Friday, October 15, 2010

Anniyan aka Aparichit [Shankar]

In the wake of Endhiran aka Robot's making hot news, I dust off and put up this review I had done for a previous masterpiece from director Shankar:

Writing a review for this movie is one of the really difficult things because there's such a sense of "Where do I start?" when it comes to describing this masterpiece of spectacle oriented movie-making. In terms of theme Anniyan belongs to that rare genre in Indian films, the superhero movie…and to my knowledge this is alongside Endhiran as one of the best movies in that genre.

Which is not something that strikes you immediately because it starts off by introducing us to the character of Ramanujam aka Ambi, a complete pussy that can't stop rattling off about sticking to the laws and doing one's duty etc. With all his whining Ambi not only puts off his fellow men  / women but comes dangerously close to pissing the audience off as well.

But that is when the film deals out its central theme… wimpy Ambi develops a split personality (ya spoiler, but you'd have to be a special kind of moron to not figure this out real early) called Anniyan (tamil) / Aparichit (hindi) [meaning Unknown] who, garbed like the WWF's Undertaker, promises to deal all wrong-doers with suitable punishments from the Garuda Purana scriptures. The very first sequence of Anniyan, when a guy who refuses to help Ambi in saving an accident victim's life is thrown into a cave where he is gored by a herd of bulls, sharply raises one's interest quotient in the film. By the end of his second appearance - where he literally fries up an unscrupulous railway food contractor after smearing him with marinade - Anniyan sends multiple shivers of joy up the spine, defining badass muthafucka in a way that (in comparison) wimps like Batman or the Punisher can only aspire to.

These scenes would be hard acts to follow but each new set-piece in the film defies all previous notions of scale. A big showdown midway through the film is when Anniyan takes on an entire martial arts school in his quest to kill the heroine (for tax evasion, hahaha!!!). Doubtless this scene takes roots from Matrix Reloaded and Kung Fu Hustle, but has enough ingenuity and cheerful insanity in execution to stand out on its own; when 5 of the martial arts guys literally combine to form a single fighting unit and Anniyan, a manic grin pasted on his face, takes a running dive that segues into a gravity and reality defying corkscrew spiral blowing them apart, it's a moment of giddy joy you want to relive over and over.

In this midst, Ambi also evolves another split personality, that of the Casanova-wannabe Remo. Remo successfully charms the heroine whose love hapless Ambi can only yearn for.

Maybe you think I'm divulging too much into the film…but no words can come close to describing the sheer sense of happy incredulity the film operates on and in such a consistent way. You'd have to be seriously opposed to the idea of films as fantasy entertainment to not be completely floored by this movie.

The other aspect of this movie that I love is that it answers to the frustrations of the middle-class, who have been pretty much ignored in most mainstream Indian masala movies that cater either to ultra-rich Punjabi NRI's or rehash the "zopadpatti zindabad, oonchi haveli murdabad" [Hail the poor, down with the rich] pseudo-socialist diatribe. This is a movie where even the loutish poor get their due and I for one cheer heartily. The movie also correctly deprecates the apathy of the average Indian as the root cause of the country going to the dogs.

Lead actor Vikram superbly fulfills all his roles. Granted this is a performance of broad bold strokes and nothing in the way of subtlety, but this is exactly what the film demands and Vikram delivers handsomely. Stunt director Peter Hein is an integral part of the film's draw, the action scenes being absolute treats that teem with superbly executed daredevil stunts and, unlike the airy-fairy antics of Matrix Reloaded, exude a palpably punchy and brutal feel.

Anniyan is not flawless…the romance track with Ambi / Remo is pedestrian (but again notable for the difference Vikram generates between the 2 characters) and the songs necessitated by this track are cacophonous affairs (although a rustic track later in the film, where entire roads and hills are painted over in the loudest hues and lorries parade about wearing gruesome grins is a visual feast). But all things considered, this is a must-see for anyone even vaguely interested in the superhero / fantasy genres and Shankar is to be lauded as one of the few guys interested in taking fantasy cinema in this country to levels hitherto unreached.

1 comment:

  1. dont know how I stumbled upon this blog, but comparing this movie with Matrix is a SIN! please.
    Let's keep our excitement about these lowly attempts of Indian movie makers at 'superhero' and 'scifi' movies to ourselves, can we?
    They can't even reach the attention to detail or the impeccable plot lines that the professionals in the hollywood production houses dedicated to their films.
    Robot - a masterpiece? It's just a piece - of junk. Lowly CGI, unbelievably horrid plot and a worthless junk senior citizen in the lead role (I'm not saying he's a good human being or thalaivar or whatever he's regarded as, but as an actor, in that role, he was a junk)
    Anyway - just a rant at the inexplicably low standards we set for our Indian films. If you've enjoyed these films, so be it. Enjoy!