Anniyan had all the usual flaws that I would find in a Shankar’s movie. Song sequences which have almost no connection with the story and use unnecessarily expensive gimmicks, noticeable lapses in logic and unnecessary drumming in of the message by what is usually a public appearance by the hero. Despite all this I should say I liked the movie as a whole.
Though this movie is thematically quite similar to his earlier vigilante movies (Gentleman, Mudhalvan and Indian) there is difference in the message he wants to convey. Instead of blaming it all on corruption and politicians, Shankar urges us to look at ourselves to see whether we are all law abiding citizens who do our work well. It is this message which is quite close to my heart. I have myself seen quite silly and irritating acts by people like spitting on the streets and always wondered why they do such avoidable acts. Shankar’s point that only such small individual mistakes lead to a huge mistake is one worthy of note. I guess there are very few movies which have tackled this kind of subject – “Unnal mudiyum thambi” is one I remember right away, though it tackled it in a completely different way. Vikram as “rules” Ramanujam seems to overplay a bit, but the rest of the movie is also based on this characterization.
Second thing I like in the movie is Vikram’s performance. He has got his best chance after Pithamagan and used it almost very well. (SPOILER WARNING – for the rest of the paragraph). Playing three totally different characters is always a challenge. He excels in this, especially in the two scenes where he continuously changes between the three characters. Many people (atleast in blogs) seemed to dislike Remo, but I think he was quite romantic – in fact I haven’t seen Vikram in such a totally romantic role. Another frequent complaint is that all these three characters are overplayed. I think the characterization is by itself in that way. Only because Ramanujam is such a rigid, un-emotive and physically timid person, there exists a real case for Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD). Another thing I like in the movie is the innovative way in which Shankar has used Garuda Purana mythology. Our directors need to involve more of our mythology or folklore while making thrillers, instead of just relying on overplayed sound effects (perhaps effect of seeing Kaal!). Of course Shankar seems to have used MPD to push in what would be otherwise unbelievable fight scenes. But still they, especially the one in the martial arts school, are quite amusing. And there are other lapses of logic like Anniyan who is a virtual personality arriving at a scheduled time to address people. But the pace of the movie is good enough that most won’t notice these.
The songs proved to be the biggest letdown of all. Of course I had heard that Harris Jayaraj’s music for this was no where as good as earlier Shankar movies (which were all done by AR. Rahman). Shankar has spoiled it more by not connecting the songs to the story. Suffice it to say that a fairly serious story with a message has all the five songs as romantic songs (except may be Kaadhal Yanai). Some songs had good music (like Kaadhal Yanai) and some had good (or amusing) picturization, but mostly they didn’t gel with each other or with the story. Also the heroine Sada doesn’t appear good in such exotic locales - she looks better in a simple dress. It is always irritating to see a director like Shankar not relying strong enough on his story and resorting to silly gimmicks in songs in the name of technological advancements. A frequent excuse is that movies (at least nowadays) should have some explicit commercial element, but I guess this has long been disproved with the success of directors like Selvaraghavan and Bala, where songs are blended with the movie (and I am only considering directors who have been consistently successful in box-office).
The climax was quite stylish, but at least I was expecting it. However it doesn’t gel very well with the main psychiatric concept behind the movie. There seems to be quite extreme opinions in the media and blogs about the movie, with some hailing it as great advance in Tamil movies and others saying that its nothing more than a recycling of Shankar’s earlier movies. I think it’s neither of them. On the whole, this is a very entertaining movie with a sugarcoated, but relevant message (though I believe that sugarcoating a message also reduces its effectiveness).