Anjaamai Movie Review: A commendable political drama that hits out at chinks in the academia

Anjaamai, true to the title, fearlessly voices against unempathetic policies drafted by bureaucrats and politicians unmindful of how they will be received by the common man
Anjaamai Movie Review: A commendable political drama that hits out at chinks in the academia

Several films have been made on how a taxing education system has been forced on students. Anjaamai stands out in highlighting how the system keeps parents on tenterhooks and gets them more tense than the students.

Anjaamai can be compared to Appa (2016) and Hindi Medium (2017), to the extent of how the evolution of the Indian education system flummoxes parents as well. Both the Irrfan Khan-starrer and Samuthirakani-starrer just showcases the personal challenges of the families shown. Taking a step further, Anjaamai doesn't restrict itself to personal losses rendered by the system but also focuses on the bigger picture.

The film starts with Arunthavam (Krithik Mohan) running into a police station in Dindigul's Gandhigramam and demanding a case be filed against the government, he threatens to shoot himself, with the gun he snatches from a cop. A do-gooder inspector Manikkam (Rahman) calms the Class 12 student and decides to hear him out. Arunthavam, who came first in the district in the Class 10 Boards, reveals how NEET left his family traumatised and how the entrance exam is designed to filter out students from a poor background with a particular apathy for those from Tamil Nadu.

Kudos to the director Subburaman and the film's creator and producer Dr Thirunavukkaras (whose idea the film is based on), for providing a deep insight into the processes involved in enrolling and appearing for NEET. This run-through prevents us from getting disassociated when the narration shifts to questioning the mindless rigmarole students are forced to go through. Anjaamai has also ripped through the facade of requiring a coaching centre's guidance to crack NEET.

The close-to-home performances by actors Vidharth and Vani Bhojan are sure to resonate with parents of students preparing for NEET and other competitive exams. Vidharth as Sarkar, a koothu artist and a farmer, has delivered a poignant performance as a father who is clueless but determined to provide his child with the best possible education that he wasn't bestowed with. Subburaman has crafted several scenes like the one where Sarkar quits koothu, Arunthavam's exam centre allotment, and the difficulties that follow, to create ample drama that compensates for the unidimensional characters. 

Additionally, the predictable plot is not been a bother since we understand that the protagonist will eventually knock on the court's doors. Rahman, both as an upright policeman and an advocate, has put out a subliminal performance, easily one of his most compelling roles in recent times. Krithik Mohan as Arunthavam has managed to impress amid some stellar portrayals. Minor roles played by Rekha Nair and former IAS officer Balachandran, who plays Justice Sundaram, were also noteworthy.

Director - Subburaman

Cast - Vidharth, Vani Bhojan, Rahman, Krithik Mohan, Balachandran

However, Anjaamai is not devoid of problems. The film, which was planned for a release in 2019, was under post-production for several years. The time-lapse is of tantamount importance when handling a complex and sensitive issue like NEET, which has kept evolving over the years. The film is set in 2017, and the exam has more or less become a new normal in 2024. The depiction of shock among parents and students over the new entrance exam has become a thing of the past. Also policy-wise, the Tamil Nadu government introduced a horizontal reservation for government school students wanting to pursue medicine, which has a considerable impact on the representation front. However, the film still manages to stay relevant as issues like taking multiple attempts to land a seat in government medical college despite clearing the exam, unchecked clout of private colleges, objectionable practice in the name of frisking, and mushrooming of blood-sucking coaching institutes still make a strong case against NEET. To point out some flat writing just for the sake of it, the obstacles placed against Arunthavam were insufficient. Manikkam turning an advocate from being a cop is interesting and it contributes to drama and obstacle building, but was not sustained.

On the technical side, camera work looks neat and even more pleasant in capturing the verdant village the film is set in. Editing could not have been crisper. With music having less to contribute to the narration, it can still be appreciated for not taking anything away from it.

Shouldering a noble intention accompanied by effective performances and powerful rhetorics, Anjaamai, true to the title, fearlessly voices against unempathetic policies drafted by bureaucrats and politicians unmindful of how they will be received by the common man.        

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