The makers of Abhiyum Anuvum can be happy on one count for sure. They have definitely marketed the film right. Almost every poster, social media post, and promotional material had the tag ‘a fearless love story’. The story of Anu and Abhi is not a tale we would hear at a social gathering. But the film, despite thriving in the grey area, refuses to get truly dirty. We are made to believe so for the longest of times until an end-film card whitewashes the movie out of its grey shades. One more reason to hate end film cards, I guess.
BR Vijayalakshmi takes some time to get to the core contradiction between the couple. The first-half of the film is spent on the couple finding each other, falling in love and getting married. Despite the span, the ‘falling in love’ does seem a bit rushed and for the lack of a better word, cosmetic. Abhi (Tovino Thomas) happens to see a video of Anu (Pia Bajpai) on Facebook, (who seems to use the platform as a substitute for a vlog) and sends her a request. Anu declines the request finding his name too mythological (whatever that means). After seeing a video about Anu donating her hair to cancer patients, Abhi sends her hats with a slightly desperate letter. And, she falls for this. It doesn’t make sense. Also, the conversation about motherhood and sex in the first half seem forced, placed there just to make the decisions and distance that comes later more tangible.
Pia and Tovino quite sell the romance part — the chemistry is evident. But I have issues about the way Anu has been written. Anu is the right amount of quirky and that too in the right areas — she is socially responsible, runs an organic farm with a resolute sense of ‘rightness’. It is as if BR Vijayalakshmi wanted to have a carefree young woman who has vices but didn’t want the audience to be too shocked. We neatly glide over things like DUI, to focus more on Anu, the social worker. She seems unnaturally clear about what she wants. It is a bit tough to decide that her judgement was never clouded with doubt considering the nature of the problem that arises.
Revathy (Suhasini) and her husband (Prabhu) get their ‘Ganapathy uncle-Bhavani aunty’ equation here, except that Mani Ratnam’s subtlety made it more poignant. In Abhiyum Anuvum, they just seem to be giving lessons to a younger couple. Revathy speaks quite a bit about the stigma of being infertile and the ignominy the society subjects her to. But she metes out a dose of a similar medicine to Abhi’s mother on motherhood. It is not necessary to physically give birth to become a mother and also, it is okay if you don’t want to become one as well. For the film that makes so many progressive points, its stance on abortion is a bit hard to understand.
The main failing of Abhiyum Anuvum is that for a story that operates between the populist right and wrong choices, it tries to put a tag on too many things. I would have been happier to walk out thinking about how convoluted our decisions are when it comes to love and parenthood rather than get that end card that whitewashes the entire film.
This was first originally published on https://indianexpress.com/. You can find it here.
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