Cast: Shanthanoo, Iniya, Thankar Bachan, Perumal and others
His films have been off-beat, his characters rooted to the soil, a thread of realism running almost throughout. And though some may not have worked at the box office, Thankar Bachan has steadfastly followed his chosen path. Scripting, directing, producing and wielding the camera, he plays a crucial supporting character in 'Ammavin Kaipesi'.
The title may lead one to think that it centres on a mother and her cellphone, which is her only means of communication with her children, who have moved away from her. But it is about her youngest son Annamalai (Shanthanoo) around whom the story revolves. The film opens with Prasad (Bachan), a worker at a stone quarry, who stacks a bagful of money in his house, away from the hawk eye of his wife. On discovering the the ill-gotten money, she berates him. A chastened, guilt-ridden Prasad sets off on a journey of redemption. Bachan renders a controlled, restrained performance. It’s through Prasad’s eyes that the past unfolds.
It depicts his friendship with Annamalai, who had been appointed by the quarry owner (neat work by Perumal) to keep an eye on the accounts and the happenings in the quarry which spirals the youth’s life to an unexpected end. There is an element of suspense that the director has tried to build up here. But he leaves enough clues in the earlier scenes for one to guess what could have happened to Annamalai.
The past also reveals Annamalai’s life in his village, and the circumstances that had forced him to leave his home. The scenes have a realistic touch and a natural flow. Shanthanoo, who has played urban roles in his earlier films, makes a smooth transition to a rural character — his looks changed and some of his mannerisms done away with — revealing a different dimension of his acting capabilities. Iniya, as his cousin and beloved, gracefully fits the bill.
Emotional and touching at places, the film has a supporting cast that fits in suitably.
What goes against the film is its running time of about 153 minutes, and a slow second half. The song on Bachan and ‘wife’ Meenal is a downer. Prasad’s journey to Annamalai’s village is sprinkled with unwanted distractions. It could have been crispier and shorter.