‘Aneethi’ movie review: Arjun Das shines in Vasanthabalan’s darkest yet predictable thriller

Surprisingly, for a filmmaker whose works thrive on realism, ‘Aneethi’ is Vasanthabalan’s most dramatic attempt

July 21, 2023 07:47 pm | Updated July 22, 2023 06:28 am IST

A still from ‘Aneethi’

A still from ‘Aneethi’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

In a career spanning a little over 20 years, director Vasanthabalan has made only seven films and what’s quite evident in most of them is his anger towards many aspects of our society. If his fantastic sophomore Veyil was about a dysfunctional family, Angaadi Theru and his previous release, Jail, were about the exploitation of the underprivileged. Aravaanand Kaaviya Thalaivan were about betrayal. What’s been a recurring trope in almost all his films though, has been the ill-treatment and injustice methodically meted out by those in power towards those beneath them. The anger the filmmaker has towards the real-life happenings because of this demarcation seems to be the spark for his latest release, the aptly titled Aneethi.

Aneethi (Tamil)
Director: Vasanthabalan
Cast: Arjun Das, Dushara Vijayan, Shanta Dhananjayan, Kaali Venkat, Vanitha Vijayakumar, Arjun Chidambaram
Storyline: A delivery boy’s mental health goes for a toss when he faces the wrath of those with power

In most of his films, the protagonist’s career is where the trouble brews, wreaking havoc on his personal life. If it was an advertising agency in Veyil, it was about store employees in Angaadi Theru. Aravaan was about thieves, and Kaaviya Thalaivan was about drama artists. Aneethi is no different as it sheds light on the trouble-ridden lives of food delivery boys. What happens when Thirumeni (Arjun Das), a man with a troubled childhood, chronic depression and an instinct to kill gets into a job where his customers treat him crudely with absolutely no remorse? It sounds like a brilliant, straightforward plot on ‘giving it back’. But instead, the film introduces us to Subbu (Dushara Vijayan), an attendant of an elderly woman. When a series of incidents lead to everyone blaming Thiru for a murder, it triggers a side of him that had been dormant since childhood and all hell breaks loose. This is where the film begins to get predictable and concludes with all the tropes one would expect from a film about a serial killer.

Aneethi is undoubtedly Vasanthabalan’s darkest film yet. While his earlier films had their share of death and violence, they don’t prepare you for how macabre Aneethi is. While it might not be the most disturbing Tamil film ever, it’s not what you’d expect if you’re accustomed to the director’s filmography. The helplessness and pain portrayed by Thiru are similar to that of Arjun Das’ character from Andhaghaaram. But the actor brings in the difference quite well and shoulders the film. Though his character’s descent into mayhem is far from perfect, it’s his performance that makes it fine.

A still from ‘Aneethi’

A still from ‘Aneethi’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Surprisingly, for a filmmaker whose works thrive on realism, Aneethi is also Vasanthabalan’s most dramatic attempt. No one in power has an iota of humanity in this world of his. A woman can walk into a police station and fire a few rounds but escape without consequences because she’s rich, and except for Subbu, Thiru never meets a customer who treats him like a fellow human, let alone a man doing his job. Aneethi is riddled with one-dimensional characters, and apart from Arjun, it’s Dushara who almost manages to break free of that shackle.

The professional issue turning into a personal problem doesn’t feel as organic as it felt in the director’s previous films and the resolution doesn’t really feel like one either. There are scenes on the need for an association for delivery professionals and this is where the filmmaker shines, but the film doesn’t capitalise on it. There’s also a subplot on how parents, with their kids abroad, are drowning in loneliness. Add to it an extremely foreseeable flashback on why Thiru is triggered by chocolate and we’ve got multiple such tracks leaving you feeling that the film has bitten more than what it can chew. For a film that deals with mental illness, not a single character acknowledges the importance of it. Instead, when a cop sees his medical reports, he retorts with a “loose ah ya avan?” After that, not even a ‘Here’s Johnny’ hat tip to The Shining is going to help with damage control.

Aneethi is miles ahead with its plot and treatment when compared to the director’s previous film, Jail. But it’s a far cry from Vasanthabalan’s earlier works which were more well-rounded and compelling. Despite having its heart in the right place and a lovely performance from Arjun Das, Aneethi, as a whole, is inadequate in pushing home its several messages in an intriguing manner. For a film on injustice, that’s unfair!

Aneethi is currently running in theatres

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