Saturday, June 18, 2005


After Baba flopped, Rajnikanth decided to act in Chandramukhi, which was completely different from his previous efforts. But Shankar has chosen the opposite route. To put the failure of Boys behind him, the director has fallen back on the genre that defined him as a director and gave him the most success - the socially conscious entertainer with a message. Anniyan has the shadow of Indian looming large over it and is a little weak on logic but in typical Shankar-style, is definitely entertaining.

Ramanujam(Vikram) or Ambi, an orthodox Brahmin, is by his own admission, a conformist - a stickler for rules - who is pained by the lack of civic sense among the people and appalled at their indifference to the ills of society. He is in love with Nithya(Sada) but she is turned off by his straightlaced approach to life. When Ramanujam learns of Anniyan, a mystery man who promises to mete out punishment to criminals, he reports his concerns on Anniyan's website and Anniyan(Vikram) as promised, addresses them in his own manner. Meanwhile Remo(Vikram), a model who is everything that Ambi isn't, captures Nithya's heart.

Knowing Shankar's track record, it comes as no surprise that Anniyan is paced just right. The film starts off a bit slow with the focus on Ambi, his disillusionment with society and his one-sided romance. But as Anniyan begins to dominate the proceedings, the pace is cranked up as we learn about the reasons and motivations behind the three main characters. We are then brought to the edge of our seats as the movie races towards its conclusion where Ambi and Anniyan fight, both literally and figuratively, for attention.

We know within a few minutes of Ambi's introduction that Shankar is not aiming for realism. Ambi is too good to be true and his look, kudumi and all(though we do realise the need for the kudumi once Anniyan is introduced), and exaggerated accent are certainly not seen in the present day. Remo too is a little exaggerated, which leads me to believe that the exaggeration in the two roles was intentional to distinguish between Vikram's three characters. Anniyan is naturally the most interesting and charismatic of the three. His objective here is to eliminate people's apathy towards society. But he is not completely original as he reminds one of Indian Thaatha and his MO definitely has shades of the bad guy in Seven.

Shankar has taken on a difficult storyline but has sacrificed some logic and cohesiveness in his aim to entertain. The movie has one too many open ends and unanswered questions that are left hanging. But the racy screenplay and accomplished direction ensure that the questions and loopholes are not evident until the end credits have rolled. For instance, Anniyan killing the food preparer just would not have been possible based purely on logistics(the distance, the time required, the fact that Ambi is travelling to Thiruvaiyaru as part of a large group, etc.). But the sequence is staged so well that I didn't start thinking about how Anniyan could have gotten there until much later. Similarly, it is never clear how Anniyan manages to schedule what is essentially a huge press conference. Theoretically, he could never know if he would exist at the specified day and time. But the points he raises during his speech and the way the scene is staged are arresting enough to make us overlook the lack of logic.

Comedy has never been Shankar's strongpoint but he manages to reverse the trend here. Vivek is hilarious whether he is giving ideas to Vikram to reveal his love to Sada or helping Prakashraj in his search for Anniyan. On the other hand, the stunt sequences, one of his strengths, are very disappointing. There are two stunts and both end up being over-the-top with overuse of both wire-fu techniques and the freeze time-slice shots. The fight with the martial arts students is plain ridiculous and wouldn't be out of place in a science fiction movie. Romance is both hit and miss. Ambi's love for Sada, though one-sided, is kinda touching while Sada falling for Remo is cinematic and silly.

Vikram gets a dream role here - a role with enormous scope to perform in a commercial film. And he's upto the challenge. He distinguishes well between the three characters, something that is most evident when he has to shift between them quickly(like the scene at Nasser's office). The two sequences where he alternates between Ambi and Anniyan are terrific and the one with Prakashraj is sure to be spoken about. I was unimpressed with Sada who just doesn't seem suited for big-budget extravaganzas. For some reason she looks very bad when she smiles and feels out of place in the extravagant song sequences. Regular scenes, like when she rejects Ambi or reasons with him about sale of her land, are the only ones where she impresses. Prakashraj gets to look serious and sound intelligent though he eventually does nothing much. Nedumudi Venu is believable as Ambi's father.

