There is an old anecdote (possibly even apocryphal) about how a woman proposed to George Bernard Shaw telling him that if they married, their progeny would be blessed with her beauty and his brains. The inimitable GBS is known to have shot back, “But what if he inherits my uncomely countenance and your stupid intellect?”
Who doesn’t want all the wealth of Bill Gates, the genius of Albert Einstein and the come-get-me looks of Tom Cruise (or Pitt or Depp)? Yes, all of it! You know you won’t refuse it. But what if you can’t refuse it? What if you don’t have the power to refuse it? If it is beyond your control?
There is a theory that if a person has too much pent-up emotions courtesy of incidents, accidents, even tragedies he has faced in his life, his mind can conjure up a totally different personality – an all-conquering ideal, through which the person releases those emotions, sometimes even in violent ways. That is the basis of a split personality. Or so opines director Shankar. And that opinion forms the storyline of the most eagerly awaited Tamil film of 2005 – Anniyan (the stranger).
The theme is not new. A man whose docile nature sheaths his anger at society, its corrupt and devious elements is a recurrent theme in Shankar’s movies like Gentleman and Indian which were roaring successes both with the critics and at the BO. However, unlike Krishnamurthy or Senapathi, Ramanujam Iyengar is not Dr. Jekyll by day and Mr. Hyde by night. He is Doctor er… Lawyer Jekyll all the while. A righteous person, he cannot tolerate those who break or bend rules. But “Rules” Ramanujam is a typical Brahmin, he can complain endlessly, but he cannot act against an erring society. He comes across a website which accepts his grievances and promises to punish sinners.
Lo and behold, Anniyan barges on to the scene. Unknown to the world, unknown to Ramanujam, this omnipotent stranger guillotines the guilty, leaving behind only a jumble of letters. Who is he? Why does he look like Ramanujam? And who’s Remo, the ramp-walk model? These are some of the many questions raised in an otherwise boring first half. The riveting second half provides not only the answers but is the saving grace too.
A movie of three hours cannot be without downsides. As already stated, the theme is not new. The storyline seems like a collage of a dozen movies – Indian, Gentleman, Ramana, A Beautiful Mind, The Matrix, Spiderman, Aalavandhaan, For the People (Four Students), Mudhalvan, even Chandramukhi! But Shankar’s inevitable touch, technical wizardry and taut screenplay make this breakneck-speed movie very enjoyable . But hey, isn’t it unpardonable that a director of Shankar’s class should also stoop down to Matrix- and Spidey-style stunts?
For once, a leading lady has some part to play, beyond the usual dance sequences. Sadha grabs her role with both hands and has perfomed well enough for us to remark that she is not saadha. Prakash Raj is his usual self, adding another feather to his already heavy cap. After a long time, Vivek also shines in a role sans dialogues with sexual undertones.
If you thought the soundtrack was great, check them out on screen. Each song has been shot with such taste and to such perfection that the producers could have released music videos separately. Kannum Kannum Nokia is the pick of the music videos! You can miss the initial titles sequence, and still guess that the dialogues have been penned by Sujatha. Savour this… in one scene, Ramanujam is beaten black and blue by some rogues. After some time, in comes Anniyan. One of the rogues asks, “Avana ivan?” Anniyan replies, “Avan illada, Yaman da!”
A couple of days ago, someone raised a question if Anniyan would be Shankar’s magnum opus. My answer is NO! But it is certainly Vikram’s magnum opus. Yet again, Vikram has proved that he can deliver to the weight of expectations. Though his mannerisms as a typical (?) Tam-Brahm seem like an aping of Poornam Viswanathan, his portrayal of three different roles with such elan is stupefying. His role in the climax where he shifts from Anniyan to Ramanujan to Anniyan to Rama… is a treat. In such cases, there is only a thin line that separates perfection and over-acting. For having tread that line with care, Vikram deserves to be honoured.
Is Anniyan good? Yes! Is it a great movie? Probably. Is it unforgettable? Well, only Oscar Ravichandran, the producer who has splashed 25+ crores, can answer!
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