Cast: Rajinikanth, Keerthy Suresh, Nayanathara, Meena, Kushboo, Prakash Raj, Jagapathi Babu
Annaatthe is superstar Rajinikanth’s film, directed by Siva. The film has a large star cast including Nayanathara, Keerthy Suresh, Meena, Khushboo, Pandiarajan, Livingston and not all of them have big roles. It also stars Prakash Raj and Jagapathi Babu. How can we make a film without Jagapathi Babu? I kept thinking that just going by the villain roles played by him in Tamil cinema alone, he must be having a villa in every district of India.
Now, onto the film, imagine Arnold Schwazernegger in the remake of Paasamalar, that is essentially what Annaatthe is. I am not trolling, this is seriously the story. Rajinikanth has two dominant modes, one is the predator who pulps up the villains and other is that he is a loving brother to Keerthy Suresh. There is nothing wrong in such a one liner but as I keep saying, it is never what the film is about but about how the film does what it wants to do.
The first half of the screenplay consists of overlong sentimental sequences. Rajinikanth and Keerthy Suresh keep weeping or at least they had some kind of tears in their eyes. This happens so much that you may feel it is not just raining outside but also inside the theatres too. The second half consists of more weeping but with more action. The villains are seemingly from Kolkata but they might as well be aliens from Mars as they are so randomly and distantly connected to the movie. Now, the central event of the film is Keerthy Suresh’s marriage. She finished studying in the North and came back to the South to her hometown, to be with her brother and family. Rajini is so fond of her that he does not want her to get married to someone very far away and wants her to stay nearby. This is not a bad crux for a film, but the way this event leads to the pre interval moment where something really happens to the character of Keerthy Suresh, you feel nothing for her. She is a bland person to whom things keep happening but you feel nothing for her at all and that is the problem with Annaatthe. You do not feel for either her or Rajini.
The same director’s film Viswasam might not be the greatest movie on earth but the heroine had a reason to not trust the hero and the hero has to win her faith back. Something was there that kind of glued us to the movie in terms of emotional connection. Here, Rajini gets nothing. The emotions are so generic and the so-called punchlines do not work at all. In fact, they feel like sermons rather than snappy punch lines.
Bits of comedy work, especially the parts with Khushboo and Meena. It is old fashioned like in the 90’s, but at least it reminded me of the time when Rajini used to have a blast on screen doing the comedies. The only time I was moved is when the intro song came and I realized that this will be the last time where SPB will be singing for Rajini, on screen. That was really a moving moment for me.
Otherwise, the film is another entry under the question: what does the director do with Rajinikanth, how does a filmmaker handle Rajinikanth? He is too big a hero or a big presence to be doing a character role but also too old to be doing conventional hero roles. You can sense this by how Siva has treated the romance. Except for one duet where Rajini and Nayanathara barely touch each other, Nayanathara hardly comes across as the love interest. She is more like a colleague who is helping a friend to complete a project.
At least one thing we should be thankful for is that she gets something to do which is related to the film. Again coming back to the question: what does the director do? The only filmmaker who came close to catching the essence of Rajinikanth is Karthik Subbaraj in Petta. I had issues with the film but it had electrifying Rajini moments. In comparison, Annaatthe feels like a power cut. It is in the dark, wondering how best to serve its legendary leading man.