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The yuppie ad executive, has donated a rare group of blood to a young boy, a victim of a train accident. Inspite of the doctor's best efforts, the boy can't be saved. The yuppie breaks down on listening to this and exclaims "It is at such times like this, I doubt the existence of God". And then quickly corrects himself pointing to his co traveller, an atheist, "But I am not an atheist like you". The atheist replies" Who told you I am an atheist? I believe in God. I see God in men who feel sad for death of an unknown person". Some times a single scene or a single exchange of dialog, somes up the philosophy of a movie. This scene was what in essence, portrayed the basic theme of Anbe Sivam(2003) starring Kamal Hassan and Madhavan. All that hype about Rajnikanth's Sivaji, in a way overshadowed the many genuinely good movies, that come out of the South. Movies which are at times much better than some of the overhyped crap comming from Bollywood.
Anbe Sivam, meaning Love is God, combines the road genre of movies popularized by Hollywood with philosophical ramblings. The basic theme of two disparate individuals meeting is taken from the 1987 Steve Martin-John Candy starrer "Planes, Trains and Automobiles", but totally adapted to the Indian context.Kamal is Nallasivam, a trade union leader, while Madhavan is Anbarasu a yuppie Ad executive. Both of them meet when the flight from Bhubaneswar to Chennai is cancelled due to bad weather. And that sets them off an a journey through the hinterland of real India, the rural India. Sivam is a communist and atheist, while Anbarasu is a typical go getter yuppie, and thats where the conflict begins. Anbarasu is all for globalization, arguing that it was this process, which is enabling youngsters like him to get better jobs, while Sivam counters that MNC led industrialization, has resulted in wide scale unemployment also. As the characters begin to switch from one mode of transport to another, buses, trains, taxis, Sivam narrates the story of his life.
How he as a trade union leader had fallen in love with Bala(Kiran Rathod), herself a girl with communist beliefs. Only hitch is Bala happens to be the daughter of Kandaswami( Nasser),the local industrialist. Sivam is waging a continous battle with Kandaswami to raise the minimum wages of workers, using street plays, paintings to bring to light the situation. Kandaswami while refusing to raise the wage, also is furious against his daughters affair with Sivam and tries to end it. In the mean time, Sivam meets with an accident, and his face is totally disfigured. When he goes to meet Bala, her father tells him that she has married some one else. Lonely and despondent, Sivam now totally dedicates himself to his cause.
In the mean time, the love hate relationship between Sivam and Anbarasu, still lingers. Sivam feels Anbarasu, is shallow, superficial and arrogant. Anbarasu feels Sivam to be nothing more than a preachy bore, and tries to get rid himself of his company, but some way or other, Sivam keeps comming to his rescue. The turning point occurs when the train in which they are travelling meets with an accident. And that is where the scene I mentioned in the opening of this review comes into significance. That proves to be the point where Anbarasu starts to admire Sivam. Watch the rest of the movie to see how Anbarasu and Sivam come closer together, and how Anbarasu realizes the truth about Sivam.
As a director, C.Sundar's resume reads mostly a list of typical Kollywood potboiler stuff. Movies like Arunachalam, Unnaithedi, Rishi, Kannan Varuvan, were all totally masala ventures. Nor did his post Anbe Sivam movies, likeChinna or Rendu, give me an inkling of directorial geniuses, and which confirms my suspicion, that Anbe Sivam must have been ghost directed by Kamal himself. It has to be, I somehow can never believe C.Sundar has that much depth to pull off some of the emotional flourishes in this movie.
The movie is brilliant in its emotional depth and almost every scene touches you somewhere or other. Apart from the scene I mentioned in opening line, there are some other scenes too superbly shot. In one scene, Madhavan, finding himself out of money, tries using his credit card at a roadside hotel in interior Orissa, and the hotel owner refuses to accept it. That one scene showcases the disconnect between the urban, globalized India and the rural hinterland. In a way, the movie explores that part of India, which most of our movie makers seem to have forgotten in their Swiss Alps mania.
Again one more favorite scene of mine is when the villagers are beating up the dog, which caused the freak accident, and Kamal steps in to save it's life, telling them, that the dog was one which rescued him. The dog "Sangu", proves to be Kamal's close confidante, and in fact at the end of the movie, there is one scene, where Madhavan goes to meet Kamal, and then he realizes that Kamal is a loner, with no one in life. Brilliantly shot scene, and I am sure that must have been Kamal's hand, I really cant visualize C.Sundar comming up with it. And if one is still having doubts about Kamal ghost directing the movie, watch the last 10-20 minutes of the climax. Brilliantly set up and shot, and the ending, is something which will really stay with you long after the movie is over.
This is a movie that needs to be watched, for the sheer emotional depth, and the characterization. As also the issues it raises. It also asks us to look at that part of India, which is not touched by the Sensex and Economic Times, a place where people have totally different set of issues and problems. And the dialogues brim with wit and depth. Most of the movie has a very strong pro communist tone, understandable considering Kamal himself follows that idelogy, and so does dialog writer Madhan. But even if one overlooks the communist politics, it is the relationship between god and love, that fascinated me in this movie. Kamal is an atheist, Madhavan while not totally religious, is not atheist either, and Kandaswamy inspite of being deeply religious, is a totally ruthless person.** Who is the real believer, the one who believes in God, or the one who sees God in others? Is the ruthless minded Kandaswamy, a true believer, just because he prays religiously to Lord Shiva, while Sivam who does not believe in God, sees God in the hearts of every one?
The only jarring note for me in the movie seemed to be the love story between Kiran and Kamal, some how looked too filmy and totally out of place to me. The conflict between Kamal and Nasser could have been still shown, even if that love story angle was not there. Of the performances Kamal is as usual brilliant as Sivam. Especially after he becomes disabled in the accident, as a philosophical minded trade union leader, his expressions are just outstanding. And more so important, as this movie came after a series of none too impressive ones like Abhay. Madhavan comes out of his lover boy image, to give an equally good performance as Anbarasu, he is brilliant during the accident scene. One of the major factors in favor of this movie, is the chemistry between Kamal and Madhavan.
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