It has finally begun to dawn on the Western mind that there is a cinema in India that is beyond Bollywood, and Fox Star Studios’ first Tamil film, M Saravanan’s Engaeyum Eppothum (Anywhere, Anytime) opened on September 16 to near packed houses.
: M Saravanan
: Jai, Sharvanand, Anjali and Ananya
Co-produced with Murugadoss’ Productions, the movie opened across India in 130 screens. This is usually rare, for non-Hindi films are confined to the regions where the language is spoken or widely understood. For instance, a Malayalam work may play in Tamil Nadu, and a Tamil movie in Kerala, but theatrical distribution hardly ever extends beyond this.
Narrated in sometimes confusing non-linear style, Engaeyum Eppothum begins quite dramatically with a messy head on collision between two high speeding buses on a Tamil Nadu highway. The plot crawls out of the bloody mess and weaves its way through death and suffering, crushed limbs and broken spirits to take us back many weeks earlier when two couples meet and forge romantic links.
Shy factory worker Jai’s Kathiresan is attracted to his neighbour, nurse Manimekalai (Anjali), and after months of hesitant signals that he sends across a couple of buildings from his rooftop to hers, she reciprocates, but not before sending him to meet her policeman father and an earlier admirer, a ruffian of sorts. Days later, Kathiresan and Manimekalai get into a bus to meet his folks.
On the other hand, a small-town girl, Amudha (Ananya) finds a good Samaritan in software engineer Goutam (Sharvanand), when she visits Chennai for a job interview, and while he guides her through the bewildering labyrinth of the city’s streets, an attraction develops between a grateful, though suspicious-of-every-stranger Amudha and a seemingly bored-with-such-rustic attitude Goutam. Weeks later, Amudha and Goutam board buses from either end to meet each other.
In what appears like overkill, the Goutam-Amudha segment stretches to a yawning length. Often, their wanderings in Chennai seem aimless. What could be a trifle more exasperating is the absence of English subtitles that explain the dates of the incidents. Six months ago, says an on-screen message in Tamil, foxing those who do not understand the language or cannot read the script, and there are many.
Engaeyum Eppothum, however, scores a good many stars for performances that are uniformly easy and natural. Anjali, who debuted with Angadi Theru with a fine piece of acting, does not disappoint us in Saravanan’s work. The uptight nurse mellows down with Kathiresan’s touching warmth, and in the end an emotional Manimekalai conveys the tragedy of human callousness with rare fortitude.