Anbe Sivam... Movie that has turned my life...
By Behindwoods Visitor Ashok Ramkumar
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Starred by Kamal, Maddy and Nasser, Anbe Sivam is a classic that casts its shadow in your hearts long after you get back from theatre. After watching the movie, I have changed many of my personal behaviors.

Directed by Sundar C, it is set in the background of several interlocking themes of our times in day to day life. Encounters with globalization, economic disparity, religious fatalism and compassion in current day India are all served as part of this soup. At the heart of the movie is a twist to ‘God is Love’ -- the more humane ‘Love is God’ phenomenon.
  Anbe Sivam


Two travelers - a trade-union activist (Sivam, Padmashree Kamal Hassan), and an advertisement executive (Anbarasu, Madhavan) - get stuck together when their flight from Bhubaneswar to Chennai is cancelled due to bad weather. The primary thread of the movie is the story of their eventful journey to Chennai and their many conversations. The duo's passage through trains, buses, taxis and inclement weather as well as the widely contrasting lives of India's poor and rich is the canvas on which the director has painted both vibrant comedy as well as engaging public interest perspective. The movie is replete with witty exchanges between the activist and the executive over their disagreements. And disagree they do on just about anything under the sun - God, rich-Vs-poor, consumerism and the power of money to name a few.

Maddy is a typical rich grown guy who cannot wait or tolerate the delays and democratic calamities. He is ready to pay money for faster and comfortable being and desperately shouts telling that India is a country where you cannot get comfort even after paying money. At this juncture Kamal explains what a true democracy is. The dialogue involving this should be put again and again to every citizen of India for improving self discipline.

After watching this film, I have stopped complaining and self-disciplined my behavior during waiting in the long queues and following the rules and regulations despite the delays.

The movie consists of all kind of theatric juices - Comedy, Sentiments, Stunts, Melodies, Solutions, Advices, Social messages in equal and right percentage. During the journey, Sivam has a flashback into his past love-life. He is an activist for workers empowerment and falls in love with no lesser a lady than the repressive factory owner's progressive and sweet looking daughter Bala (Kiran). Their encounter and courting unfolds alongside the main theme of the factory workers demanding just wages from the uncharitable owner. You guessed right, the factory owner is our villain (Nasser) and his character neatly mirrors economic exploitation in Indian society -- wealthy employers denying living wages to their workers in the same breath as they recite hymns to the Gods. Sivam is the progressive artist whose team sets up street plays, dance, drama and painting to both empower and sustain the worker’s demands.

Before you begin wondering whether this is some activist ‘commie’ movie, wait. What's interesting about this movie is not merely the treatment of public interest perspectives. Even the rendition of love flings between characters within the artist group is somewhat true to the real world relationship problems within the so-called progressive or liberated groups of people. Many people get public-interest minded much before they learn to resolve their own relationships meaningfully and Anbe Sivam covers some of that ground. Whoever you are -- citizen, government official, social worker, or more importantly an activist -- you will recognize these threads.

At one level, the love story between the poor activist and the rich Bala is a classic one with Bala's dad sending goondas to beat up Sivam. Even more on the beaten track, our hero beats up the goondas, single-handedly. Yet, it is in this familiar context that the more subtle issues play out. Though the right is very commercial yet it clears the logical doubts about the factory owner's response to the love affair of Sivam and Bala.

The lead lady artist in Sivam's theatre group is in love with Sivam, but as we know our hero has fallen for the factory owner's daughter. Venkatesh, another artist in the meantime falls for the lead lady artist only to be rejected by her, because she is in love with Sivam. So far, nothing new!

The refreshing twist is best seen in the emotional crossfire between the rejected lady activist and Sivam. She tells him that she wore shirts and pants and drove his motorcycle to impress upon him that she was progressive! And this, so that he would not cast her away for being a 'fair and lovely' feminine stereotype, which she supposed that he was not going to like. A clear case of young idealists stretching their liberation idealogy ahead of themselves. This is not to take anything away from our heroine, for the very desi-nari looking Bala does have a compassionate heart and pitches in to help the workers cause, by tricking her father to allow Sivam to paint a massive wall-size activist poster on justice inside their palatial residence!

Another current day combination of ideas finds expression in Anbe Sivam. The workers union is planning to have a major event to project their cause and they need money. They scratch their heads and are running out of ideas, giving a not-so-unfamiliar picture of how insurmountable the odds can seem when some do-gooders want to raise funds for social causes. But Bala steps in now. Sivam's love-painting of Bala is sold by her on the internet and this helps both her fund the workers' event and make a 10% commission on the sale. A can-do entrepreneurial attitude comes to the activists' rescue.

