. I see the chemist making a lot of money selling legal drugs. I envy his lifestyle. So I shall bend the social and legal mores, and decide to enter drug-trafficking. I totally absolve myself of all blame and pass it on to society. I also decide to spread spurious drugs into the market. I mean, "dont blame me! He is rich. He is enjoying himself. I am weak. I shall break the law." Then the Mafia enters into my territory, and I now blame my peers for forcing me to die. Big deal! It is just an accident. Collateral damage eh?

And I wonder why India is like this...weird!

At 12:44 PM, Blogger madatadam said...

hey nice rebuttal point by point.. since most of them show we have basically different philosophies, i will just make a general defence/offence... i didnt mean writing sth at the crime scene - seven was abt the sins, mayb saying he copied frm dante wd hv held better - but my biggest crib is not abt originality so i pass there.. again iyengar lifestyle - to each his own.. what i meant abt overdone is - ppl sometimes r fooled into taking home such msgs, hearts brimming, only to forget it the next day. a milder message stays longer and is useful.. how many know indian except for the varmakalai and manisha? im as ready as the next person to do the little things but that doesnt mean i hv to b a rules ramanujam - he only turns certain ppl(again not me but many such exist) away bcoz of his over-emphasis.. as for the piracy thing, what im saying is dont criticize the man, criticize the system.. why r ppl so ready to vent their ire on the man and refuse to think of the system? is the society we r living in good? are its ideals good? im against piracy too in the sense its illegal and deprives some ppl their rightly-earned livelihood.. but id rather support the little man against the system than the big man for the system.. the problem is similar to slums - accepted there shudnt be slums but where will the slum-dwellers go if u just decide to demolish them? or shall we just, in our pious richness, close our eyes and make sure they starve without electricity? inaction is not always good action even if the cause is right..(and i know im arguing a losing point bcoz the only reason i go for pirated CDs is not out of concern for any small man but we r talking general principle here)

my most general crib is this: the educated(I & you) can discuss this and im sure we'll do our bit too but the common man is not as well-endowed as us and to give him such general weapons and dreams is not the way to start a sea-change in attitude. swades i liked better and yuva too though they had similar themes - the answer to anything is not fastidiousness or violence(violence in yuva is not the central theme).. again u might take a particular msg home and thats bcoz of ur conditioning but what of the next person - shudnt we pause and see where its all heading? any msg shud be commonly inhered by everybody or the point in mass media is lost or subverted.. im not trying to build a fear psychosis but there might be ppl out there waiting for the flimsiest chances to take their neuroses out in the open world..
nice to be in a heated argument after such a long while :-)

At 10:15 PM, Blogger Vivek Krishna said...

So I did watch the movie finally.
It surely has similarity to Indian & Citizen(starring ajith) .single man killing people who did something wrong so as to set the society right and finally doing a passionate public defence of his murders and getting away with it. It has been done in movies before but this movie is a bit different in adding elements of schziophrenia and action scenes.
the mode of committing murders according to punishements metted out in hell was unique and from there on I think its predictable but keeps the viewer interested.
My only grouse is that the story legitimizes killings and murders by the hero just to set soceity correct,and although the director here cleverly adds the element of schziophrenia to absolve him of the crime ,it doesnt change the basic facts. Apart from this i felt songs and action scenes were overdone,only to be expected from a shankar movie.Overall verdict - movie was good .I empathize with the message of movie and also enjoyed murders but dislike the fact that murder should be used as a weapon to set things right even if its a movie.
Swades for example is much better ,it has similar theme but doesnt resolve to gory violence and murder and is more positive.


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