Anbirkiniyal movie review: Keerthy Pandian shines in this chilling, satisfying film featuring vignettes of urban life

Anbirkiniyal is a delightful story of a survivor, one which offers hope that with a little effort, all can be good in the world.

Ranjani Krishnakumar April 04, 2021 13:29:46 IST

3.5/5

An ant that no one notices. A rat that causes someone to lose their job. A motley group of men and women. Anbirkiniyal, Keerthy Pandian's latest outing, offers a chilling — and satisfying — slice of ordinary urban life.

The eponymous hero Anbirkiniyal, aka Anbu, is a chirpy young woman, a perpetual smile on her face, an optimistic spark in her eyes, caring deeply for neighbours and strangers alike, reprimanding her father for smoking, counting his drinks etc.

She could easily be mistaken for the standard Tamil film loosu ponnu, except, she's anything but. She holds a job, working for a manager who is hardly pleasant. She dreams of emigrating to Canada to help her father pay off his debts. She is in a romantic relationship — one that she defines, on her own terms. Anbu is complex, just like her life and the world around her.

The first half of the film is saccharine: Scenes where she jokes with an elderly lady about finding her a romantic partner, her father handling a harasser in the movie theatre, the search for cigarettes in the house etc. cry to be fast-forwarded. The strained performance and odd dubbing by Arun Pandian, who plays Anbu's father, don't help at all.

Anbirkiniyal movie review Keerthy Pandian shines in this chilling satisfying film featuring vignettes of urban life

Keerthi Pandian in a still from Anbirkiniyal

If we endure the setup, the film emerges anew. The characters don't have the luxury of being 'cute' any longer. They turn real. Sivam, Anbu's father, is an ordinary man, who is almost useless in finding his daughter. Charles, her lover, is equally ordinary and ineffective. They have no superpower to find her, except their earnestness, the only thing that makes us root for them. The store manager is a caricature, for the most part realistic. The cop drunk on power is irritating, but believable.

Anbu herself is hardly a regular Tamil film hero. Most of the second half is her struggling, trying one trick after another to survive. Her desperation palpable — there is a point where she almost eats frozen chicken. And her pain gut-wrenching. Keerthy Pandian shines in some of these scenes. In fact, Anbu doesn't spin a miracle and save herself; she simply persists and stays alive.

Yet, it is this ordinariness that makes Anbirkiniyal extraordinary. The world that Gokul creates is life-affirming — imperfect, but in balance. As a counterpoint for the evil boss, there are several compassionate colleagues. For every bad cop, there are several reasonable ones. The accused in lockups have kind hearts. A casteist father does come around. Rats too need warmth.

Despite its shortcomings, Anbirkiniyal is a delightful story of a survivor. One that offers hope that with a little effort, all can be good in the world.

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