HYDERABAD: Movies hold a mirror to society and at times they are a mirror of society. A lot depends on how a certain incident is portrayed.
Decades back when ‘Bandit Queen’ was made, it had a tagline: ‘Revenge Was Her Reply’. Phoolan Devi was assaulted by the upper caste men and hence she decided to queue them all and shoot them dead.
Similarly, in ‘Zakhmi Aurat’, Dimple Kapadia who played a cop, is gang-raped. She decides to avenge it by castrating the perpetrators with a doctor friend of hers.
Revenge and instant justice might be natural instinct and expectation after the ordeal. But that’s not exactly how the real world operates.
This is what ‘Anel Meley Pani Thuli’ (Moth on a flame in Tamil) is all about. The movie by debutant director R. Kaiser Anand is different from other rape stories in the sense that it takes a realistic approach to the incident and raises the important question of honor vis a vis weaponizing a woman’s body.
Mathi (Andrea Jeremiah), the protagonist, is today's woman in every sense. She works as an operational manager with a sports store. She is a confident young woman who doesn’t shy away from standing up for her women co-workers if need be. So, when on a trip to a village for marriage she herself faces assault, she is shaken but refuses to cow down.
Mathi very bravely goes to a hospital seeking medical treatment. However, she faces regular apathy there as no woman doctor is available. Next, she goes to a police station to register the case. Police too spring into action and nab quite a few people based on her description. However, it’s here where a major twist occurs and Mathi realizes that in fact, the police inspector and two of his colleagues who are attending to her are the ones who assaulted her a few hours ago.
Kaiser Anand has done a wonderful job in sketching the character of Mathi. She is contemporary and courageous. She sports a never-say-die attitude which is essential in dealing with such tragedies. He has portrayed her as a survivor, a fighter, and not as a victim. Hence, she is hell-bent on seeking justice. “They should be punished as per the law,” Mathi tells the lady cop, which essentially is the message of the movie.
Performance-wise Andrea Jeremiah shines throughout the movie. There is no no histornics. There is no shouting and screaming and mostly all along she has emoted through her eyes and voice. A memorable and knock-out performance indeed. Aadhav Kannadasan as her fiancé, and Azhagam Perumal and Ilavarasu as the menacing cops too are good.
The story is not foolproof and has obvious and glaring loopholes. However, it’s compelling enough and packs in the right message. It exposes systemic rot. The music by Santosh Narayanan is pleasing and lyrics by Vivek, Uma Devi and Arivu are thought-provoking. Sample this: “When will the day come for deceits to burn in the pyre? Am I the honeycomb that has to fight the fire?” These lines from a song propound the central idea of the movie very well. Rajamohammed’s editing is crisp. At not more than two hours long, the movie doesn’t become dreary.
The title, ‘Anel Meley Pani Thuli’, has been borrowed from a soulful number that the audiences loved. This gritty drama of a rape survivor too will your hearts. It’s streaming on SonyLiv currently....