Addham movie review: Well-intentioned Telugu anthology that offers a nuanced take on morality

Addham explores themes like morality, guilt, moral conflict in an intriguing manner, often taking the viewers by surprise in the end.

Hemanth Kumar October 16, 2020 14:30:49 IST

3/5

Langauge: Telugu

Addham, which translates to Mirror, is an anthology woven around the theme of morality and choices we make in the face of moral dilemma.

Written by Siva Ananth, the anthology encompasses three short stories where the characters are forced to make choices that often challenge our perception of right and wrong. It makes us think aloud if we can truly distinguish shades of grey and come to a conclusion that is bereft of guilt or doubt. And in doing all this, in the end, this mirror reflects our own biases in a world where our moral compass is often compromised.

In Crossroads, directed by Barath Neelakantan, a young man (Prasanna) is pushed to a corner when his wife doubts his fidelity, and it irks him so much that he wants to prove a point. With a friend’s help, he decides to spend a night with a call girl in a hotel. At the bar, a young woman comes to meet him, and the two strike a conversation which ends up changing his own perception of who he is as a person. Was he wrong to even think of cheating on his wife? Or was he right to choose to be in a better relationship?

In The Unwhisperable Secret, directed by Siva Ananth, a psychiatrist (Varalaxmi Sarathkumar) is appalled when a real estate bigwig named Reddy (Kishore) tells her about a crime he may have committed. Although she is bound by her duty to treat her patient, she cannot stop thinking about the crime and wants to do something about it as a dutiful citizen. But then, she changes her mind when Reddy tells her about the guilt he’s carrying in his heart. Did she do the right thing or did she betray herself?

In the third short story The Road That Never Ends, directed by Sarjun, a truck driver (Jayaprakash) gives a lift to a young boy who has run away from home. The journey comes to an abrupt end and it further takes a dramatic turn with the entry of the truck driver’s wife (Rohini). Did she do the right thing? Who is really guilty here? It is hard to come to a conclusion.

The only common factor among these three short films is the theme — morality. What makes it interesting is its storytelling, which is concise and does not meander beyond the theme. Yet, not all of these stories evoke the same response.

Crossroads, in particular, has an air of familiarity and the story itself feels like it has been told multiple times. Even the way the actors enunciate their lines and the accents feel a tad off the mark — a clear indication of actors having to work doubly hard to make the whole story feel authentic and real. This, surprisingly, is not so much of an issue in the short story featuring Varalaxmi and Kishore. The duo’s conversation is well-written, and both of them take you by surprise with the way they have internalised their respective characterisation. A slight shift in body language of the psychiatrist or even the tone in which her patient speaks conveys quite a lot about their internal conflicts.

The best short film of the lot is, undoubtedly, The Road That Never Ends. In the opening scene of the story, a truck driver slams the brakes to avert an accident. By the time the end credits roll, you feel the full weight of the story and the emotional conflict of the characters crushing your soul. Brilliantly shot by Selvakumar, the short film has the perfect blend of drama, suspense, and a twist that is bound to take you by surprise. Rohini Molleti stands out with her terrific performance, and full credit to Siva Ananth and director Sarjun for weaving such an intricate and sensitive story. Editor Sreekar Prasad is a huge asset to the anthology, and he controls the rhythm of every scene so well that there is barely a scene which looks out of place.

Addham, like the title suggests, hold up the mirror to the fact that we often bend the rules of morality depending on the circumstances. Whether it’s for the good or not is a debate for another day, but at least, it clears the fog of guilt for the time being. Addham is a well-written and well-intentioned anthology, which hits the target for the most part. It is a welcome change, and one can only wish that it is only the beginning of a new wave of short stories brought alive on screen.

Addham is currently streaming on Aha's OTT platform.

Rating: ***

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