Cast: Regina Cassandra, Nivedhithaa Sathish
Director: Pallavi Gangireddy
Usually, I avoid horror films and shows because of the following reasons:
- Ghosts? Come on. When the world is such a material and physical place, is there any space for the metaphysical?
- Narratively the leaps of faith required are too far. It’s easier to believe that someone can go flying because of a punch that defies physics.
- The whole genre on-screen feels full of cheap thrills like sudden scares and cheesy makeup.
- And almost always the genre tends to sacrifice the myth and rules of its own universe for the above-mentioned cheap thrills.
Maybe the real reason is I scare easily and I’m trying to come up with reasons that sound more in tune with my age. Either way, keep this in mind while reading my take on Anya’s Tutorial, which is a horror drama about Lavanya (Nivedhithaa Sathish), a social media influencer, and her fractured relationship with her sister Madhu (Regina Cassandra) and mother (Pramodini Pammi). But their strained relationship enters the realm of horror and supernatural once Lavanya moves away from her family and their past comes back to haunt them.
Anya’s Tutorial seems to be eager to pass a commentary on a society hooked to screens and social media, and particularly the need for constant entertainment. What effect will it have on our kids? How much bullshit are we willing to consume from celebrities and influencers that we are willing to spend hours watching them? How far are influencers going to go just for fame? Isn’t the real horror the diminishing value given to our own time and lives?
These are all interesting questions and ideas that Anya’s Tutorial wants to answer and explore through Lavanya’s fame. An aspect I loved about the show is the constant stream of comments that are always being thrown when Anya goes live. There are those who love her, those who hate her, and those who are willing to forgive her even when there’s murder involved (obsessed with her, they call themselves Anyans). I couldn’t help but think of them as parallels to fan clubs that tend to have their freakish subservience to male superstars.
But every time the show delves into pure horror it fumbles, and as one progresses from episode 2 to 7, the horror quotient increases and the show becomes silly. And it is here that the show’s other big metaphor crumbles.
Anya’s Tutorial also wants to talk about abuse and how the experiences we receive as a child give us the demons of our adult life. The premise is great and Regina Cassandra as the haggard but abusive elder sister is excellent. However, bland writing lets her down. The dialogues are too cheesy and it’s obvious that they are direct translations of English lines. Moreover, the story doesn’t have enough meat for it to carry on for 210 minutes over 7 episodes.
Director Pallavi Gangireddy’s decision to bathe the spaces occupied by Lavanya mostly in artificial or nighttime lighting gives the show a play-like touch. This works wonders in making us feel something is always off. Lavanya’s surroundings are so crisp and eerie as if to say real humans don’t actually live like this.
But bereft of good writing – both in dialogue and plot points – the series tends to taper off into becoming comical. The subplots involving a child and the young man who loves Lavanya are weak and badly written. The show is filled with great ideas – about how parents are embarrassed by a kid facing their demons rather than actually empathizing with their own child and the idea that we tend to love the famous despite the crimes they commit. But the way these ideas take shape on screen is unconvincing.
As the show progressed (or rather regressed), I couldn’t help but wonder if it might have worked better as a comedy-drama than a horror drama. The themes could have been explored with more patience. The metaphors in the show lend themselves more easily to comedy and drama than horror. The idea of abuse as a ghastly concept never takes off the paper and fills the screen.
By the time the show was done, I was glad. Not because I was terrified or scared. I wish it was because of that. I was just glad that I could get back on social media and continue scrolling endlessly.