Cast: Arjun Das, Dushara Vijayan and Kali Venkat
In an otherwise haunting story, Vasanthabalan manages to sprinkle a beautiful slow-burn romance. Thirumeni aka Thiru (Arjun Das), a delivery guy, falls in love with Subha’s (Dushara Vijayan) voice and kind attitude when he delivers her food almost every day. Take the introduction scene of Subha (she plays the role of domestic help), which is also when they both first meet, for instance. You might find it cringe, the scene moves at a super slow pace, capturing just the pair’s expression as they walk towards each other — like those you see in soap operas. But thanks to these fine actors, it becomes one of the sweetest moments in the film, further accentuated by GV Prakash Kumar’s soothing score and the shy conversation the pair share a minute later.
But Thiru is not a happy-go-lucky guy. He is diagnosed with a type of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. As an umbrella term, it refers to a disorder where people have recurring thoughts or behaviour. In this film, Thiru has recurring thoughts and urges to kill people around him. Vasanthabalan carefully constructs a realistic portrayal of how our society treats a person with mental illness. Even when Thiru understands his condition and is well aware of the need to approach a psychiatrist, one of his roommates is petrified to see him outside the hospital and even asks him to move out. People brand him as a “loosu/mental case-u” and police find him an easy target to arrest. On the other hand, a roommate offers him solace, while Subha seems to be very understanding. How he manages to control this disorder and its consequences form the central storyline.
For a film that focuses so much on his psychological condition, its representation of a psychiatrist is disappointing. Not only does the film fail to show any further treatment or counselling undertaken by Thiru, but the very first time Thiru opens up about his thoughts to a psychiatrist, the doctor laughs at his sufferings before diagnosing his condition.
Besides Thiru’s personal problems, Aneethi addresses numerous social issues. It discusses the abuse a delivery person and domestic help have to endure, the perils of privatisation, police brutality, and the suffocating loneliness of old age. There are the usual scenes where the delivery guy is accused of eating and not delivering right in time, but there are also a few others like the one where these guys discuss the need for a union to fight against the private enterprise.
While the director manages to masterfully piece the different issues together, several instances appear contrived. Right after the interval, you get a series of sequences involving Aranthangi Nisha, Vanitha Vijaykumar and a few others that make you wonder if you’re watching a different film. Likewise, the character arc of the old woman who torments Subha is uneven. In one scene, she is ready to give all of her wealth to Subha and in another, she slaps and mistreats her.
Oftentimes, what we see in the film resembles Thiru’s thoughts and suppressed rage. So you might see a scene of him murdering someone, but it could be only a fragment of his thoughts. In one scene, he tells his friend, “unnaya oru nooru thadava konnuten (I’ve killed you a 100 times)”. It is in such sequences where you get to see both the reality and his thoughts that Arjun Das really shines. Be it when he is too shy to strike up a conversation with Subha or when he is constantly battling emotions, the actor brilliantly essays the role. Likewise, Dushara Vijayan excels as Subha, who appears innocent yet selfish, a role that is very complicated and different from her characters in Natchathiram Nagargiradhu (2022) or Sarpatta Parambarai (2021). Another wonderful addition to this cast is Kaali Venkat who plays the role of Thiru’s father.
The evolution of Thiru and Subha’s relationship exhibits some fine writing choices which remind you that Aneethi has its heart in the right place. During some important emotional scenes, the film often gives you the dread-in-the-pit-of-the-stomach feel. But everything else about the film — its cursory addressing of mental issues and related treatment, the character arcs and the behaviour of people in power and the inconsistency in the superfluous screenplay — seem half-baked.