Let's fast-forward to starring twosome's ill-fated sojourn to Chennai. Anbarasu tries his best to get rid of his commie friend's company, only to find out that he is fated to run into him at every possible stoppage along the way. As a globe-trotting executive who is always on a cellphone talking to his fianceé, he makes no bones about how powerful a currency his credit card is. You may get the sense that director has gone out of the way to project the city slicker stereotypes that land up at wayside highway hotels in rural India and expect credit cards to be accepted. But several comical takes on the massive disconnect between the different lifestyles make sure that the simplified stereotyping does not pinch. During one instance, Anbarasu's Italian designer shoes become the only way for the traveling twosome to pay for their meals!

One of the complicated dialogues in the movie is on the point of whether multinational corporations are good for India. The advertisement executive is a great supporter of MNCs because like what has happened to him, the new found wealth is allowing employees to approximate a world-class citizen status. He absolutely loves it. Sivam punches him right back by arguing that large numbers of the labor force are being left in the lurch as a result of MNC driven industrialization.

There are two other exchanges in the movie that some in the discerning audience may read as the film's efforts to cast communism in a different light. In response to the executive's attack on the activist that he was trying to live a dead ideology (Communism) because the greatest monument to it (Soviet Union) had collapsed, Sivam hits back by asking: "If the Taj Mahal was destroyed tomorrow, does that mean love will end?" Anbarasu has no answer to this, but these are the sorts of quick-fire exchanges that leave an impression on the audience, even though this particular one does involve an oversimplification.

Still, as if to leave the audience with only the most general message, there is yet another exchange that follows between the quarreling two-some where Sivam clarifies that communism is merely a feeling of equality and nothing else! Those who limit their sympathies for communism as a failed experiment in the centralization of political power (this is true even of the socialism practiced in India) may find this metaphysical interpretation more palatable.

Compassion and the happiness that people derive from it is one of the primary themes of the movie. For example, the otherwise stiff executive loosens up under persuasion by a missionary nun and Sivam to spare blood for a dying child. Still, in the treatment of this topic, the film does run the risk of being clichéd. The scene which Sivam and Anbarasu travel to Chennai in an ambulance van - I felt my tears when it rolled down my chin. Maddy is a nervous person who is afraid of blood and its donation. He finally decides to donate blood and the duo with the nuns move in the ambulance van. In a travel break, Anbarasu is totally disturbed on the model proposed by God of removal for the death of the boy in the van, who got a rare blood group of rarely donating person and who is just about to reach the hospital. The noticeable point here is Sivam calls Anbarasu a God as he has tried very much in saving a life and he feels for the departed soul of the boy. Anbarasu and Sivam depart after a long trip from Orissa.

All the knots reveal finally and clearly at the climax scene and just before climax of why and what Kamal is doing all the things along with Maddy.

Anbarasu happens to visit Sivam's house for giving back the cheque where he finds that Sivam is leading a life for the poor and needy and with a handicapped dog Sangu. Being moved very much with the status of Sivam, Anbarasu calls Sivam as his brother and requests him to be close for ever and one can see tears flowing when Sivam finds his lover is the one who is going to be the wife of Anbarasu. Sivam hides his face but he is caught by the villain who on knowing about Sivam agrees to sign out the bill to raise the wages of the factory employees on one condition that Sivam should never contact his daughter. Kamal finally agrees with a note to Anbarasu, which carries words of humanity and love sentiment. The agreement is signed as Sivam watches it from the corner. So it's this man who in non-violent, crippled and matured manner attained his ambition, which he could not do as a drama artist or as a protester. As usual the villain orders his men to kill Sivam.

As the movie draws to a close, the message of humanity has been skillfully generalized. This, through an episode where the villain's right-hand man undertakes the order to kill Sivam, but he has already had a change of heart and instead turns into a supporter of the activist. The film's ending involves a familiar sacrifice with an unexpected twist that results in a bonus for the beleaguered workers of the factory that Sivam once fought for.

Thinking as a professional reviewer, whether you are left-leaning or right, conservative or liberal, an avid Kamal buff or otherwise, this movie is likely to entertain and engage you. While its political perspectives deftly interleaved with comedy will make this a noteworthy movie, Anbe Sivam really stands for something more.

Like a handful of movies that have come before it, Anbe Sivam is proof of public interest perspectives, progressive and sensitizing debate and entertainment can all be rolled into a popular film, without the need for the familiar formulae that cast populist heroes as champions of the downtrodden.

Final verdict - A film that should be watched by every Human on Earth and that we should be proud of Indian and Tamilian movie makers in particular!!!

Anbesivam...I watch this movie at least once every week.

Some of the Morals I learnt from the movie:
1. Never ever give up. Arise awake, Stop not until you reach your ambition.
2. Being democratic is a citizen's duty.
3. Never insult/under estimate crippled people. They can scale to great heights than us.
4. Respect all and value every relationship.
5. Communism is being equal to everyone.
6. Anything can happen to you at any time, be ready to face life with guts and joy.
7. Forget foreign invasion, everything is available in India.
8. For those who don’t believe in god - Love is God ! and those who believe in God - God is Love!!!

Thanks,


Ashok Ramkumar,
ashok.the.zen@gmail.com

 

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