Dear Mr. Shankar,
Hello. How do you do ? Now that we are done with the needless pleasantries, let me get straight to the point. I sent you a letter 22 months back and I would have assumed that you had the good sense to read it. Unfortunately it does not appear so but here I am penning another...Why ? Because as a loyal card holding member of the gullible watch-Thamizh-movies-in-halls public, I feel disappointed and even cheated. Yes. I am talking AFTER I have seen your so-called masterpiece Anniyan. I know there was no gun put to my head but still, considering I paid through my nose to watch it on the First Day, I defintiely deserved better.
For starters, let me give the devil, that's you, its due. Anniyan is probably not your worst effort and that honour without any reservation belongs to your earlier venture, Boys. However gloat not that you have 'improved' since the above statement is as left handed as a compliment can get. I am not denying that Anniyan did not have its moments except that I feel extremely let down that a movie with so much hype riding alongwith it (and do not blame the media alone for this) failed to capitalise and make its mark. On the positive side, I do appreciate your attempts to make movies with a message and also commend the fact that you 'think big' but I also cannot seem to fathom why you grossly underestimate the paying public's ability to realise that style is all good but what works is substance.
As I sat through the 3+ hours of your cinematic fantasy, it was an emotional rollercoaster of a ride and I have tried to capture below whatever I felt in the process...
Vigilante themes with larger than life heroes have always been your trademark formula for success but haven't you heard that old adage which says that when you milk a cow beyond a certain point, you only get blood. Gentleman when it first came out tread new ground and broke existing mental barriers about right and wrong. Indian and Mudhalvan took slightly different routes but collectively shattered the myth that one man cannot make a difference in society. However one did get the feeling at the end of the third film that we had seen it all. (Not to mention other directors attempting similar themes - Samurai, Desiya Geetham being other lesser successful movies of the same genre) To have a fourth installment in the series of social-revolution flicks and offer nothing new is a crime and reeks of a talent succumbing to the necessities of commercial success.
I have always believed that its the story that makes a movie work and when you are backed with a tight, racy screenplay half the battle is won. What I have never understood with you is your almost maniacal obsession to dream in crores. To escape criticism by deflecting the blame on the paying public saying that it is we who expect nothing but big ventures from Shankar is balderdash. To add to this is the almost hypocritical stance of giving your assistant Balaji Sakthivel just 1.5 crores to make Kaadhal your first home production. And trust me, he did a much better job considering his movie was author backed and not clinging onto visual gimmicks. I would be a fool if I were to deny the fact that the first song in Anniyan picturised in Amsterdam was a visual extravaganza but I am yet to comprehend the financials behind such a splash. Are you telling me that you will get X no: of people into your hall just because of this one song ? And add to this is the obscene sum you must have spent to paint the entire village in the last song when the audience has by then completely lost its patience. There is something called as the Law of Dimininshing Marginal Utility in Economics that you would do well to read and grasp.
Considering I am done with my critcism of your movies from a height of 20000 ft above the ground, lets get down to the bare bones.
a. Can you please tell me the reason for the almost comical portrayal of Prakash Raj and why he had to make a real fool of himself using various disguises under the pretense of conducting investigations ? Cinematic liberty is all good but again the pre-climax at Nehru stadium is one of the most howlarious scenes in the entire movie. My sympathies lie firmly with the Police Department.
b. Can you please throw some light on the needless use of graphics in most of your films, more so in this one to depict the so-called hell ? Can you, by any remote possibility, justify the investment in CGI considering each second costs Rs 3 lacs and they do not add real value to the story ?
c. I am definitely not being CASTEIST or CLANNISH but is there any specific reason why you seem to love picking on the Iyer and Iyengar community for all your protagonists ? And even if you insist, can you do some REAL research and try to avoid age-old stereotypes vis a vis language and lifestyle. I KNOW you are one of the directors who does a lot of homework and have an acute sense of ground reality but maybe you are unaware that even the Brahmin community has embraced wholeheartedly the change in societal trends. Your depiction of Ambi with a kudumi is akin to saying every Muslim has 6 wives. Pardon me but the intention is not to raise communal sentiments, rather to prove the absurdity of your portrayals.
d. I never knew you were in awe of yourself so much that you needed to have so many pieces of self-reference in your movie. Or wait...Is this a desi homage to Tarantino ? Looking at the clearly 'inspired' martial arts stunt scene (Kill Bill neone), I would think so.
e. MPD as a subject is as beaten to death in movies as reincarnation. Maybe not in Kollywood but for Christs sake, we live in the age of the Internet so do not insult the intelligence of the audience with your lengthy science discourses and your over-simplistic rationale for such behavior (I almost thought you'd get Nasser to produce Sidney Sheldon in court as proof). And considering so many of your scenes were 'inspired' you might have as well copied Primal Fear straight - atleast it was more logical and realistic there.
f. He who comes from hell is not afraid of hot ashes ! Now wth is that ? It sounds so much like those stupid taglines from the Arjun stable.
g. On the flip side, yes, I have to confess that you have a pulse of the audience and can make us relate to ordinary, every day incidents in a way that no one else has managed to and the flashbacks in all your movies especially in this one pack some real punch but can you please also rein in on the sermonising part of the dialogues. I have tremendous respect for you and Sujata but why do I always get the feeling that you say one word too much.
h. Technically the film rides high on the some impressive camerawork by your team of Ravivarman and Manikandan and the stunts by Peter Heynes are awesome but re-recording by Harris Jeyaraj is loud and editing lacks sharpness since the film could easily do away with 15 minutes. Lyrics are nonsensical, music is average and choreography is below par with the much touted Remo Remo number nowhere a patch on God's Yakkai Thiri. On the acting front, Sada sleepwalks through her role, Nedumudi Venu is efficient (not as good as his Indian portrayal), Prakash Raj is passable and Vikram is good but nothing great. Vivek's comedy is a real highlight of the movie and many a scene gets that much needed uplift thanks to his impeccable timing.
I know you are sitting at your home basking in the praise being showered whilst your producer is busy raking in the moolah thanks to the phenomenal opening that the movie has got but Anniyan will not become a landmark movie in the chapters of Thamizh cinema. For that to happen what is needed is a little bit of magic, something that can be best explained by one small incident which happened in the movie hall where I saw it...Towards the climax when Vikram's MPD is explained, someone in the audience broke into an impromptu "LAKALAKALAKALAKALAKALAKALAKALAKALAKA" and the entire hall erupted in cheers followed by noisy hoots of "Chandramukhi padam podu". Doesn't that say it all ?
ps: Maybe that someone was ME ;-)