Addham on aha: This anthology with morally ambiguous characters needed more bite

Posted on October 29, 2020

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The concepts are good, but the conversations aren’t as easy and free-flowing and spontaneous as you’d like.

Spoilers ahead…

It’s something when a woman accuses her husband of having relationships with other women, and then says she thinks of other men. It’s an argument, though we never hear from the man (played by Prasanna). He’s in the bathroom, staring at the mirror, which is reflected in the title of this Telugu anthology: Addham. The man decides he needs to prove her right (that is, if he hasn’t already). He calls a friend, who knows an “aunty” who has girls… The man ends up in a bar. He ends up talking to the bartender, then to a woman, then to another woman… The premise is solid, but the conversations aren’t as easy and free-flowing and spontaneous as you’d like. (There are lines like: Every relationship is a bargain.) As with Putham Pudhu Kaalai, there’s an overall air of generic competence, but you wish they’d dug deeper. I liked that a girl finds out a man is seeing a sex worker  and, instead of being disgusted, is curious about the “going rate”. That’s what we needed more of.

This episode of the three-film anthology is called Crossroads, and like the name suggests, it lies in the middle, quality-wise. (It’s directed by Barath Neelakandan. All episodes are written by my friend, Siva Ananth.) At the bottom, we have The Unwhisperable Secret, with Varalaxmi Sarathkumar and Kishore as, respectively, a shrink and her patient. The film is directed by Siva, and it suffers from the same problems as Crossroads: the conversational nature of the episode is unavoidable, but the conversations themselves are unmemorable. If the “crime” depicted in Crossroads was infidelity, here, it’s a hit-and-run. The link between the two main characters is extremely unconvincing. There’s a nice touch of ambiguity regarding the fate of the victim. That’s what we needed more of.

The Road that Never Ends, directed by Sarjun KM, is the best-written of the bunch. It’s about a truck driver (Jayaprakash) who gives a lift to a boy  (Praveen) who’s running away from home. Rohini plays the truck driver’s wife. Here, both the boy and the truck driver are guilty of crimes — and as we realise later, the wife, too. All the incidental details — an offer of alcohol, a detour, the wife asking a boy to flee before the police arrive — pay off beautifully, with a little sting in the tail. Praveen is brilliant. Watch his face when he meets the wife, and seems puzzled by this strange thing called kindness. The lines work, here, because the episode is more event-driven. There’s a what-next factor that keeps us watching. That’s what the other two episodes needed more of.

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