Kamal Haasan’s ‘Anbe Sivam’

It is a classic Kamal style movie and he has written it to amply promote his views on competing ideologies of capitalism v/s communism, religious frenzy v/s atheism, and overarching theme of a humanist attitude towards people and life.

Kamal Haasan in Anbe Sivam (Love is God)                                                                                                    Image Courtesy – Online FM Radio

It was possibly ahead of its time and though peppered with the routine cinema tropes of comedy, song n dance, romance and even action the message hung rather heavy in the air. A mindless commercial caper that released simultaneously stole its thunder and the movie never quite made it. Kamal may have known its possible fate for he takes potshots in the film itself by suggesting to the heroine that they should watch an arty movie in the Theatre – there will be sparse audience and it will permit them a few hours of private space.

Well a communist (Kamal) and ad man (Madhavan) getting stranded at Orissa airport is quite a unique start. Their struggles to reach Chennai during torrential rains makes it a story on the road. Only the story doesn’t quite stop there, it moves from the road to the Train as well. The start is filled with humorous episodes – Madhavan is a city slicker who just cannot cope in the unfamiliar environment. Kamal excels and revels in the situation. He is no charmer though – with heavy glasses, a limping leg and a scarred & paralysed face with a twitching nerve he initially shocks but wins us over with his warmth and gift of gab.

Kamal and Madhavan become counter-voices to debate the ills that ail our society and the simplistic western solutions are called to question on whether they would be able to provide a panacea solution to our problems. Kamal comes across as mature and sober, Madhavan looks a mix of modern belief and naiveté. Madhavan surely can’t survive on his own and repeatedly gets into trouble only to be bailed out by Kamal.

Kamal has a story in ‘not-so-old’ flashback and it is a full story. He is handsome and brave, he leads the people fighting a battle against a factory owner, he is creative enough to also paint portraits and being the lead man even romances the factory owner’s beautiful daughter (Kiran). So it sounds too good to be true and fate intervenes to leave him in a tragic mess. He then decides to dedicate his life to the benefit of his fellow beings.

As they journey along Madhavan starts to admire Kamal’s outlook and persona. By the end of the trip he looks at him as his elder brother and wants him to stay together. Incidentally he is about to get married and he even invites Kamal for the wedding. We seem to be getting to a happy ending finally and possibly there will be the relief of ‘all is well that ends well’. But it is not meant to be for Madhavan is marrying Kiran and Kamal decides to sacrifice any semblance of a personal future by trying to negotiate for his people. He then walks away into a rainy night followed by his pet dog.

The movie has gained cult status now and is a popular one for forum discussions. It is a unique concept and the overall narrative does hold you. But I did find a few glitches with storyline that could have been avoided for sure –

  • The flashback angle is far too surrealistic – we can’t believe Kamal’s romance, elopement, accident and loss put together as a package. Kamal really dominates the scene including singing songs and performing street theatre.
  • The final twist too is unrealistic – to find out that Madhavan is set to get married only to Kiran is a bit too much of a coincidence
  • The interactions between Kamal and Madhavan spice up things. Initially the scale is quite even but over time it slips far too much in Kamal’s favour. We would have enjoyed a suitable counter from Madhavan as well but it never quite comes.
  • Kamal’s character is against possibly so much that we take for granted in the modern world – globalization, creative destruction, capitalism, consumerism, materialistic life style etc. Sure there are problems with all of this but there are no easy choices – the alternative narrative cannot be pastoral and prescriptive for it has just not worked.

Still nit-picking serves no real purpose. There are few artistes like Kamal who are not averse to taking risk in order to challenge status quo and provide meaningful cinema to the Tamil audience. One must applaud and encourage their endeavours. Pray the force be with them as they break the mold and unleash the revolution.

2 Replies to “Kamal Haasan’s ‘Anbe Sivam’”

  1. Thanks – Kamal is a true national treasure.Offbeat movies like these require a Lion’s heart to attempt and he has always shown that spirit.
    PS – Trust you have managed to see his latest offering – Papanasam that is running shows with sub-titles. Please don’t miss it – its headed for many records and awards. It is likely to be the best Tamil movie this year.


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