When I heard that Director Naga of Marma Desam and Vidaathu Karuppu fame was making his debut as feature film director under Shankar’s ‘S’ Pictures banner, I was intrigued to say the least. It seemed like a winning combination – the former had enthralled TV audiences for a number of years with his supernatural serials and the latter needed a good movie under his belt to keep his production house afloat. However, Ananthapurathu Veedu has ended up as a disappointment of unimaginable proportions for the exact same reasons we expected it to be a success. For one, this movie is horrendously bad as a supernatural thriller that you might be surprised that it is coming from the same person who was responsible for the aforementioned serials. And it makes you wonder just what Shankar saw in this script that made him choose it as his life-saver. ‘S’ Pictures was already a sinking ship after Rettaichuzhi’s misfire and Ananthapurathu Veedu might sadly have hit the last nail in its coffin, which is disappointing really given Shankar was one of the few people ready to take risks on younger directors.
The success of recent horror movies can be attested to the fact that they tried to set up the primary characters and their relationships before introducing the supernatural elements. The primary example of this was in Yaavarum Nalam, and, in a sense, this film follows a similar trajectory to Madhavan’s horror movie from last year, since the ghosts are not necessarily evil as they are left with unfulfilled desires. But Yaavarum Nalam spent a lot of time initially in displaying the interactions between the characters in Madhavan’s household before demonstrating that it is haunted. In contrast, this film puts its hero and his family in a haunted house and expects us to care for their fate when weird things start happening.
Moreover, Director Naga also does little to mask the identity of the spirits in the house. The result of this approach is that instead of being spooked when items start moving without anybody’s help, we are more or less amused by these actions. Had the director also acknowledged the nature of the ghosts in his script, the film might’ve moved in a different direction; but that is not the case since the camerawork and editing provide some slow-mo shots and the background music is straight out of a horror movie. What this means is that instead of being just mildly amused by the strange happenings, we are laughing quite heartily at the sheer stupidity of the director and his script. Surely, that is not the normal reaction one expects when visiting the theatre for a horror movie.
The story is relatively straightforward: Bala (Nandha) is visiting his village household for a vacationary trip along with his claustrophobic wife Revathi (Chaya Singh) and son Ananth (Master Aryan), who is devoid of speech. It is Ananth who first – rather conveniently might I add – notices that things are not all they seem in the house, but he grows accustomed to the supernatural presence over time as any unknowing kid would, of course. When Revathi too begins to identify the mysterious elements and approaches Bala with it, it is when she first realizes that this vacation is not only that but also a chance to escape from paying a hefty sum to some very nasty loan sharks. Soon, the family is joined in the house by Bala’s partner Jeeva and a few bulky watchmen courtesy the loan sharks.
Right after we reach the quarter hour mark into the film, we realize that the director doesn’t intend this to be a traditional horror movie where there is a lot of suspense about the spirits and their true nature. Perhaps he himself realized this fact and inserted the money-deception angle to provide some necessary thrills, where Bala and his partner have just been cheated of a sum of two crores by a banker; the same amount from which they intended to settle the loan sharks. And since there is not a lot of suspense in the loan shark’s attitude, the only surprise left is in how the hero tracks down the on-the-run banker who has swindled his money. A decent amount of suspense is maintained in the portions leading up to the revelation, which occurs just past the midway point, of the money’s location. But once that happens, the viewers are left with little reasons to watch the film since we can predict nearly every scene until the eventual climax.
Nandha has already proved that he is a good enough actor to make something out of mediocre material. However, here he is stuck with something that is far below mediocre; there are scenes like his breakdown when he realizes the spirits’ identity or his exasperated screams towards the climax where he displays his sincerity, but we don’t really feel anything because we are laughing throughout most of the movie. Chaya Singh looks good but, barring a few scenes where she displays the character’s claustrophobia, has little of note to do. Master Aryan delivers the usual bag of goodies one expects from such a kid in a film – the wide-open mouth, the eyes-bulging looks, and so on. Jeeva, the actor playing Bala’s partner, really gets under the skin with his fake accent and voice, while the actor playing the loan shark provides a surprisingly subtle, yet at times menacing, performance.
Ananthapurathu Veedu’s technical aspects are also nothing to write home about. In fact, most of the special effects early on in the film look straight out of one of Rama Narayanan’s ventures, and that obviously cannot be a good thing. Debutant Ramesh Krishna’s music is also uninspiring while the background score is highly derivative. If there was more proof needed at all that small-screen directors just cannot cut the mark on the silver screen, Ananthapurathu Veedu is it. Director Naga may have thrilled TV viewers a long time ago with his serials, but this film is a failure as a horror movie, is uninspired as a drama, and is boring as a part-time thriller. The only thing this movie gets right is comedy, and all of that is entirely unintentional. Overall, Ananthapurathu Veedu is simply not worth wasting your time and money on.