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The ananthabhadram Movie Review

A supernatural thriller
Rating: 0.5/5

There is no doubt, Santosh Sivan's Ananthabhadram is a different kind of film underpinned by the rich cultural traditions of Kerala and its folklore - a rare genre in Malayalam cinema.

The celebrated cinematographer's directorial debut in Malayalam affords a glimpse into a world dominated by black magicians, martial art experts, sorcerers and seductresses in a milieu rooted in rural Kerala.

Ananthabhadram has lot to commend itself. The ace cameraman that he is, Sivan has fashioned fabulous frames rarely seen in Malayalam cinema. But frames alone do not make a good film. It is as if Sivan the cinematographer has eclipsed Sivan the director! In his eagerness to exhibit his awesome talent with the camera, Sivan has slipped in the other job of wielding the megaphone. And the result is an end product rich in visual beauty but a bit wanting in directorial integrity.

If the film still enjoys a reasonable run at the box office, the lion's share of the credit must go to the principal actors who have come up with fabulous performances. Manoj K. Jayan takes the cake with a standout show as the black magician Digambharan. Manoj has internalised the character so well that at times he rises to great heights of histrionics. The voice modulation, the body language, the mannerisms and dialogue delivery are superb. The terror and the menace that the character is supposed to convey, reaches out to you, leaving you scared and intimidated. This must be Manoj's best role so far.

Others in the cast give excellent support to Manoj. Hero Prithviraj and heroine Kavya Madhavan measure up to the challenging tasks assigned to them. A major beneficiary of Sivan's camera has been Kavya, who looks ravishingly beautiful, like in a Ravi Varma painting, indeed. Kalabhavan Mani as the blind martial art expert gives Manoj a run for the money.

Only Riya Sen's Bhama suffers in comparison, though for no fault of hers. Her role has not been fleshed out properly. One gets the impression that her brief was to flash flesh in a most seductive manner. And Sivan's camera caressingly lingers on her anatomical sets. With a little more care, Riya's role could have added lustre to the film. Alas, that was not to be.

Ananthabhadram is based on a story by Sunil Parameswaran of the same line serialised in a popular Malayalam magazine.

The supernatural thriller unspools with the arrival in village Sivapuram of Ananthan (Prithiviraj) from the US. His mission: to light the lamps at the Siva temple in their ancestral house in deference to the long-standing wish of his mother (Revathy). This is not to the liking of black magician Digambaran (Manoj K.Jayan), who opposes it on the grounds of local superstitions. But Digambaran has his own evil agenda: to own the nagamanickyam (jewel on the serpent's head) in the house, possession of which will make him all-powerful.

But there is one hurdle in Digambaran's path: Chemban (Kalabhavan Mani), a martial art expert. Digambaran, however, succeeds in blinding Chemban and then goes on to use his sister Bhama (Riya Sen) to further his evil designs. In the process, he resorts to sorcery, witchcraft and even transmigration and what not!

But Digambaran's sinister conspiracy flounders on the rock of resistance offered by Ananthan and his lover Bhadra (Kavya Madhavan). And all is well that ends well.

Veteran M.G.Radhakrishnan's music is a highlight of the film. Two songs are the pick of the album: “Pinakkamano” and “Malamalaluya”. They have caught popular fancy. The re-recording of “Kannan” is also commendable.

Art director Sunil also deserves fulsome praise for erecting superb sets that lend a touch of authenticity. Equally good is the background score by Kanna. Special mention must also be made of Prasad's excellent editing which ensures the smooth flow of the script.

If only Santosh Sivan had taken his job as the director a little more seriously, Ananthabhadram would have become a truly fabulous film. That is a drawback of this fantasy folklore.

A different experience, all the same.

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