Freeze Frame #165: Anjali

Now, it’s no secret that this is one of my least favourite Mani Ratnam films. He got some things gloriously right, but I found it a touch too melodramatic, the kids a touch too annoying (and I wasn’t much older when it came out), the Revathy character a touch too whiny… I didn’t walk away from the film with the warm and fuzzies, and that has nothing to do with the fact that the eponymous character dies at the end.

Okay, it does a little bit. Here’s what I wrote some years ago:

And to top it all off, the most annoying death scene in the history of cinema. If that little girl had screamed “Ezhundiru Anjali, ezhundiru” one more time, Mani Ratnam could’ve made Anjali 2: Night of the Living Dead as his follow-up feature.

But it did have a few knock-out moments, my favourite being the scene where Arjun, the elder child, bonds with Anjali. This occurs in the aftermath of a fight where Arjun gets into a scrap with some kids in the neighbourhood who have been harassing Anjali. It would be easy to interpret his actions as “Ah, so he does love his newfound little sister”, but I think it’s probably a bit more and less than that. There’s a bit of an impulse to do the right thing, a bit of whatever-my-issues-she’s-still-my-sister… However he feels about her, he hasn’t yet consciously acknowledged it.

That comes when he sees how Anjali reacts to his injuries. The way I state it, it doesn’t seem like much, but it’s amazing how perfectly that little scene works.

Watch how he sees her as though for the first time, beyond whatever preconceived notions he had up until then about this “different” little kid who seems to have turned his life upside down. (It’s not as dramatic as that in reality, but wouldn’t it have seemed like that to him?) His reaction is the first time a character in the film deals with his or her prejudice and defeats it. The rest of the film is mostly just about the others following suit. It is, in my opinion, the scene most emblematic of the film’s central theme.

However, the reason why this scene has been on my mind recently has nothing to do with pride or prejudice. You see, my daughter recently bit my leg hard while throwing a tantrum. And even now, several days later, she keeps pointing to the place where the remainder of a scab is still barely visible, looks a bit remorseful and gives it a quick kiss.

What’s that line by Dr. Seuss about the Grinch’s heart growing three sizes at Christmas?

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6 thoughts on “Freeze Frame #165: Anjali

    • Thanks, Beth! Never mind my negative reaction, go watch the film — it’s Mani Ratnam, and even his bad movies have some very good things in them.

  1. S says:

    “In Who-ville they say
    That the Grinch’s small heart
    Grew three sizes that day!”

    ok ok I din’t mean to really answer your rhetorical question (though I’ve myself been more a thistle-toe person as opposed to mistletoe this Xmas, I confess).

    My Anjali memories seem alarmingly distant, though every time I hear the movie mentioned, Vegam Vegam starts to play in my head.

    • I actually got reminded of the film, specifically the raathiri nerathil song, when the new star wars movie came out. Man, that was one weird video. I never quite got the point even back then.

      • S says:

        Didn’t grow up with Star Wars but I’ve been meaning to binge watch the first six movies so I can, you know, get with it and watch the newest installment. Maybe in time for Episode VIII.

        I hear you on the Raathiri Nerathil song/visuals. Definitely a weird melange of movie references (I could spot at least 2… Raiders of the Lost Ark and then that Living Dead thing you mention above). Maybe it was Mani’s middle finger to the censors, unleashing his inner teenager: A video-gamey wet dream in a family setting… Hey, I did spot an exploding volcano. 😉

  2. S says:

    Speaking of Raathiri Nerathil, I watched this Sathyaraj movie last night called Oru Naal Iravil and quite liked it. If it wasn’t already taken (and how!), they could’ve called it Sira Nerangalil Sila Manidhar Gal.

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