The song sequences would've made any other director proud but are a little disappointing coming from Shankar. The shots of the flowers are breathtaking in Kumaari... but the antics of Vikram and gang rob the song off its charm. Kannum Kannum Nokia... looks all hi-tech but the choreography leaves a lot to be desired while Kaadhal Yaanai... is quite ordinary. Both the songs look like a chance for Vikram to appear in a variety of getups. Randankaakka... is the pick of the songs with its painted roads, lorries and mountains and colorful costumes. Iyengaaru Veetu Azhage... is picturised richly with colorful but non-gaudy sets. Dialogs are vintage Sujatha - completely down-to-earth, sharp and managing to convey a message without sounding preachy.


At 4:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent review without any spoilers.

Will surely watch the movie now :-)

At 8:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm..looks like it's a 2.5 star rating for Anniyan
Some questions for you:
1.Did you like it better than Chandramukhi? (You know why I am asking this question don't you? :-)
2.Did it meet your expectations?
3.Is it worth repeat viewings?
4.Is Shankar starting to become a one-trick pony?

At 2:18 PM, Blogger Narayanan Venkitu said...

Thanks for the review. You are the 4th blogger I've read. All positivs so far. I'll watch it atleast for the songs.! Let's see.

At 7:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

sada is hot !

At 9:11 PM, Blogger Orange Fronkey said...

Nice review Balaji =)...

Vikram looks yucky without his mush... He's almost got a perverted look to him... esp the Ambi getup one...

Remo looks alike an Alli...


At 11:35 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

ferrari, thanx! not having spoilers is pretty much my first concern when writing a review. i've read a few anniyan reviews so far and every single one of them, without exception, has revealed the key plot point of the movie.

bladehawk, inspite of your damning review, i feel we felt the same way about the movie :-) i thoroughly enjoyed vivek's comedy though.

vijays, to be honest i'm still debating the star rating. itll be 3 * without my thinking cap on and 2.5 * if i wear it, i think :-)
now for the questions...
1) thats a tough one. anniyan was defly more well-made but though CM was a li'l weak on logic too, anniyan was far worse. but yes, i think i enjoyed anniyan more.
2) For the most part it did
3) Not on the big screen unless u're a huge vikram fan
4) would need 1 more film from him before i answer that. i liked 'jeans' and inspite of my reservations about it, 'boys' was a deviation from his usual films. so i'll hold off on that :-)

narayanan, best reason to watch anniyan is vikram. songs were pretty disappointing.

anon, have to disagree with u on that one!

merino, thanx. wife thot the same looking at pics of remo. but she thot he looked great in the film. so pic may be deceiving :-)

At 12:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmm... This is the first time I'm entering the blogging world...

Interesting to see the review... Unfortunately I also succumbed to the hype and watched this horrible so called entertainer yesterday...

I was really surprised to read the old reviews where the author had really shot down Boys and now to see this review for this junk...

I can only say one thing... We Indians are hypocrites when it comes to dealing with sex. Why is it when it comes to sex, if we show something real crass and say what we showed was crass, we cannot accept it, but when we show horrible violence and then say that was bad, then we appreciate it... If you understand the internal bias we all have, you will start appreciating "Boys" for what it is (a good movie) and call this junk of a movie a JUNK!

If not for Vivek and Vikram's last ten minutes imitation of Edward Norton (Primal Fear), this movie would not have crossed even 5 days at box office... But alas this junk may become a reasonable hit (which I still suspect).

