(Reader karthiksn also contributed to this review)
Once a while, in movies, you will see something which could be termed as wonderful idea. The song Pinakkamano in Ananthabadram is one beautiful visualization of a melodious song. The paintings of Raja Ravi Varma were bought to life by Kavya Madhavan and Prithviraj and filmed by Santosh Sivan making his debut in Malayalam films as a director.
The movie starts when Ananthan (Prithviraj) arrives at Sivapuram, with his deceased mother’s ashes. His mother wanted him to light the traditional lamps at his ancestral Kaavu. Ananthan grew up in San Fransisco, hence is alien to the culture and customs of his native village. He meets a host of endearing characters, including Bhadra (Kavya Madhavan) at Sivapuram. Digambaran (Manoj K Jayan) is not a friendly character and has serious issues with Madambis, that too issues spanning generations. He’s in pursuit of legendary Nagamanickyam and is resolute and ruthless in his quest.
Digambaran has an enemy in Chemban (Kalabhavan Mani) who was blinded by Digambaran. Digambaran uses Chemban’s sister Bhama (Riya Sen) in his black magic rituals. He also has the ability to do Parakayapravesam (process of transferring one’s soul into another body) and to attain Manickyam, Digambaran needs the help of a girl from Madambi family. The Madambi family wants to anoint a girl from the family as Devi (Goddess) and a previous attempt at that ended in a tragedy with Bhadra’s sister disappearence. Bhadra’s sister is dead and is kept embalmed by Digambaran.
Madambi family has plans for Bhadra for they wanted her to be Devi. The inevitable happens and Bhadra falls in love with Ananthan. Digambaran does not like both the alternatives, either Bhadra becoming Devi or Bhadra marrying Ananthan. He gets into the final act and people start dying like flies.
Manoj.K.Jayan’s potrayal of Digambaran is the highlight of Ananthabhadram. We just could not think of anyone else doing this role to such perfection. Everything he did was oozing evil. Kalabhavan Mani did a good job and we admire his dancing skills in the song Mayamallalooya (sung by him as well). Prithviraj didn’t have anything special to do, but irritated us with his San Fransisco dialogues. There are scenes in which Digambaran does Parakayapravesam onto Ananthan and his character had to act wierdly and differently. There are parallels to Manichitrathazhu and Shobhana’s dramatic tranformation into Nagavalli. Prithviraj’s efforts left much to be desired.
Kavya Madhavan looks very pretty and is breathtaking in Pinakkamano song. She has to control her weight because we have only Kavya. Riya Sen was a place holder and we don’t know what her role demanded. In this whole of two and half hour movie she had exactly one dialogue to mouth. Biju Menon came and went leaving us wondering about the purpose of his appearence.
When it comes to casting most of the films stick to a certain formula, like casting Cochin Haneefa in the role of idiot. On this count Ananthabadram didn’t do anything different. Cochin Haneefa must be very close to entering Guiness Book of World Records on doing maximum number of idiot roles.
The crew of this film won a host of well deserved Kerala State Film awards. Sreekar Prasad got award for best editing, Santosh Sivan for cinematography, Sunil Babu for art direction, Pattanam Rasheed for best Makeup Artist and M.G.Radhakrishnan for Best Music Director.
Santosh Sivan’s work behind the camera was excellent as expected. In fact this was one of the driving forces for us to see this movie. He was able to maintain the dark mood throughtout the movie and as a director the locales he chose were quite befitting. As a director we felt that Santosh Sivan did a good job and were impressed with the way he filmed the songs.
We would like to specifically mention the work of Sunil Babu, the Art Director. His artistic skills is one of the highlights of the movie. M.G.Radhakrishnan’s music direction was excellent and almost all the songs in this movie are good and our pick is Thira Nirayum, sung by K. J. Yesudas.
Sound recording was very good but we think that inducing fear with screams is old technique and we expected something more intelligent from Santosh Sivan.
The main drawback of the movie was Sunil Parameswaran’s screenplay. The story moves in a hurried manner from scene to scene. This pace increases more in the second half, in which the sole aim of the writer was to somehow finish the movie and in the process kill half the cast. Most of the time the dialogues were mediocre.
Anandabhadram is like curate’s egg, the movie is good in parts and at the end we were left with mixed feelings. It’s quite natural that when we see a movie like Ananthabhadram one would try to draw parallels to movies of same genre, for example Manichitrathazhu and let us assure you that Ananthabhadram comes nowhere near Manichitrathazhu.
The film is a sincere effort from Santosh Sivan, and we reccomend it for it’s good production values and few excellent individual efforts.