Director: R Kaiser Anand
Cast: Andrea Jeremiah
Slut-shaming, victim blaming, gaslighting, character assassination — this is just the tip of iceberg that survivors of rape experience when they build up enough courage to raise their voice against the crime that was committed against them. The recent OTT release, Anel Meley Pani Thuli, directed by R Kaiser Anand tries to go beyond the tip of this iceberg through its lead character Mathi. She is a sharp, smart woman who is strict about upholding the moral codes set by the society. If a brave and smart woman like her were to be assaulted sexually, what would she do? How would she react?
Would she really have the courage to stand up to the criminals and their extremely underhanded ways of trying to get to back off from taking legal action? This and more questions race through our minds as scenes unravel one after another. Andrea Jeremiah as Mathi does her best to portray the inner workings of the mind of a survivor, and she comes close to it during the silent moments.
These are the moments where she contemplates her life, wonders why she is unable to move on from the incident, and wonders if the fault at some point lies with her. Despite being forced to back out of a legal battle initially, there is a part of Mathi that really wants those men punished. It is clear that she cannot move forward until the people who harmed her are punished. She depends on the justice department and waits for the system to do what it is meant to.
Even during the tense moments in the film, it is not the statements that she makes which leave an impression. It is the moments where her body vibrates with anxiety, the movement of her eyes that track the movements of the men who hurt her, the anger and sadness that she feels at being unable to defend herself. These are the moments that truly pack in a punch. It leaves you cringing in your seats, and makes you uncomfortable. It reminds you of moments when you felt vulnerable, places and people that made preyed on you. To be able to do this with no dialogues, is no easy feat. Andrea manages to do that brilliantly.
It is because it is too close to the reality that a sense of trepidation sets in. It is also because of this that the scenes that portray sexual violence are harder to watch and digest. I have wondered this many a time recently, considering the number of films that use rape as a plot device. Sure, Anel Meley Pani Thuli might not desensitize the issue at hand, but it definitely panders to spotlighting the violence itself. It puts the woman on screen through an ordeal that is so brutal that women watching the film do not only want to unsee this violence, but first instinct is to hurl up. Why? Because we know what it feels like, to varying degrees, but we know. So who is this underlining of the brutality of sexual violence for?
This aside, another problem arises when you begin to sense false notes in certain scenes that are dialogue heavy. While the intention behind the closing monologue is understandable, it alienates Mathi as just another woman. It feels disconnected from the rest of the film. Similarly, the scene of Mathi speaking to a judge during the court hearing is forcefully placed. Yet again, while the intention can be appreciated, it doesn’t really match the treatment of a part of the film. The film tries to balance messaging while digging deeper, and it hasn’t done the film any good.
Would I want my female friends to watch this film? No.
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Anel Meley Pani Thuli is streaming on Sony LIV
Priyanka Sundar is a film journalist who covers films and series of different languages with a special focus on identity and gender politics.
Read all the Latest News, Trending News, Cricket News, Bollywood News, India News and Entertainment News here. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.