Director: Dayal Padmanabhan
Cast: Payal Rajput, Chaitanya Krishna
Anaganaga O Athidhi opens with the scene of a burning house. The narrator (Tanikella Bharani), whom we only hear, rambles on about the various boundaries that people cross regularly to satisfy their inner greed. There are also other emotions behind their actions, but greed, perhaps, serves as the driving force to achieve them. Undoubtedly, this is the best part of the film since everything that appears after this point falls like a house of cards.
Aa Karaala Ratri was a film where the pluses trumped the minuses. The remake, however, blooms and dies somberly. Most of the narrative unfolds within the space of a day and night in a village. The limited settings may make you think you’re watching a piece of avant-garde art, but it’s just another miss in a long line of OTT releases.
Primarily, the movie consists of three locations — a river that’s used as the backdrop to introduce the male protagonist Srinivas (Chaitanya Krishna); a house that seems like it was built a hundred years ago; and a bar that the patriarch Subbaiah (Ananda Chakrapani) frequents to drown his sorrows. As such, these two actors, Payal Rajput (who plays Malli) and Veena Sundar who stars as her mother Annapurna aren’t entirely bad. But they never get those hair-rising moments required to garnish a thriller.
The background score shouldn’t always be the only factor that keeps reminding viewers that an ominous event is going to occur. The on-screen happenings should work towards revealing those horrific bits at structured — or surprising — intervals. When Srinivas lands up at the old house where the other three characters live, he doesn’t make it look like an accident. And his innocent smile doesn’t hide his true intentions either. It wouldn’t have hurt if he had looked at the place wistfully.
Whenever a stranger walks into town, strange things begin to happen in a story. In the Tamil film Mookuthi Amman, which released last week on Disney+Hotstar, Amman (Nayanthara ) tells devotees to stay away from people who call themselves the messengers of gods. And that happens because she is rattled by the growing popularity of a spiritual guru (Ajay Ghosh) who is hell-bent on dividing people based on religion.
There, Amman and the Guru were both strangers, in a way. Here, Srinivas is the stranger who brings a briefcase full of money and jewellery to a family whose eyes have not feasted on a hundred rupee note in a long time.
In an unplanned bit of moviemaking fiasco, the subtitle in a scene says, “Superstition,” instead of, “Custom.” Although the underlying theme is truly superstitious, Annapurna actually nudges Srinivas towards a customary act of taking shower after a lizard falls on him. She says, “Adi saathram (That’s the custom).” If she had really meant superstition, she’d have used the word “Mooda Nammakam”. Apart from this goof-up, there’s literally no other scene that’s worth dissecting.
Maybe, when a film gets remade and when there are other actors in their place, one might remember the importance of the original. What made Aa Karaala Ratri a wonder was its pack of actors — Rangayana Raghu carried the film on his shoulders, and Anupama Gowda also gave him a push every now and then. Raghu has the uncanny ability to laugh for a full minute and break into tears in the flick of a button. And you, as a viewer, won’t mind joining him in his despair, as he makes his character’s suffering feel like your suffering.
Likewise, Gowda splendidly moved her pawns across the board of the Kannada movie. She knew what she was after — whether it was daydreaming about the stranger, or dissing a loan shark and making it sound like she was scolding a dog. That doesn’t quite happen in Anaganaga O Athidhi. Rajput, first of all, doesn’t speak Telugu well. When she’s given lengthy lines, she seems to either concentrate on her expressions, or her words. That’s not a problem with an actor like Chakrapani, but he doesn’t add anything extra. He was like water in an amusement park in Mallesham — he fitted so well there. And Krishna offers the output of a passionless employee.
Anaganaga O Athidhi, directed by the maker of the original Dayal Padmanabhan, would have probably worked with a better cast. This is exactly what happened with Vaana, the Telugu remake of Mungaru Male a decade ago.