Annaatthe movie review: Rajinikanth's Diwali release is cinematic equivalent of the meeting that could've been an email

Subtlety has never been Siva’s strong suit. However, at the least, his films have a cohesive emotional fabric. It is a massive disappointment that Annaatthe lacks the basics.

Ashameera Aiyappan November 04, 2021 18:11:02 IST

2/5

Language: Tamil

In a recent interview with The New Indian Express, director Siva revealed that when Rajinikanth asked him what kind of film he had in mind, he said, "It’s a film that has everything." But when you watch Annaatthe, what this actually means: a mixtape of themes and emotions from their previous work. (If Viswasam was the battle between two fathers, Annaatthe is the clash of two brothers.) And they do not stop at their own work.

Annaatthe has pieces from almost every film in the '90s and early 2000s, so much so that it feels like we have discovered the film from a time capsule. This family drama is so familiar that the audiences become autocomplete tools — it is enough if you just hear the beginning of the dialogue, you know the rest.

But the biggest problem with films from this period is, even though they are so high on melodrama, those films would not exist if basic conversations had happened. So much of the plot development happens because people refuse to talk to each other. For example, Annaatthe would not exist had Thanga Meenakshi (Keerthy Suresh) just had one honest conversation with her brother Kaalaiyan (Rajinikanth). This, despite the inseparable (read: insufferable) bond that they share. Even if you skip the entire first half of the film, there is not much you would miss. Annaatthe is basically that meeting which could have been an email. It does have a few inventive ideas — like the Thiruvizha-themed clashes between Kaalaiyan and Manoj Parekhar. But these are too few and far between. They get lost in the largely clumsy and chaotic writing.

Annaatthe sees Rajinikanth share screen space with two of his yesteryear heroines, Khusboo and Meena, after more than two decades. There was a lot of excitement around this casting choice. But when you see the film, you wonder why they agreed to do it. As Kalaiyan’s 'hung-up moraiponnunga,' they get a cringe comedy track that is completely redundant. Not that the other women are any better. Thanga Meenakshi is a bawling puppet with no sense of agency. Pattu (Nayanthara) is a lawyer, and has considerably more to do than the other women in the film. But her role falls right into the cliches of the Tamil cinema heroine. Usually, our female leads just stand around when the hero is fighting. Here, she plays an additional role of a translator between the thugs and the hero. I guess that is an improvement.

Music in cinema usually tells the audience what they should be feeling. It amplifies the emotion on screen. If the score is minimalist, it is usually because the content already works well without much amplification. Imman tries really hard to make up for the emotional vacuum in the writing with a boisterous score that wails at every possible moment. The score is so loud that it kept ringing in my ears during my 15-km ride home from the theatre.

Subtlety has never been Siva’s strong suit. However, at the least, his films have a cohesive emotional fabric. It is a massive disappointment that Annaatthe lacks the basics.

Nevertheless, in a Rajinikanth film, the craft is secondary. One goes to the theatres purely for the man's electrifying screen presence. In Annaatthe, the Thalaivar looks good. He does what he usually does. The energy, the charisma — it is all there. But what used to look effortless, now seems arduous. Even though he tries hard to not let it show, you can sense the tiredness. His past few releases have been attempts to recreate the vintage Rajini, but the Superstar has so much more to offer. Will we get to see that though? I am not sure.

Annaatthe is available in cinemas.

Rating: **

Ashameera Aiyappan is a film journalist who writes about Indian cinema with a focus on South Indian films.

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