Ammu Movie Review: An effectual portrayal about the fight for resilience against abuse
Not long before did we see Darlings that took dark humour to tackle domestic violence, with Ammu, one gets to see the internalised trauma of survivor & that courage is a tendency that grows gradually
Ammu opens with the shot of the titular character (Aishwarya Lekshmi) being asked by a young girl the reason she wants to marry her neighbour. And just like any other woman in an arranged marriage setup, we see Ammu not having a solid answer. Of course, it is a marriage with consent, but Ammu is oblivious about the man she will be betrothed to in a few moments. Instead, she playfully questions the girl about him. Even if we don’t see the child’s face who finds Ammu's future husband “scary”, it hints at the eerie tale of abuse and misogyny that befalls Ammu in her marital life.
Cast: Aishwarya Lekshmi, Naveen Chandra, Bobby Simha, others
Streamer: Amazon Prime Video
Director: Charukesh Sekar
All goes well for the newly married Ammu and her husband/circle inspector Ravindranath (Naveen Chandra) until instances of cold behaviour fuelled by chauvinism begin from Ravi’s side. Ammu, being a diligent, and dutiful wife, doesn’t mind the many red flags about Ravi that comes her way. Instances like Ravi’s reluctance to live off his wife’s earnings may come across as a normal conversation between a couple in this patriarchal world, but the film starts to cement its base with this problematic chauvinism. Ammu does not make the mistake of introducing us to the perils of chauvinism all at once. Instead, it talks about the unchecked passive aggression that goes on to be something even viler. It is easy to paint men as straightforward misogynists, but the film takes time to sculpt Ravi’s character. He manifests the very reality of men who are conceived progressive and preach accommodative ideas on the outside while being covert bigots within closed doors. A parallel track of Ravi being a dutiful cop ensuring women’s safety outside, while being an abusive husband, sums up the hypocrisy of men preaching equality for every woman, except for the ones at their homes.
Ammu’s brilliance in storytelling comes in the form of its slow-burn drama that takes you through the mind of the survivor rather than the abuser. Director Charukesh Sekar builds up the narrative by setting up scenes that individually contribute to a wholesome drama. There is one instance of Ammu relapsing to the pain of her loneliness. It’s not only effective because it readies you to understand the boiling point that Ammu reaches psychologically, but also because it captures the smallest moments where trauma can take over an individual. The film also deviates from the lazy route of making her turn a phoenix from the ashes overnight. Instead, the first half is carefully set up to let you understand the psyche of Ammu. The background score definitely helps in elevating these instances to give it a very terrifying ambiance. There is also a beautiful conversation between Ammu and her mother (Maala Parvathi) about the generational passing down of abuse. It raises the most pertinent question when Ammu asks, “Even if I did something, is it okay for him to slap me?”
The film also touches upon the by-products of abuse. The end of every instance of physical abuse is followed by a manipulation of apology. The value of the scenes beautifully culminates in portraying the agony of mental torture, which is generally overlooked for physical pain. Another idea that is effectively communicated in Ammu is the woman's right over her body and reproductive nature. When she isn’t ready to beget a child yet, contrary to her husband's choice, the film stages an intense scene where Ammu expresses how her right to decide over her body has been snatched away, which also leads her to break down completely for the first time in front of her known circle.
However, Ammu seems to slip in the second half when she teams up with an unlikely ally to take down her husband. While the plot featuring Bobby Simha's Prabhu tries to sit well with the story, it also results in a lull in the screenplay. Ammu gets a little too stretchy and soggy in the latter half, and even the cat-and-mouse chase between Ammu and Ravi becomes a little drab. We also don’t get properly acquainted with Prabhu's life either, and a bit more of fleshing out of the character would have worked in the film's favour. Ammu also seems to be in a hurry to wrap things up, and it feels wrong especially after going down the slow-burn route in the first half.
A little more exploration into the mind of Ammu would have strengthened this film and made it an even more compelling narrative about women's empowerment. Nevertheless, nothing can take away the sheer strength it radiates when Ammu meets her husband eye-to-eye in the finale when the latter is cornered in all possible ways. Ammu is a film that can make many squirm with uneasiness, but it will definitely give a sense of hope and representation to others.