Anandham Vilayadum Veedu Movie Review: Has the heart but lacks the craft
A competent performance from Cheran and a handful of strong emotional moments uplift the middling writing of this family drama
Anandham Vilayadum Veedu boasts what I plan to call ‘Kadaikutty Singam energy’ henceforward. The screenplay is entirely woven around a dozen closely-knit family members relentlessly oscillating between expressing love and despise towards each other for 147 minutes, while the central character tries to salvage the chaos.
Cast: Gautham Karthik, Cheran, Saravanan, Shivathmika Rajashekar
Directed by: Nandha Periasamy
Here, Cheran’s Muthupandi is the protagonist of the story, while Gautham Karthik’s Sakthivel plays the hero of the film. Let me explain the difference: Cheran’s character is central to the narrative and drives it forward, while Gautham serves the more ‘hero-ly’ duties like romancing the female lead and punching the goons. Honestly, it takes time for us to accept the fact that Anandham Vilayadum Veedu is indeed Muthupandi’s story, and Sakthivel just serves as a tool for the film to break into a song here and a fight there.
Masala films where the heroine could be replaced by a lamp are easy to come by, but those where the hero could be replaced by one are hard to come across, and sadly, Anandham Vilayadum Veedu is one such rare bird. The disparity between the importance and screentime these two characters get is jarring and perplexing. At one point in the second half, when the drama gets thickly invested in the conflict surrounding Muthupandi, we almost forget Sakthi’s existence. The filmmaker’s efforts to shoehorn a couple of ‘heroic’ moments go in vain because they look like dispensible adornments on a fairly neat wall.
Speaking of walls, the title Anandham Vilayadum Veedu is not figurative alone; the titular house is crucial to the plot. Set in Dindigul, Samuthurakani’s voiceover ushers us into a family gathering where we are introduced to dozen-odd members (It took me an entire half to figure out how they are related to each other). A patriarch of the family had two wives, with Kasi (Saravanan) being the son of the elder wife and Muthupandi being the son of the younger wife. The relationship between stepbrothers couldn’t be more harmonious. When the stepbrothers decide to build a house together to ensure they can live together along with their respective siblings, the decision proves to be a Sisyphean task, with challenges emerging in the form of a manipulative Karuppan (Daniel Balaji, playing the same role he essayed in Tuck Jagadish a couple a months ago), who creates a tumult in the family to settle scores with Muthupandi and Sakthi.
Anandham Vilayadum Veedu has a wholesome—familiar, nevertheless—idea, which offers some strong emotional moments sporadically. For instance, after an intense meltdown in front of his siblings, a fuming Muthupandi visits his stepbrother Kasi, only to be served food first. In a similar vein, the presence of Shivathmika Rajasekhar might be restrained to being the functional heroine, but the way her character is used to influence another character results in a surprisingly heartfelt scene. There’s also a mute person in the family, whose resourcefulness in a loud melodramatic scene makes him a likable presence. See, there’s an effort to justify the existence of every member in this giant family, to create a mini-ecosystem of sorts. For instance, we are shown that Kasi’s younger brother (played by Snekan), who hides his lay off from the family and yet continues to support his family while he struggles to make ends meet in a foreign country. He is so good that when his brother asks for the money to build a house, he gives away the lumpsum amount he has been saving to start a business on his own. Although his character doesn’t get closure or contribute much to the story, his presence corroborates the amicable relationships Nandha Periyasamy tries to portray in the film.
Anandham Vilayadum Veedu is an over-the-top loud film, indubitably. The good people are too good to be true; Muthupandi's introduction scene involves him instructing a lorry driver to not drive the lorry because it will disturb a sparrow, who has built a nest inside the vehicle. Do you see how good he is? However, miscreants outnumber the good people in the film. After a point in the second half, the drama gets so loud as these people begin to indulge in relentless screaming, crying, and even inflict physical abuse on someone. Like the filmmaker intends, we begin to detest them, but when they are reformed with a snap of a finger in the climax, it isn’t convincing at all. With fragile egos and manipulable personalities, these half a dozen characters needed a better redemption arc. Cheran, however, is great as the biding force yearning to keep the families together. It’s his show all the way, and his presence compensates for the gravity the writing lacks.
Considering it’s an emotional drama, there’s an effort to make us shed tears; through close-ups of emotional faces, heavy dialogue, and more importantly, an unrelenting soundtrack. Violin is so extensively used that I wondered how times the strings broke throughout the composition.
When we walk into Anandham Vilayadum Veedu, we know what we are walking into and that’s exactly what we get. Beneath the flaws, the melodrama, a host of squawking characters, there’s some heart to be found in this family drama, but it needed more. In other words, the foundation is strong enough, but it needed a stronger build.