Who doesn’t love a good satire? Kollywood has finally begun to explore and enjoy self-deprecating humour, resulting in several satires/spoofs dotting our cinematic landscape. After the much-appreciated Tamil Padam franchise and, to a lesser extent, Junga, we have an effective political satire in Ramkumar’s Annanuku Jai,produced by Vetrimaaran.
In a satire, the battle is won when the humour hits the right chords. Annanuku Jai’s strength is its rooted, witty dialogues that ably exploit irony. The film begins at a funeral and the director uses this stretch brilliantly to convey how politics percolates through the community. Which party’s name does the poster loudly proclaim? Whose colours does the deceased man endorse? Everything is done with an eye on the ballot box. “Katchi kodi a pothitu, 300 vote a nee eduthutupoidalam nu ninaikariya,” asks a man, leading to a scuffle at the funeral. As a good satire should, Rajkumar masks his criticism with humour, raising several pertinent questions along the way. A political leader cancels a public meeting at the last minute saying he is on his way to Tirupathi. “Perumal a pakaratha, makkal a pakaratha?” he asks. Well, don’t we all know how the answer to that question? ‘Matta’ Sekar (Dinesh), whose father runs a toddy business, calls for a no-alcohol campaign. Not that any of this is new, but Rajkumar’s treatment brims with local flavours. There’s a wall painting that says ‘chi chi chi’; a band named ‘Pattuvana Rosa’.
Annanuku Jai not only takes aim at political parties but also mocks our Kollywood tradition of overnight transformations and unbelievable action sequences. Sekar becomes a politician and a rowdy as well, but is he? And there is a fight sequence that is so atrocious that it’s hilarious. It is quite telling that, politically and cinematically, Annanuku Jai is relevant despite hitting the screens after a few years’ delay. Apart from the old currency notes in the film, nothing feels dated. If a satire works years after its conceptualisation, there is some serious introspection that we need to do.
Dinesh seems to know what works for him and continues to play to his strengths. Much like his character in the film, the actor is street-smart when it comes to his choices, making him quite the dark horse. Radha Ravi’s Parasuram, on the other hand, is an embodiment of the motto: ‘Nothing personal, it’s just politics’.
I wish the film had subverted the ‘commercial heroine’ trope as well. But instead, we get Sundari (Mahima Nambiar), who has nothing to do beyond being Sekar’s muse. To Rajkumar’s credit, Sundari has spunk; she returns Sekar’s slap with equal bravado, for instance. However, I wish she had more clarity and didn’t faithfully follow our tradition of heroines playing hard-to-get. But given the several other positives on its manifesto, I’m willing to let this go and say Annanuku Jai!
This was originally written for The New Indian Express. You can find it here.