After watching N. Lingusamy’s Anjaan , I feel compelled to campaign for a new award category: Best Supporting Toothpick. The aforementioned sliver of wood, lodged permanently between Raju Bhai’s (Suriya) teeth, is in nearly every frame, and it delivers the film’s most stylish performance. It moves slyly from side to side. At times, it takes a cue from Rajinikanth’s cigarettes, vanishing into the mouth and reappearing most miraculously. It is, all told, the sum total of Raju Bhai’s character delineation.
It’s as if the writers sat down and thought of what could make this bhai character different from all the other bhai characters down the decades, and came up with nothing. After all, this isn’t a Ram Gopal Varma outing. This is a U-certificate don movie — you cannot have Suriya bathed in blood. This don doesn’t smoke, he rarely drinks, and even when he visits a house of ill repute (I’d call it something else, but then, a U-certificate movie deserves a U-certificate review), it’s only to hunt for clues. What is the exact nature of his business? How did he get into this line? How did he rise through the ranks? We know nothing. How, then, to make this chap interesting? That’s when someone must have piped up: “Let’s at least give him a toothpick.”
Yes, I’m afraid the film is that uninspired. It runs a posterior-numbing 170 minutes, and there isn’t one surprising moment — not one line of dialogue worth recalling, not one tune worth humming, not one action sequence worth upping the pulse for (they borrowed the doves from the John Woo films, but none of the moves), not one juicy character worth caring about. These are the basics of a masala entertainer, and without them, what’s left? Just the plot, which, as usual, revolves around revenge — and that’s fine. No one walks into these films expecting to be riveted by the protagonist’s struggles with the scientific establishment to slap a new element on the periodic table. What’s shocking is the utter lack of life.
This is a dull, dull movie. Lingusamy unleashes the technical arsenal and fractures the narrative and expects us to follow a trail of clues as if this were a twisty noir nail-biter, but it’s no use because the story has all the suspense of a housewife shopping for vegetables. Will her eyes fall on — cue dramatic background score, fast cutting, looping camera moves — potatoes or carrots? Ooh!
Why is Anjaan set in Mumbai, when there’s so little local colour? (The heroine gets a tattoo that says “Raju Bai,” which, unfortunately, makes the man sound like a cross-dressing maidservant.) Why did Manoj Bajpai sign up for a part where he’s asked to appear in a burgundy bow-tie while stripped down to his underwear?
And why is this movie named Anjaan , fearless, when it timorously ticks off all the audience boxes? There’s a nod to Madurai and the aruvaa culture. Telugu viewers are appeased through a cameo by Brahmanandam. Rajinikanth fans (or maybe Shah Rukh Khan fans) are lured by an impromptu ‘Lungi dance’ jig. Potential reviewers are wooed by the strategic placement of Tamil magazines on a cab’s dashboard. And if you love to count clichés, you have the good Muslim, the loyal friend (who really needs to get a room), the love interest who happens to be the enemy’s daughter…
Samantha gamely performs the requisite loosu ponnu duties, apparently auditioning for Sridevi’s role in a mega-serial adaptation of Moondram Pirai — and her costume designer seems to be the only one who decided to do something to perk up the proceedings, with micro-shorts and a bikini top. You go in expecting a meal and you end up with a… toothpick.