Now that I have shed the heavy load I had in my chest, let me say why I think "Anniyan" was really "anniyam" to good cinema...

o Screenplay: The setup portion of the movie (a.k.a) the first half was way too jumpy. Setup just wasn't interesting enough for the climax to really push you to the edge of your seats.

o Dialogues: Except for Vivek's (who writes his own dialogues), the dialogues were pathetic. Most of it was just a rehash of Indian... ZERO creativity. (Except for the last 10 or 15 minutes)

o Makeup: Vikram looked like a thatha rather than an Iyengar bachelor. He looked bloated and ugly.

o Cast: Sadha was a Sadai. Her Saadhaa looks and miniscule acting skills if you can call it that, were so sad to watch. If she was unimpressive in "Jeyam" she was outright irritating in this one.

o Story: You cannot make a good story by going back to your old story and add a couple of hollywood hits into the mix. Well maybe you can, if you're an amazing screenplay writer whose pen (or computer) worked to perfection. Unfortunately in this case (Indian + Matrix + Primal Fear), the computer crashed and the pen ran out of ink.

Having bashed the movie this much, I've to say, there were a few saving graces...

o Stunts: Even though it was a copy of Matrix stunts, it was still fantastically picturized. The thinking wasn't original but the execution was perfect. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the whole movie.

o Vivek, Vikram, Prakash Raj & Charlie: Vivek literally saved the movie. Vikram probably gave his best performance ever (in the scene where he interacts with Prakash Raj in a interrogation chamber [probably in gotham, since I haven't heard of such a chamber in India]). Prakash Raj was good. Charlie was amazing in whatever chance he got. I'm not a Charlie fan at all, but I was very impressed with him here.

Vikram gave his best in Shankar's worst movie ever.

o Cinematography and Locations: Both were really amazing.

I still have to end this with the worst aspect of the movie.

Song picturization: Usually Shankar is very creative and imaginative. But not in this one. The first song, location was good, cinematography was great, but where was the direction. The song that came closest to some imaginative work is "Andan kaakkaa kondaikkaari". Even that, is just an extension of his Mudhalvan song...

Finally, if you have seen Indian, Matrix and Primal Fear, skip it unless you are a Vikram or a Vivek fan.


At 3:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

After we have Chandramukhi, Anniyan talking about question is

How many Indian movies do we have talking about MPDs? IMO, I feel that the MPD theme can't be exploited beyond a certain limit and would start looking repetitive from the second attempt itself. I have seen a few Hollywood movies with MPD theme and many of them looked like the other. Though, a relatively unexploited concept in Tamil movies, I feel Shankar would have made banked on MPD concept alone to make it look different from Gentleman, Indian and Mudhalvan. Take off the MPD concept, and doesn't Anniyan look pretty much the same as a 'Indian' or a 'Gentleman'?

To make a 30 crore movie banking on just the idea of MPD to make it look different from his previous movies, I dont know whether to applaud his guts or pity his wisdom?

At 6:09 AM, Blogger Anjali said...

Mixed opinions of Anniyan.Lemme watch it.

At 6:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, althought I havent seen the film yet, even the trailer suggested that Shankar was exaggerating Ambi and Remo's character/mannerisms in order to create a perceptible difference between them. Balaji's review has confirmed that.

He always overdoes things a little in order to hit all sections of audience, A, B and C. Thats his strength as a commercial movie maker, thats his weakness as an artiste. But for someone who puts in a lot of time/effort on his project it always feels good to hear his movie succeed. Vikram had invested quite a bit of time as well.

At 10:23 AM, Blogger Balaji said...

krishna, i've talked in detail about what i disliked about 'boys' in the comments to a prev post. but i disagree when u say "show something that is crass and say what we showed is crass". my problem was that shankar did not say that it was crass. he appeared to glorify it in 'boys'.

on to anniyan...
i think your expectations may have been a bit too hi going into the movie and it looks like the 'indian' resemblance irked u a lot. thats were we differ. the 'indian' shadow wasnt a big negative for me since i felt shankar wanted to make a 'safe' movie after the 'boys' debacle. so he picked the theme of social crusader that he was most comfortable with. And the MPD part for me provided a big enuf distinction betn the 2 movies.
i agree with u on sadha, vivek, charlie and song picturization. but not on the rest...

mav, "take away MPD and anniyan is like indian" thats not fair :-) MPD is the key plot point in the movie. So one can't look at the movie without it.

At 12:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Personally, I got the feeling from your response here that you only saw the first half of "Boys" and decided that he "glorified" sex, vulgarity, boos and whatever else..

