6 Athiyayam Review: Sum not greater than the parts
You have to give credit to the team for trying out something novel — not just in terms of the anthology idea, but also with respect to the climaxes
Anthologies give you the bonus of watching multiple films for the price of one. Tamil cinema has forayed into this genre very few times, including Karthik Subburaj's Bench Talkies and Aviyal. 6 Athiyayam, much like those films, is a coming together of six short films: all connected by the genre of horror. Most interesting here is the variety of horror in these films. There’s psychological, physical, comedy… In a way, you could say the film itself is a condensed version of what the industry has been attempting in the horror genre over the last decade.
Take, for example, the fifth short, Soup Boy Subramani, which is about Subramani, a man who’s unable to get intimate with a girl because a ghost keeps disturbing him. The conversations he has with a namboothiri who tries to solve his problems make for some terrific comedy. It is the most lighthearted of all the shorts, and with a fantastic climax to boot. What the film also does is highlight the issues that presently plague the horror-comedy genre.
Cast: Taman Kumar, Pop Suresh, Pasanga Kishor, Kulir Sanjeev, Vishnu, Vinoth Kishan
Director: Cable B Sankar, Shankar V Thiyagarajan, Ajayan Bala, Suresh EAV, Lokesh, Sridhar Venkatesan
Otherwise, the films are largely uneven and there is not much time in which to establish mood. The first short, Super Hero, for instance, plays really well at a psychological level, and is about a man who harbours delusions of being a superhero. The climax may have been effective, but it doesn’t negate the fact that when translated from paper to screen, there is a clear disconnect. The second short, Ini Thodarum, is about the horror of the human psyche but the entire short, perhaps understandably given the likely budget constraints, has shoddy production design values that let the film down big time. The third short, Meesai, doesn’t offer much to write about and there is no clarity in thought here either, unlike in the rest of the shorts. The fourth, Anamika, provides enough spook and uses the handheld camera in a fun way as it tracks candlelight, in all its hazy glory. This trick is quite effective in the dark confines of a cinema theatre, and makes for a claustrophobic experience.
The best of all the shorts is the final one, Chithiram Kolluthadi, which I would love to see translated into a full-fledged horror film. At times, it reminds you of Chandramukhi, as its story cuts across eras. The Tamil verses that move the story forward are beautifully written and the sound design is not loud and jarring. It’s all tastefully done.
You have to give credit to the team of 6 Athiyayam for trying out something novel — not just in terms of the anthology idea, but also with respect to the climaxes. All the films are played, save for their end portions, which are concurrently played at the end. It’s everything good you’ve got from Tamil anthologies so far… and everything bad.