Athithi opens with a bearded, bespectacled man sitting with a liquor bottle atop a multi-storeyed building. And the next instance, without any warning whatsoever, we see him ramming his Pajero into a tree; before the scene shifts to the living room of a cosy nuclear family in a plush Chennai apartment. With a background score to match, the opening sequence sets up the tone of foreboding that pervades the rest of the movie.
The apartment is home to Mathiazhakan (Nandha), an ambitious executive in a construction company, his wife Vasuki (Ananya) and their daughter Pavithra. They have just bought a flashy Terrano and life seems to be quite rosy. Until a stranger decides to hitch a ride in their car.
It’s a thrilling premise– a normal man playing a high-stakes game of hide-and-seek with a brooding stranger, but it is marred by poor execution and apathetic performances from the cast. The characterization is a rehash of well-worn clichés: the executive driven by money and ambition with no time for his wife; the tearful wife; the mature beyond her age daughter. The taut, fast-paced screenplay is distracted by unnecessary interludes, like an elderly nanny pontificating about the lack of grandparents in modern families, and Thambi Ramaiah’s out of tune comic act as Mathi’s uncle.
The rest of the plot is about the mounting intrigue as the stranger – Saravanan – interacts with the family: demanding money before burning it, pushing Mathi to solicit a prostitute and making him plant a suitcase at a bus stop. Mathi is appalled and angry; but helpless. The movie is a remake of the Malayalam superhit, Cocktail (which in turn was an uncredited remake of Pierce Brosnan’s Butterfly on a Wheel), and we can’t help but draw comparisons here, much to the film’s disadvantage. The craftily shot original had some very competent performances to back it up, but here the actors barely go through the motions. Except for Ananya who manages to hold her own, the rest fail to rise up to the occasion.
There is debutant Nikesh Ram as Saravanan, the stranger shrouded in mystery; who looks the part in dark shirts, chinos and thick-rimmed glasses, but is unconvincing otherwise. His lines sound contrived and forced and don’t sound like someone trying to scare the daylights out of you. Nanda, as Mathiazhagan, does try. But again, it requires an actor who can do more than just mirror fear, anger and anxiety. What about love? And the barely concealed hatred yet helplessness that would take hold of a person in this situation? The performances deteriorate alarmingly towards the end, especially during the climactic sequences. The background score by newcomer Ratheesh Vega and some sharp editing by Praveen KL are the only saving graces, although the editing could have been crisper at the end.
Athithi had a thrilling premise– a normal man playing a high-stakes game of hide-and-seek with a brooding stranger, but it is marred by poor execution and apathetic performances from the cast.
The Athithi 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 an advertising relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.