The Sathyan Anthikad juggernaut has been on a roll for the last two decades. And it’s still on, if the success of the Mohanlal-Sheela starrer emotional drama, ‘Snehaveedu’, is anything to go by.
At a time when all his compatriots (read Kamal, Fazil, Sibi Malayil) are having a dry run at the box office, Anthikad’s tried and tested films get a thumbs up from the audience. It is mystifying when you consider this—there are no riveting climax scenes or action sequences, skin show is non-existent and dialogues rarely exciting.
Instead all you get is a simple, easily digestible storyline, characters who are unfussy and rustic and a milieu that seldom changes.
There you get an archetypal Anthikad movie and that’s the reason why Malayalam cinema still nurses a crushing affection for two of its most ordinary and original ‘heroes’ on screen—Dasan and Vijayan in ‘Nadodikkattu’.
Since then the Anthikad- Sreenivasan team has worked wonders—be it Mohanlal (“He has the body language of my characters”) as a Nepali Gurkha who fiddled with his Hindi grammar in ‘Gandhinagar 2nd Street’, or Dasan and Vijayan’s silly cop act in ‘Pattanapravesham’ (a sequel to ‘Nadodikkattu’). The duo made inroads into the trite political scene in Kerala with ‘Sandesham’ and touched on the problems of a Gulf-returned Malayalee in ‘Varavelppu’.
Stretch the trend to another five years, and we get a fine-nick Anthikad film ‘Veendum Chila Veettukaryangal’. Then came ‘Kochu Kochu Santhoshangal’. A year later, Anthikad yearned to recreate the Lal- Sreeni heyday. Result: ‘Narendran Makan Jayakanthan Vaka’. And you see a decidedly wishy-washy Kunchako Boban struggling to fit into the Lal mode.
It was as if Anthikad left the script at home and chose to carelessly pan the camera on some random village in Kerala. But surprisingly his hit run at the box office seldom got affected. His watered-down version of Mani Ratnam’s ‘Mouna Ragam’, ‘Yathrakkarude Shraddakku’ (2002) clicked. Then came ‘Manasinakkare’ with yesteryear actress Sheela which was yet another chestnut of an ageing Christian woman who gets disowned by her children.
More blah followed with ‘Achuvinte Amma’ (2005), a tear-jerker that was an instant success. ‘Rasathanthram’ was a super hit though the formula was intact. But ‘Innethe Chinthavishayam’ (2006), failed to click. Understandable, considering that apart from Mohanlal essaying one of his most weakly-etched characters till date, the love angle, where three lady protagonists fought for the podgy Mohanlal, turned out of hand.
His women characters are never strong enough to support a man emotionally or financially. So it’s ironic that a major part of his audience comprises women. Equally formula-ridden were ‘Bhagyadevatha’ and ‘Katha Thudarunnu’, yet both worked with the audience.
“I find it challenging to make the kind of films I do. For me that is the biggest test and I am happy in that comfort zone,” says Anthikad.
As his die-hard followers vouch, his films will rarely surprise or overwhelm you, yet for some in-explicable reason nothing makes an average Malayalee’s day than a Sathyan Anthikad film!