Over the past couple of weeks, the smaller films in Kollywood – the Thamira-directed Aan Devathai and Suseenthiran’s Genius – sought to tell a message: that of rearing children right. Neither did well.
In Suseenthiran’s Genius, a father (Aadukalam Naren) suddenly wakes up to his son’s brilliance and smothers the young boy with the pressures of academia. The mother (Meera Krishnan) is relegated to the side-lines, alternatively helpless and remorseful, a mostly mute spectator as her husband takes the boy under his wing and watches over him like a hawk. Much before this though, Genius opens with a grown man who shows signs of a mental illness. His parents take him to a therapist who makes him relive his life. The memories escape him in song montages. There’s one of his younger self cavorting in muddy pools in his hometown Palani (a Suseenthiran staple), another marked with teenage yearnings, all promptly extinguished by his father who looms large and threatening over these recollections.
The doctor-therapist diagnoses him with ‘schizophrenia’, advises some heavy-duty R&R. The father is cautioned to cut the boy – now an adult – some slack. He does that by charting a strict R&R schedule that involves laugh therapy and meditation sessions. But there’s nothing organic about the situations that unfold on screen. Suseenthiran lapses into sleazy frivolity in the name of humour, trivialising something as serious as a mental illness. For when all else fails, the young man is taken to a brothel for a ‘cure’. Because.
There’s nothing right or even remotely aesthetic about Genius; the director seems to have been torn between two basal desires: of painting a poignant portrait of a child whose dreams are quashed by the academic rigour his father subjects him to, and the need to deliver this message without sounding preachy. The film earnestly mirrors this conflict.
Aan Devathai, starring Samuthirakani in the lead, which released a couple of weeks back, has a small family at its centre. At first, it seems to do everything right starting with the PSA for child sexual abuse: the parents share chores, the dad parents like he’s expected to, but the scenes, befitting the name of the film, are tinged with the kind of score that’s usually reserved to evoke sympathy. Samuthirakani as Elango is the eponymous ‘Aan Devathai’; he has a young wife (Ramya Pandian as Jessy), an earthy one, the director says, with human desires that you are meant to frown upon. The film does too. It watches her beadily as she juggles several electronic devices, spares a fond glance for her children before plunging into work, and layers such scenes with unwarranted melancholy.
Thamira weaves this sordid tale of a woman who neglects her family in favour of her work, suitably staging scenes and situations that play to popular sentiments about women and their role in a family while the man takes the pedestal – all for sharing chores. Elango quits the workforce to look after their children when his wife refuses, and the film even has him mouth a few seemingly-heartening lines about toppling gender norms. But, it eventually bows down to its title; deifies the male lead for not shirking duties while penalising the woman for desiring to think beyond home. To this end, the director employs the most reprehensible tactics – read: child sexual abuse – to nudge the audience towards hating the mother.
It makes for perverse filmmaking, one undeserving of screen time especially in the current context when women at large are fighting to have their voices heard; one that you truly hope the audience doesn’t take lessons from.
The Genius & Aan Devathai reviews are Silverscreen original articles. They were not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movies. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.