21 May 2006

High on budget, low on logic

A review on Shanker's Anniyan

28 Crores. That’s the budget of director Shankar’s latest film, Anniyan. For the unacquainted, director Shankar is famous in Tamil Nadu (don’t know about the rest of India) for his “one man against the system” movies. All his movies have been big hits, save his last film, Boys, and so Anniyan was touted as Shankar’s comeback film. The hype about the movie was built for over a year, and everyone’s expectations naturally rose. The release date kept getting postponed, and the audience’s impatience to watch the movie grew.

The movie finally released on June 17th, the day I was (with my friends) in Coimbatore for a friend’s marriage. The celebrations got over around noon, and we decided to watch the movie. At the theater, in the ticket counter, we were asked if we wanted the Rs. 60 or the Rs. 120 tickets. After a small debate, we decided to get the Rs. 60 tickets (a decision I’m proud we made). We went into the theater, and the movie started.

The movie revolves around Ramanujam Iyengar (played by Vikram), a young, righteous (to the limit) lawyer, who gets appalled whenever he sees people breaking laws around him. Now, when I said “breaking laws”, I’m sure you would have thought on the lines of murder, rape, etc., but this is where your first bubble is burst. Ramanujam reacts even to the tiniest of things, like if someone slightly crosses over the yellow traffic-separating line in the middle of the road. Now when I said “Ramanujam reacts”, you would have got the impression that he beats the sh*t out of these people, but here again, you’re wrong. Ramanujam is a wuss, and the only way he reacts is to whine and yelp like a hurt pup about rules, as a result of which he is nicknamed “Rules” Ramanujam. The first half hour of this three hour movie shows us more situations where he reacts similarly, and after a point, your fist feels strongly drawn towards his lower jaw, and you get this irresistible urge to sock him hard repeatedly.

Not only does he irritate us with his constant whining, but also Nandini (played by Sadha), a neighbor, whom he is in love with for years. When he finally professes his love to her, she rejects him because he’s a wuss. When she rejects him, the audience completely empathizes with her because by then, Ramanujam has pissed you off beyond limits.

Meanwhile, a killer is on the loose, a killer who calls himself Anniyan (stranger) and runs a website, a killer who kills those who’ve committed the smallest of crimes, a killer whose site, you’ve guessed it right, Ramanujam logs on to, to complain against wrong-doers. Ramanujam’s complaints are answered, and the people he has complained about are killed in heinous ways (One, for example, is covered with Tandoori Chicken marinade, and is immersed in a huge cauldron full of boiling oil.). One clue that the killer leaves after all his crimes is an anagram of a Sanskrit word, which eventually turns out to be the names of punishments mentioned in an ancient book called the Garuda Puranam, which Ramanujam turns out to be well-versed in.

While the killer is busy marinading crime-doers, a supermodel called Remo has wooed Nandini, winning her heart. This supermodel rides superbikes, shakes a leg with Yana Gupta in a song, and speaks English in a casual “trying my best to sound ultra-cool” accent while moving his hands around as if he were some hyperactive rapper.

Now I’m sure you don’t have a clue about what’s happening, so I’ll make things clearer. Ramanujam, Anniyan and Remo are the same person. Ramanujam suffers from Multiple Personality Disorder, as a result of which he becomes Anniyan and Remo: Anniyan, because of the trauma of seeing people not following rules; and Remo, because of the trauma caused by Nandini not loving him. If you’re wondering about the origin of Ramanujam’s MPD, there’s a flashback about his sister getting electrocuted to death as a result of negligence by an Electricity Board worker. This flashback will both answer your question as well as make you laugh your innards out, thanks to the ultra-awful background music and the underlying lameness that laces the flashback.

Talking about the background music reminds me of the songs, which were just about okay. Looks like a lot of money was spent on picturising them, which is a sad thing, because the songs, instead of contributing to the plot, slow it down.

The action, on the other hand, is pretty good, though some fight sequences seemed unnecessary, like the one where Anniyan fights about 100 Karate students in a Karate school. This fight, shot with multiple cameras, is a rip-off from the Neo vs. The Infinite Agents fight from Matrix Reloaded, and served no purpose, except that it tries to make a statement that director Shankar’s movies are technically good. But putting in an elaborate fight costing a lot of money, only for the sake of making a statement is a little too much, don’t you think?

As far as the acting goes, Vikram, who plays Ramanujam/Anniyan/Remo, is quite good. He does really well in the police torture room scene towards the end, where Ramanujam alternates between Anniyan and himself repeatedly in a single shot. Good body language. The movie boasts of a lot of other good actors like Nedumudi Venu, Prakash Raj, Nasser and Saurabh Shukla, but sadly, all of them are under-utilized. Sadha, the heroine, who gets an opportunity to prove she can act, ends up having the same surprised expression on her face for most of the movie. Vivek, the comedian, provides the laughs (the intentional ones), doing a pretty decent job.

Where the movie fails is in it’s logic, or the lack of it. There are plenty of incidents in the movie that seem illogical and absurd, some of which are:

- Like mentioned earlier, the first half hour of this movie is filled with situations that show Ramanujam whining about rules. And when Ramanujam whines, he whines in surprise and disbelief, as if he’s seeing these situations for the first time, in spite of being in a city like Chennai for many years.

- Ramanujam, when Ramanujam, wears his hair in a bun, like a lot of hardcore, traditional Iyengars do. When he becomes Remo, his hair has brown-colored streaks in them, and seems shorter. When he becomes Anniyan, all his hair comes forward, covering his face, so that when the camera shows a shot from his point-of-view, there’s curly hair falling all over the camera. This being the only visible change in appearance, I find it absurd that even Nandini and a childhood friend, who works for the Police Crime Branch, don’t recognize Ramanujam when he becomes Remo or Anniyan, even though they know him for many years.

- When the police raid Ramanujam’s house, they find a lot of Remo and Anniyan stuff like video cameras and hair gel, along with other equipment. Among these is a book on HTML and Java, which indicates that it was used for creating the Anniyan website. This is the first time I’m hearing of a MPD personality actually taking the time to learn HTML and Java, so that he can create a website. I mean, what the hell?

- Anniyan kills a drunkard-cum-bum for spitting on Ramanujam.

Summing it up, I’d say that Anniyan is just about okay, and is not worth the hype it created, nor the money that was spent on it. It could have been shot on a much lesser budget, had Shankar concentrated lesser on the grandeur that seems unnecessary. It could have been a better movie, had Shankar concentrated more on the movie’s logic…

© Guru Smaran

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