Cast: Anasuya Bhardwaj, Anish Kuruvilla, Viraj Ashwin
Director: Ramesh Raparthi
Thank You Brother is a lockdown film. Thank You Brother is also a coming-of-age drama. This Aha movie dips its characters in the middle of the pandemic, but the alarm bells don’t go off. While some people wear their masks below their noses, some don’t wear them at all. Priya (Anasuya Bharadwaj) chides a young man (Abhi, played by Viraj Ashwin) for not wearing one in the elevator. And since this is just the opening scene, we know nothing about them. All we know is Priya is pregnant and Abhi is utterly arrogant.
From there on, the movie trundles back to give us two distinct stories of a middle-class woman and a narcissist. On the one hand, Priya is a widow who works day and night to keep her mother-in-law and herself well-fed, and, on the other, Abhi and his friends party so hard at a pub that their bill runs upwards of Rs. 80,000. This is the kind of money he spends on a single night. It’d perhaps take Priya several months to see that kind of money. And this is where it gets interesting.
Priya and Abhi belong to different classes. Under usual circumstances, they wouldn’t be seen together. It’d be hard to think that Priya would strike a friendship with a man who thinks making money is like making Maggi noodles. It takes longer than two minutes, right? In scenes that arrive later, you can catch him blissfully walking into a company as though it’s rolling out a red carpet for him and telling the employer that he’s the right person to save the company. His audacity surely knows no bounds.
Abhi is so far removed from reality that he, seriously, has no clue about the tedious steps that he needs to take to apply for jobs. He is unaware of the toxic relationship between the pandemic and the economy, too. Why would he need to get a job in the first place? Oh, that’s simple – his mother tells him to become responsible. She’s somewhat ashamed of the choices he makes. The parent-son dynamic stays touchingly real until it falls into the trap of melodrama. Once she begins to compare her disappointment to her labor pains, Thank You Brother metamorphoses into a soap opera.
When Priya and Abhi finally end up in the elevator of a high-rise apartment, the latter becomes the man of the hour. The elevator is stuck between two floors and it can neither go up nor down. It’s a perfect setup for a horror movie, but you have to keep in mind that this is a sentimental piece of cinema.
Abhi suddenly turns into a superhero and tells Priya to calm down without offering her comfort and warmth. Can anybody come up with an ideal combination of words and gestures to make a person feel safe during a time of crisis? We’re all afraid of the dark and we deal with it differently. Priya shouts, for she’s shocked, and Abhi tries to see if they can crawl out of the mess alive.
If Thank You Brother had been a typical masala movie, Abhi would have naturally been the villain’s son—he’s a serial adulterer who doesn’t care about the people he hurts. But in the elevator, he’s as vulnerable as she is. He wants to take the high road but he doesn’t know if he’s up for the task. All it takes is one incident to change his life. These parts are meant to gradually alter his worldview. It’s a moral and philosophical lesson for him. Unfortunately, however, it isn’t pulpy enough for the screen.
A lad from the apartment, who comes to know that Priya and Abhi are struggling, comes up with an ingenious idea—he streams their cries live, which the television news channels pick up immediately. But no help comes their way even then. People pray to gods from the confines of their own homes. This is not a WhatsApp forward that they’re watching on TV after all. Why are they all happy about spreading lip-sympathies alone?
And after what feels like an excruciating amount of time (and agony), Abhi is given pats on the back in the climactic segment. We can certainly agree that he has handled a risky situation admirably, but why does the director Ramesh Raparthi make the other characters readily forgive Abhi’s sins? Is one act of kindness the bar set for men like him? Isn’t that too low? Oh, yeah, movies can totally end on an optimistic note, but that’s just a band-aid for scratches. What’s the remedy for unhealed wounds?