Take a look at the second half of the film.. it breaks every assumption and belief that you have, to a million pieces. Each of the boys face utter physical and emotional embarrasment and face the many consequences of their disregard for their parents and for the rest of society only in the second half. Whatever it is you say is glorified.. for example, the long scene with Bhuvaneswari (the prostitute), comes back to haunt all of them as the angry Sai blurts out the truth, hurting Siddharth & Harini's marriage.. furthermore, kills Manikandan..

Whatever is 'so called glorified' in the first half is blown to pulp in the second half of 'Boys.' But I'm sorry, but I don't buy that drinking, brushing against women, talking about sex or wanting to have sex with a prostitute.. constitutes glorifying it in our society.. Moreover, we don't live in any of kind of a utopia (here in the U.S. or in India) to even remotely think that a tamil film like "Boys" out to glorify sex (or so we assume) can necessarily change our own embedded personal beliefs on the subject.

Additionally, if anything "Boys" just chronicles a lot of the indifference that today's youth may have towards their parents and to the society at large.. and just the way our harmones operate during that particular phase in our lives.. "Boys" is almost a perfect showcase of what happens when we live only for ourselves 'individually'.. demonstrate no responsibility.. live only for material and physical pleasures.. and then again, society comes back at us with a vengeance and its vicious forces teaches us a few morals in the process..

There is no heroism or glory here.. only a whole lot of honesty.. Me thinks! :-)

At 2:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Balaji,

Guess, Sandya has already said what I meant to say... :) The second half of Boys certainly condemns the first half and blames the Boys as well as the society in equal measure for all the ruckus the boys create...

Regd. Anniyan itself... I was turned off by too many duds in this movie... As I listed in my notes, screenplay was the biggest failure in this movie... Regarding expectations... I certainly did not have very high expectations on this one, particularly since I heard one of my friends comment that the story resembled "Daredevil" very closely... On hearing the Ben Affleck dud being mentioned, I lost all hopes for this movie... :) That's probably why I liked at least those few scenes...

My biggest complaint is... You have actors of the calibre of Vikram, Vivek, Nedumudi Venu, Prakash Raj etc... A Whole range of top class technicians and script/dialogue writer of the class of Sujatha and all Shankar could show for all that is a mix of Indian + Matrix + Primal Fear... That's appalling!


At 3:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

totally off-topic:

Was listening to the “Solladi Baaratha Maatha” song (written by Vairamuthu) from “Jaathi Malli.” Liked these lines a lot:

“Vaanigam Seiyya Vandhavar Andru Arasiyal Seydhadhu Varalaaru…

Arasiyal Nadatha Vandhavar Ingu Vaanigam Seyvadhu Kolaaru…”

“Ratham Indri Suthanthiram Petroam…Idhu thaan Engal Varalaaru

Suthanthiram Vaangi Ratham Sindhinoam…Idhu thaan Engall Kolaaru…”

“Annal Gandhi Silaiyai Udaithu Vittu…kai thadiyai matrum eduthu kondoam”

At 3:25 AM, Blogger Escape.... Great Escape said...

Forget about the unoriginal story, and unwanted expenditure and the poor performances, the movie in itself lacked any sort of aethetic appeal or intelligence.

If someone has spent a year on researching something, we would expect something worth spending 3 hours on as seen in most Masters thesises... but Shankar's project was unremarkable and idiotic. It would not pass a cursory glance and is not worth 3 hours.

At 8:37 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Sorry a bit late in here! Nice review once again man! :)

And..Sadha's name is Nandini btw... :)

At 9:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Shankar should have had Vikram fake MPD and then end the movie with that revelation ala Primal Fear. This would have left audiences something
to chew on. Otherwise the entire 2 half was Indian dejavu. I half expected a scene with people walking around in Anniyan robes like in Indian.

