Cast: Prakash Raj, Sampath Raj, John Vijay, Vivek Prasanna, Amrutha Srinivasan
Director: Priya V.
Barring a few, most of us have changed houses innumerable times, and homes, a few. These houses have a charm about them, a certain vibe, but Anantham (which means endless) is a home. A living breathing home where the people who live there decide its vibe.
In the eight episodes of the riveting V Priya directorial, now streaming on Zee5, the same home takes on different looks — it is bright and cheery, dignified and understated, filled with hope, dark and brooding, and filled with ghastly secrets — based on who lives there.
So what makes a house? The construction or the people? And what decides the mood and attitude of the residents of the home? The house itself or their innate character? Anantham sets out to explore these questions through many stories, all but three named after women.
Spearheading the series is Prakash Raj as Venkatesan, an official with the Indian Railways, who buys an old bungalow called Anantham, built in 1951. He's crazily in love with his wife Maragatham, and they adore the house with a heartbeat so much they name their precious child Ananth. Maragatham is devoted to the house, she weeps when she has to leave and requests the home to behave well.
Once they get transferred, many people drive into and outside Anantham, having fulfilled their destinies or having courted failure.
The series mostly inhabits a positive space, and heading that zone is Rekha (Mekha Rajan), a woman with an admirable self-assurance that might grate some. She's surrounded by people who show her reality, but she sees miracles, magic and stardust, even as she surrenders every remaining piece of jewellery to keep her family afloat. She's right, as always.
Among the most haunting of the stories is that of Seetha (Amrutha Srinivasan), the visually impaired woman married to a man who sees only her money. She is stuck in a prison in her own home but still finds the space to make a friend, and do anything she can to get her story out. Another story Lalitha (Anjali Rao) takes off from here too, and says that while people can escape the world, they can't escape themselves.
Venkatesan loves the sprawling Anantham so much, and believes those who lived here might one day return for the things they left behind — all of them are stored in a room, holding onto stories, waiting to tell the world what they are about. What a delightful thought!
Prakash Raj is Venkatesan, the man who is all cooleth to the world but who has a big spot of darkness and small-mindedness when it comes to his son. His one act changes their life. And who does the rescuing? The neighbour, who his children thought was just not cool like Venkatesan.
Sampath, often underused and forced into stereotypical roles, shines as author Ananth, the boy who loves his neighbour, the boy whose love is not considered good enough to be acknowledged. Remember his role in Goa? This one is as lovely, as delicate, as tender. Priya has done so much to normalise a same-sex relationship and make you see it for what it is — just another beautiful love story.
In Krishna Menon (Episode 5), you chuckle long after the credits roll, thanks to Vinodhini Vaidyanathan. The lady's a natural and nearly reminded me of Manorama's impeccable act in Michael Madana Kama Rajan's 'Sivaraathiri' song. If you know Vinodhini in real life or have interacted with her, you'd know what an act she's put on to occupy this space — she's all grey matter in real life, here she salivates over dry fruit bedecked halwa.
The episode on child sexual abuse is haunting, and cathartic at levels, because how can a child defend herself from an offender when he's the darling of the family?
What Priya has also done is bring in front of the world talented actors who deserve more love. Vinoth Kishen, Vivek Rajagopal, Mekha… the list is long.
Not that the series is without minor blips. The very audience-friendly climax seemed very abrupt and incongruence with the zone the series inhabits till then. How can Seetha's parents not wonder even once why she does not answer the phone? But considering what Priya has managed with the rest of the series — a sensitive show that is aesthetic and which features actors one has long admired — they remain blips, not mistakes.
Sathish Suriya, the editor for the series, allows every segment to breathe, never really rushing. It is almost calming. And, art and production design by Surya Rajeevan is classy, minimalist and glittery in turn, in keeping with the characters who inhabit Anantham. Mahakavi Bharathi's poetry is set to tune beautifully by AS Ram. And the dialogues by Priya V and Rakav Mirdarth are mostly on point. The screenplay is by Priya, Rakav Mirdath, Preetha Jayaraman and Reema Ravichander.
Go for Anantham, savour every nearly-hour-long episode, because we have really not seen something like this with heart in a long time. We deserve a treat sometimes, no?