The Tamil movie Aneethi is now playing in cinemas across the UAE. It is directed by Vasanthabalan and stars Arjun Das, Tushara Vijayan, Vanitha Vijaykumar, Bharani, Pugazh, Aranthangi Nisha, Kaali Venkat, Sarah, Subramaniam Siva, J Sathish Kumar and T Siva.
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How to watch Aneethi in the UAE
Director Vasanthabalan has been in the industry for the last two decades — his debut film Album was released in 2002. Since then, he has had five movies — Veyil (2006), Angadi Theru (2010), Aravan (2012), Kaaviya Thalaivan (2014) and Jail (2021). All of these movies had one thing in common — the potential in them was good. But somehow, they didn’t come through on the screen. The fruition, the notional clicking sound you mentally hear when all the pieces fit in a movie, doesn’t happen in Vasanthabalan’s movies. The man, for sure, has the skills. His intentions are also good as he doesn’t easily give in to commercial temptation. So where exactly is his problem?
Perhaps, they are in his politics. His way of force-fitting his politics in his stories doesn’t work. Making message and politics-heavy movies is not a crime. But how you do it is the secret sauce of the genre. Take, for instance, his Angadi Theru, which shed much-needed light on the exploitation of hapless workers in big commercial shops in places like Chennai. The film was relatively saved by humour and the freshness of the new pair.
Aneethi, Vasanthabalan’s latest, takes up the plight of another set of workers, those employed in the gig economy. The ones that are called ‘delivery partners’ by food delivery app companies like Swiggy and Zomato. Aneethi lands some solid punches on how these startups badly treat the workers and how many suffer from physical exhaustion and are also put through mental torture.
The problem is Vasanthabalan is so involved in this part of the movie the other portions of romance between the lead pair and the suspense over a murder somehow don’t commingle together. And eventually, what we have is a perplexing potpourri, and like most Vasanthabalan movies, this one is neither one thing nor the other.
The story concerns Thirumeni (Arjun Das), a food delivery personnel. He has some mental issues, and the nature of his work and the way the company and the customers treat workers like him make it worse. The sequences that elaborate on their tribulations, even if well-intentioned, seem a bit loud. Anyway, Thirumeni, during his delivery sojourns, meets Subbulakshmi (Tushara Vijayan), who works as a maid at a rich person’s household.
The two fall for each other. One of their secret rendezvous happens in the rich woman’s house, but she spots them and berates them for their transgression. Thirumeni, a man already on edge, is now mentally triggered. Now, the rich woman is found murdered. The police inevitably suspect Thirumeni and Subbulakshmi.
Vanathabalan makes some pertinent observations on the mindless consumerist fetish of society, the hire-and-fire attitude of modern corporates and the need for unions to safeguard the interests of gig employees. Again, as we said, these are all fine as long as they twine felicitously with the movie’s plot. But that is not the case here.
Arjun Das, mostly seen in villain roles, takes up the mantle of a troubled hero with some assurance. Though he cannot carry the film on his shoulders, his performance is earnest. But the portrayal of a mentally depressed person calls for some nuance — to show him close to being an obsessive psychopath reveals a slipshod direction. Tushara Vijayan is assured as the maid, and her Tenkasi dialect adds lustre to her role.
The film plot also suffers from logic lacunae, and the comedy parts are close to cringe. Aneethi could have done much better if only Vasanthabalan had developed the ‘crematoria’ skills to curtail his political instincts.
An engineer-turned-journalist, K Balakumar’s career began in print publications as a sports writer. That also opened doors for other journalistic avenues like films, music, finance, technology and politics, which nobody can escape in India. After 30 yrs in mainstream journalism, now a freelancer for various digital publications.