Anugraheethan Antony Movie Review: A heartwarming tale of love, death, and second chances
An endearing drama backed by beautiful performances
George Eliot once said, “Our dead are never dead to us until we have forgotten them.” We always seem to remember the dead fondly, their negative traits notwithstanding. It is an unwritten rule. But what if the dead get an opportunity to experience this first-hand? Anugraheethan Antony begins with the death of the titular Antony (an in-form Sunny Wayne). He is informed by his brethren in the recently-dead community that his soul will wander for a week. Although the week’s stay could mean a lot of things, it is best summarised by a resigned Antony, who says, “The worst thing that can happen to a recently bereaved soul is this week-long ordeal.” But, what is this ordeal? What is testing Antony even after his death? What are the unrequited dreams of Antony? Will this week help Antony realise that he was indeed Anugraheethan (blessed)?
Director: Prince Joy
Cast: Sunny Wayne, Siddique, Gouri Kishan, Jaffar Idukki
Antony is a wastrel son in a loving household. He is playfully admonished by his dad, Varghese (the ever-reliable Siddique), but is pampered by his aunt Shalet (Muthumani shining in even the smallest of roles). The happy-go-lucky Antony has a close-knit group of friends — Suddharman (a memorable Manikandan Achari), Paulettan (a poignant Jaffar Idukki), and Kuttan (Melvin G Babu). Typical of Malayalam films, Anugraheethan Antony is filled with sweet nothings and a lethargic sense to the proceedings as we get acquainted with the life of Antony. There is no real sense of hurry, and the seven days Antony spends in the afterlife seem to go on forever. While the pace takes time getting used to, Antony’s life is filled with enough enterprising characters to sail past the cliches that are mostly subverted by the writers (Jishnu S Ramesh, Aswin Prakash and Naveen T Manilal). Even the very generic love story between Antony and Sanjana (Gouri Kishan making a sparkling debut in Malayalam cinema) is enhanced by the mellifluous music of Arun Muraleedharan and the sheer novelty of the setting. It is such tiny injections of freshness that keep Anugraheethan Antony ticking.
This wandering soul concept has been toyed with a lot in Indian cinema. We have the Kanchana films in Tamil, Bhootnath films in Hindi, and even Malayalam’s very own Aayushkaalam. It always deals with how humans help these wandering souls attain peace. I particularly liked how Anugraheethan Antony doesn’t directly involve humans, at least in the way we are attuned to think, in this endeavour. In the brief but effective cameos of Suraj Venjaramoodu and Baiju Santhosh, we see how the powers-that-be work in mysterious ways. We also become acquainted with two dogs, the pets of Varghese, who are clearly the purest souls in Anugraheethan Antony. Weaving them into the narrative is a masterstroke because even if that angle doesn’t work, the cuteness of those dogs compensates for it.
Anugraheethan Antony operates in a world where everyone has goodness in them. (Isn’t that how life actually is?) With the narration stitching together random events from Antony’s life, it might seem like the film is going nowhere, but it all comes together in a heartwarming final act that has a liberal dose of sentiments. Anugraheethan Antony is primarily about how different people deal with grief differently. While we concentrate a bit too long on the romance angle between Antony and Sanjana, which does pull the film back a bit, we soon move back to the family where Siddique’s Varghese gives us a masterclass on the act of “potti karanjal” (crying our hearts out). Every time someone cries for Antony in the film, it is never the trickle of a solitary teardrop down the cheek. It is eyes-reddening, nose-blocking, ugly and messy bawling sobs.
When we first see Antony, he is still grappling with the idea of being dead and is nonplussed. But over the course of the next 120-minutes of Prince Joy’s directorial debut, Antony, along with his near and dear in the living world, come to terms with the inevitability of death and accept the eventuality. This journey isn’t without its pitfalls. But, all’s well that ends well, and as the end credits start to roll, I couldn’t help but wonder if when the time comes for people close to me, or even me, to kick the bucket… will we be as blessed as Antony? Let’s hope all of us are Anugraheethans indeed.