Anbarivu, a mass entertainer set in rural Tamil Nadu, revolves around a dominant caste family and their internal affairs. The melodrama features the staple ingredients – a horde of supporting actors playing extended family members and trusted wingmen, xenophobia, caste pride, and some singing about machismo and Tamil culture. This template has always had takers at the box office, even if the story is older than the hills. It has made superstars out of ambitious young actors and sustained their careers too. But there is a catch – it requires a writer-director smart enough to recycle the clichés into engaging moments and a star-actor charming enough to make the viewer overlook the flaws in the narrative. Anbarivu has neither.
Hip-hop Aadhi’s lack of charisma could burn your eyes. He appears in twin roles, as Anbu and Arivu, brothers separated in their childhood. The character names are, perhaps, the only area in this film where some deliberation happened. The father (Sai Kumar), shortly after the birth of the children, decides to leave the village for Canada for professional ambitions. However, his wife (Asha Sharreth) refuses to leave her father, the landlord (Napolean). The child whom the father takes to Canada is Arivu – intellect. The one the mother brought up is Anbu – love. Well played!
Anbu grows up like a bull, participating in jallikattu and scuffles on a daily basis, assisting his grandfather in sustaining the caste rivalries and family feuds in the village. Arivu lives in a palatial house in Canada, with his father, who is now an accomplished banker, looked after by an army of servants and bodyguards. Aadhi hams up in both the roles, playing Anbu like he is neurotic and putting on a clumsy fake accent to play Arivu.
The melodrama upholds the importance of traditional family structure. Arivu, after a mishap, comes to know about his roots and vows to unify the family. Suriya’s Vel (2007) had an eerily similar plotline.
The film is over 120 minutes long, but there is hardly a memorable moment or a character. There are several absurd instances in the narrative. In an early scene, Anbu shouts at his mother for marrying his father who is from a different clan. “You humiliated me by marrying him,” he screams. One could get lost in the labyrinth of this argument’s logical flaw. Arivu, on the way to his ancestral village, comes across his twin brother fighting a gang of men on a field. There is no hint of surprise or shock on Aadhi’s face, but glee, as though he had been looking forward to seeing this rural sport. Arivu, the cosmopolitan man, delivers sermons to the villagers to abandon their rivalries and break all barriers that divide human beings. Yet, he chooses to marry a close relative, thus ensuring the bloodline purity. In an early scene, a young man pleads to Arivu to let him be his right-hand man. “My father served your father. I was brought up to serve you,” he says, and Arivu grants his wish.
It is nearly pointless to slam a movie like Anbarivu for lack of content because it aspires to be a mindless and inane mass movie for the fans of the lead actor and the genre. But the mediocrity of Anbarivu pervades all the departments of the film. The background score and songs are earsores. The stunt sequences are laughably bad, mostly because of the clumsiness of the lead actor. Anbarivu’s toxic blandness could wear you out.
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