Anamika (Telugu)

Movie Review By Meena Yeggina

Cast: Nayanatara, Vaibhav, Pasupathy, Harsha Vardhan Rane
Director: Shekhar Kammula
Script: Yandamuri Virendranath

Telugu movies are a rare outing for me these days. It’s been a while since I dared into this scary venture petrified of coming out scarred and traumatized for life.

But Sekhar Kammula’s direction with a Yandamuri Virendranath’s script?  Could not resist. Both are my favorites, well kind of, due to their liberal thinking (Yandamuri during his early phase).  Though Kammula is not an extraordinary director as such, his movies are unambiguous, simple, decorous and free of uncouth language and scenes. Anand and Godavari are especially memorable.

So here I am with my cousin watching Anamika (nameless) in Towne 3 cinemas, with truly high expectations.  Saw Kahani and reckoned more from our Telugu version. Read that Kammula was deeply affected by the Nirbhaya rape case in Delhi and added a dimension of it into this movie and was very curious.

First things first.  There were only seven of us in the theatre on the second day of its release and all of us are women! Right next door, a senseless film called Race Gurram had an almost full theatre!  That is our Andhra audience for you! So must say that the director and the production house are indeed brave!

Kammula in an interview revealed that it would be a suicide mission to make a woman centric movie in Andhra Pradesh.  People from this state want a lot of glamour from heroines, a dumb story, a couple of item songs and a lot of action but a thinking film? No way! 

I agree with him. 

Before I plunge into this review, I need to mention one more strange observation I made.  Before I went to watch it I browsed online to check what critics have to say about Anamika.  I was simply flabbergasted!  Not a single review is up to the mark neither in language nor in quality.  I never imagined that Telugu movies are reviewed so hastily with such bad taste.

Wrote one insensitive reviewer, or stupid would be more appropriate in my view, on a popular site about a scene which Kammula created in the movie with sexual harassment of women in mind: "In line with the taste of Telugu audiences interest in sex, Sekhar Kammula added a sex crazy police officer in the movie."  Huh? What was that???  The insensitive, sex-starved reviewer completely missed the point of sexual harassment the director was trying to point out!

Now coming to the movie, it was good but not up to my expectations.  I like Kahani better, may be because of Vidya Balan.  Or may be because Kahani was tightly packed and had answers well explained.  In spite of many twists and turns, Kahani is self-revealing.

Sekhar Kammula asks the viewers to forget Kahani and watch Anamika with a fresh mind but that becomes impossible with both movies having so much in common beginning with a woman arriving into Hyderabad in search of her missing husband who comes to India on a contract of some sorts in an Indian software company.  She settles in a leaky, sneaky hotel in Charminar area with a boy worker as her crusader.  Just as in Kahani there is a terrorist background, Navarathri going on with Durga Devi installed prominently, and a helping CI who is half in love with her.  Where as Kahani happens in Calcutta, Anamika happens in Hyderabad.  One huge difference is that the heroine is not pregnant, "to keep in pace with the Andhra audience," according to Kammula in an interview.  What kind of pathetic and sick Andhra audience are we that a talented director decides to have a glamorous heroine instead of a pregnant one just so that the audience can lust after her at will!  God!

I loved watching Hyderabad, my home place.  The charminar area was captured brilliantly though I wish more of it is shown apart from the one single gully where the hotel is located.

After the first two scenes I somehow guessed the climax. Don’t ask me how.  I just did.  Kammula, like I said is very straightforward.

Anamika (Nayanatara) comes from the US in search of her missing husband, settles in a seedy hotel in Charminar, befriends a cop and gives a lesson or two to an overbearing police chief, wards off unwanted sexual thwarts by an inspector, meets deadly contract killer, all in her crusade to find her missing husband.

Mystery unravels slowly in the first half, as various characters are introduced. By the way, the hotel owner/manager is a delight.  I don’t know his name (if somebody does please let me know) and no reviewer mentions him in online reviews, but he is a delight!  His accent, his expressions and all in all his double standard honesty are a pleasure to watch.  He keeps that smile on your face.  And the innocent little boy who works all the time and is yet happy is so charming!  How tolerant we Indians are as a society about child labor!  We see it everyday, in front of our eyes, boy or girl, but we treat it as commonplace!  It just doesn’t register!

In addition, the subtle day-to-day friendliness of Hindus and Muslims is brought out extremely well in pure Kammula style.  They depend on each other for daily deeds, even attend each other’s festivals and enjoy them. Selfish Hindus and Muslims not just by any one community bring out all violence and estrangement as proven in the end.

The police station acts as point of exertion where women pour in on a daily basis complaining about their missing husbands or sons/daughters, where cops are working hard without barely getting a tea break, and a chief inspector lusting after women and trying ways to seduce them. Amidst all this drama there is this powerful scene where Anamika gives a piece of her mind to the overbearing special officer in charge about treating women in general which I found extremely potent and unexpected in a Telugu flick.  Very needy lesson, indeed!

Keeravani’s songs are ok but the background music is amazing.  True to character.

I did not find the movie nail-bitingly thrilling but was engaged and even enjoyed the pure, solid nativity. All characters, even minor ones are well etched and well played.  Naresh as the Home Minister, Vaibhav as the helping hand to Nayanatara, the hotel manager, Harshavardhan as Nayanatara’s husband were true to their roles.  Coming to Nayanatara herself, I found her a little lacking in giving her best as the main protagonist of the film.  She is good but nowhere near Vidya. I wish there were more spirited and powerful women actors in Telugu like in Sridevi, Jayaprada, Vijayashanthi, and even Sowndarya.  Nayanatara is nowhere close enough.  She could be the best amongst the worst of the current crop of heroines.

Overall, I wish Kammula and Yandamuri came up with an original script that is stronger, tighter and with not so easily guessable plot.  They could have as they are both extremely talented and are backed by a big production house in this instance. Or maybe I expected a lot more from this talented duo.  Many questions were left unanswered and the contract killer is not as menacing as he was in kahani.

In spite of all these drawbacks Anamika is unequivocally worth watching. You will without question not be disappointed and will continue watching with interest and with a frown and a smile now and then.