He who comes from Hell
is not afraid of the ashes
Shankar, One of the costliest directors in Indian cinema, brings another of his opulent movies to the screens and like previous occasions, seems to have succeeded this time, too. Right from re-creating the famous Thiyagaraja Festival to shooting the songs in Amsterdam and getting the best of visual effects for the action sequences, there has been no stone left unturned in Anniyan. A progressive idea but deep rooted in the Indian psyche is the formula that Shankar has been using for a long time. Be it Boyz, Gentleman or Anniyan, the director has kept at what he does best, and has come on the tops time and again.
Anniyan, literally translated as "The Unknown" is the story of Ramanujam aka Nambi (Vikram, in a terrific performance) who is a straight laced Brahmin lawyer who believes in principles and doing things the right way...always. As expected, he does not get his way too often and even his close friends rubbish his good ideas. Nandini (Sada, in a rather plain appearance and without much scope of a performance), the neighborhood girl he loves, does not find him attractive and is fed up of him being a stickler of rules. Having seen his sister die in childhood due to negligence of the electricity department and having grown seeing his father's helplessness in not being able to change the world all alone, Ambi's frustration with the system has been building up for quite some time.
The widespread corruption, small things that each one of us do to avoid unpleasantness, get the work done, etc are all observed by Ambi whose silent anger with it all makes him turn into Anniyan, the avenger who does not differentiate between wrongs on the basis of their intensity. Whatever is wrong is punished by Anniyan, whether it is the person who refused his taxi to be used for getting an injured person to the hospital or the contractor who supplies sub-standard food to the railways. Anniyan follows the Vishnu Puraanas to find ways and means to punish the wrong-doers as he puts himself into Yama's shoes and brings hell's fury on to the earth.
Once bitten by the Multiple personality Disorder bug, Ambi does not waste time in changing to the fashionable Remo, who is a ramp model and has no problems in wooing Nandini off her feet. Also, the expensive song and dance routines are facilitated by the arrival of this character and some of the songs (especially "Remo Remo" and "Nokia") do deserve the focus for their shear brilliance of execution, if not anything else.
In the midst of all the executionary powers that Anniyan has taken over, there is minor resistance, as well. The police officer (played by Prakash Raj rather effectively) who is handling the case is as puzzled by the entire episode as the common folk but that is only till he starts using the latest techniques like DNA tests to find the identity of the cruel judge that Anniyan is to him. By the time he gets to Anniyan, however, the movie is almost over but for the climax which has to be seen to be appreciated properly. Kill Bill and Matrix combined, the action sequences can give any movie a run for its money and even the logical conclusion to the movie's central theme which is a relief, in a way, after seeing so many good ideas getting undone due to a weak climax.
The movie can truly be said to be Vikram's best performance till date. Right from the Undertaker style get-up Anniyan to the dashing Remo, Vikram is in his dream performance. The ever flexible changes of character that he performs towards the climax are really full of good stuff. Sada looks amazingly good in the songs but minus that, her role is rather wasted not just due to the story's demands but also due to a weak performance. Rest of the actors do not have much to do in terms of the stage presence but of the support cast, Prakash Raj as the police officer impresses with his expressions, both when he investigates the case as disguised prankster as well as when personal angle comes into the case after Anniyan murders his brother.
Shankar is in his element as usual and performs an all round job. With all ingredients of a masala film, the treatment is appropriate, too. Although the social message is all there and the climax has Vikram waxing eloquent about why we should all stop doing even small things wrongly, but in the process, the director has not lost sight of his focus, an out-and-out commercial venture. Cinematography, aided by the brilliant action, stunt, and dance choreography is a treat to the senses. The visual effects, one of the best in the contemporary industry, add to the overall impact of the movie.
Anniyan is not about something novel. Multiple personality disorder has been broached upon by Indian film industry earlier but the way Shankar does it in this movie is what has finally mattered. The voice inflexions, the songs and dances, the costume design, the sets, and of course the brilliance of Vikram help him achieve the effect that few others have been able to touch upon.