Filmmaker Raja Ramamurthy takes a potentially interesting and, for Tamil cinema, rather novel premise and churns out a most uninspiring movie. Achcham Madam Naanam Payirrpu, streaming on Amazon Prime Video, revolves around 19-year-old Pavithra (Akshara Haasan), who decides to have sex with her boyfriend Harish, whom her conservative brahmin family doesn’t know about. She has two friends with opposing views on this – one who believes that premarital sex is immoral and the other who is sex positive. The latter helps her with details such as obtaining condoms and generally preparing her for the big night (picking out a dress, waxing, and so forth), while the former keeps repeating that it is a “kevalamana” (disgusting) idea.
While it is refreshing to see a topic like this handled lightly, that’s about all that can be said in favour of the film. A subject like this could have yielded a lot of comedy and drama, but the writer-director treads too lightly to make for engaging viewing. The movie just plods on without eliciting any sort of response from us, other than the occasional yawn. It is the cinematic equivalent of watching paint dry. Adding to the effect is the curious choice to use a very sparing background score. Large portions of the film are completely bereft of music. Now, silence can be a powerful tool when used right, but here it only serves to highlight how boring the proceedings are and how unequal Akshara Haasan is to carrying this film.
Haasan tries her best, seemingly, but it’s just no use. Pavithra isn’t a particularly interesting person – her leading characteristic is that she’s confused and this Haasan conveys with a perpetual deer-in-headlights look. Aside from her conundrum about having sex, Pavithra also lives in the shadow of her famous singer grandmother (Usha Uthup) and her overbearing, never-satisfied mother (Malgudi Subha). That this would make her indecisive and unsure of herself is perfectly understandable. The problem is that Haasan’s performance doesn’t convey this adequately and in a way that makes her sympathetic. Instead, we get one scene between Pavithra and her grandmother that essentially spells all this out and the film’s message (‘be true to yourself’) into the bargain. This should have been a heartwarming scene, but Haasan tries too hard, and fails. I was mentally seconding her grandmother’s “please stop crying,” though with very different feelings.
The comedy too largely falls flat. I can only remember one amusing instance from the whole film – where Pavithra’s friendly neighbourhood annachi (shopkeeper) mistakes her embarrassedly pointing at a box of condoms as a request for a pack of sanitary napkins instead. And this is in no small part due to seasoned actor George Maryan playing the store owner. He and fellow theatre-film actor Kalairani (as the silent, seemingly-judgmental neighbour aunty) make more of an impression with their minor appearances than all the rest of the cast.
All told, this is perhaps a story that would have worked better as a short film. At under 80 minutes, Achcham Madam Naanam Payirrpu isn’t a particularly long movie but feels like it is. A shorter format would have forced the makers to tighten things up (maybe not give us a whole half a minute of Haasan badly pretending to wake up from sleep!) and perhaps yielded better results. In an interview with Silverscreen India before the film’s release, the actor said that whenever they felt something didn’t work when shooting, they would try it a different way. Maybe they should have kept trying.
This Achcham Madam Naanam Payirppu review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.