At 6:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i know this is gonna seem
repetetive,pls bear with me..:)
..but balaji ...i think u were too generous in yr review..and i rate ur reviews as top of the topten!
anniyan is as far fm awesome as earth is to pluto!!!
I was SO DISAPPOINTED and mad with myself for wasting 3 solid hours!
I wld have been better off catching
up with bbthots fm april to june! that i missed:(
I even called Vikram's wife & told
her the least they cld do is educate a few children and help many sick ppl with medical aid and surgery!!!
Vikram was a total disappointment,
ofcourse we all know he CAN act!a SETHU is enuf to give him credence as an actor!
..and if i were in his shoes i wld
have declined stoutly that dialogue
"i have seen shivaji mgr kamal
rajini but u surpass them all!"its def an insult to shivaji and kamal for sure!!!
anyways the next day she called me back to let me know how much they help the poor and the needy!!!but choose not to advertise!which was v sweet of her!
I reiterated i blame the director more than her husband for wasting money time and a few lives( two of the karate ppl died!!and their families were compensated!)
if u r an iyengar u wld know for sure vikram didnt do justice to it even if he was portrayed an ashattu
amaanji ambi,and sadha did not speak iyengar tamizh at all!!!suddenly i guess she got reminded she is playing that role and tried to emphasise the vanGO and ponGo till u r waiting to see her GO fm the frame!:)
after gentleman and indian( thanks more to kamal)shankar is on the decline as far as my pref goes!
tfm lovers pls watch selvam (prev named vedanthangal) a movie made by
ahathiyan in a budget of less than a C,and then tell me why we r letting directors and producers waste so much money!!!and indulge in them lining their own pockets!!
viraivil thiraiyil varum!

At 10:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just went through the message thread ! The following blog I wrote on a different site. I found similar arguments here that unfairly dishes out sharp criticism at Anniyan/Shankar/vikram that they don't deserve, in my humble opinion. Please read...

What surprises me is that most of you focused on negative aspects of Anniyan rather than it's groundbreaking accomplishments on several fronts.
Let's not spend our time trying to convince that Kamal is better actor than Vikram or vice versa. Both are great actors. They both have their strengths and weeknesses. Kamal has a vast acting experience and he is probably one of the most versatile actors in India. He can easily match up even with the best of Hollywood ! He can make you laugh and cry, both at the same time! Amazing talent ! You can't learn it, you must be born with it !
Unfortunately he is getting older. There are roles that we want him to play, but he can no longer do them with aplomb due to his physique, age and energy level.
Vikram is on the other hand has few more years left in him. He has also done some memorable roles like Kashi, Sethu and Anniyan. They are in no way of lesser imortance than Nayagan, 16 Vayadhinilay, Sagara Sangamam, Anbe Sivam etc. Both Kamal and Vikram can make you to stand up and applaud their acting !
One notable difference between them is that Kamal has the tendency to overact, an influence from Sivaji Ganesan era, that most of our actors suffering from. We see this very rarely in Vikram's acting. Take for example, Remo's role in Anniyan came across irritating and a deliberate 'put-on'. As movie progressed and the story developed, it did not look the way it felt in the beginning. Vikram made it work ! Yes, it is a "put-on" for Ambi. It is subtle but an important fact.

Lots of you criticized Shankar/Sujatha for the holes in the basic logic. Mistakes abound ! And of course the bloopers !!!
Shankar is making a commercial movie using somebody else's money. The risks are very high considering that Tamil movies are not like Hindi movies which are screened at national level and Hollywood movies which are global. Though we do have viewers in abroad like Malaysia, Singapore, USA, Ceylon etc., they are smaller markets. So one needs to be prudent with that kind of investment !
Kannathil Muthamittal, Anbe Sivam, Kandukonden Kandukonden are some of the stark examples, rather tragedies, of trying to be logical, realistic and devoid of some commercial aspects ! So there must be a balance, a middle-ground ! Shankar, in my opinion, has mastered this art better than any other director in India. Look at the hits he provided. Most of his movies have universal appeal, transcends the language and cultural barriers. Why are the Hollywood movies universally seen and appreciated ? It is not they are all realistic and logical. They try to define the rules at the outset, if you believe or accept them as the basis, the story makes sense and becomes internally consistent. We do give lots of leeway! Hollywood directors spend lots of money and time to be very detailed, meticulous about the technical aspects/special effects in addition to an interesting story line. Shankar comes very close in achieving this with the budget that Hollywood may just spend on the promo alone! Anniyan is such an eye candie for the sore eyes ! From Vikram's body language to awesome fight sequences - one can see Shankar's total commitment ! He personifies some of the very successful hollywood directors' qualities. You can see the effort put in by the entire crew to be utterly sincere and thoroughly professional !

If you are really looking for logic and realism - you are probably limited to only a very few, "not so successful" movies. We all come from a country where our so called epics defy logic and common sense! We look for the message in them rather than justifying a 10 headed Ravana or 6 headed Lord Muruga ! Often times, movie makers take liberties to convey a certain message, or try to capture a certain emotion or showcase some technical/visual brilliance. It is like poetic exagerration - you don't go nitpicking !

There are 4 aspects of this movie that stand out:

1. Vikram's superb acting ! He is so awesome when he switches the characters. Especially the one at Doctor's office. You feel your body tightning up, when he switches to Anniyan character from Ambi's. It is one of those moments that will stay in your memory for long time like Michael Jackson's moon walking during 'Billie Jean'. Some people in theaters (in New Jersey) stood up and clapped and couldn't hold their appreciation! Those reactions were spontaneous. I am not going to compare Vikram with Kamal. I enjoy both and I am very proud of the fact that both are from Chennai!
As Remo, Vikram for his age, looks darn good ! It is not the looks alone, the flair and suave he carries the character with - that's amazing ! In Kadhal Yaanai song, he made Yana Gupta almost invisible. Your eyes are always focused on Vikram. Great attitude and confidence !

As Ambi, he was very low keyed as expected. He was exceptional when Sadha was reading his letter - the smile and his walk captures his character lot more than any words can do!

Vikram's acting was enjoyed by people who usually think that Tamil Actors are generally loud and over acting ! They are readily accepting that Vikram as a great actor and has broken the stigma of over acting.

2. Songs, location, choreography and picturization were fantastic ! However, "Iyangaru Veetu" choreography was mediocre. Again, I am seeing people taking sides. Some claim that ARR would have been better than HJ. I don't deny ARR's arrival was a single most defining moment in Indian Cinema history. I am a great fan of him. However, Harris Jayaraj, is as interesting as ARR. His music has the clarity and energy level as ARRs. As I said earlier, it is good to have both being successful and as entertaining ! HJ's music in Anniyan was melodic, sophisicated, energetic and intoxicating ! With Shankar's treatment, they sound even better than just listening to the audio !

3. Sujatha's dialog. I don't know how he keeps current with what's happening in almost all fields. Very crisp, thought provoking and at times fiery !

4. Finally Shankar's direction. Like Manirathnam, he made his own identity in the movie industry. I was awed by Shankar's talents as I was with LOTR director, Peter Jackson. Both were gutsy and visionaries. Ability to visualize the final product and creating it the way they envisioned is not an easy task. Shankar always pulls it off. Be it Boys or Anniyan, you see a totally commited professional of the highest calibre. I wonder what would he do if someone gives him 100s million dollars like in Hollywood ! I am sure it would be a ride that no one can fathom but loves to be part of!

Again, please stop those in-fighting !

Overall, Anniyan is a great movie ! We have seen it twice already ! My kids love LOTR (Lord of the Rings) and Matrix - they watched them 100s of times. They know each and every dialog in those movies. I saw the same level of excitement and euphoria as we left the theator after watching Anniyan. Unfortunately, they barely understand Tamil. They couldn't wait to get their hands on the DVD and see it with english sub-title.

Once in a while, an event happens that captures your imagination and make it all worthwhile. I believe, Anniyan is one such event that we all will remember for long time !


At 9:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cool blog, interesting information... Keep it UP » »

At 7:57 PM, Blogger Vijay Kumar said...

Was commenting on "The Three Faces of Eve" in my own blog today ( and was drawing parallels with Anniyan when I stumbled upon your review. Neatly done.

At 1:26 AM, Blogger Nagesh.MVS said...

Super duper movie.
Work From Home


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