Director: Nelson Venkatesan
Cast: SJ Suryah, Priya Bhavani Shankar, Anil Kumar, Karunakaran
Music: Justin Prabhakaran
Nelson Venkatesan’s Monster is a film for kids, but it has one of the most grown-up romances I’ve seen on screen in a while. It’s a quiet, no fuss romance between two balanced adults who are able to handle rejection, acceptance and approval with such poise, I wonder why mainstream romances aren’t built that way.
The rat, neighbourhood uncles and aunties and more everyday things in one quiet film makes watching it such a delight, you can overlook the one scenery-chewing villain.
Monster is written by Sankar Dass and Nelson, who also directs it. It is produced by Potential Studios (a continuation of their ‘M’ films) and stars SJ Suryah, Priya Bhavani Shankar, Karunakaran, Anilkumar, Cheenu Mohan, and others. The film was shot by Gokul Benoy and edited by Sabu Joseph. Monster features music by Justin Prabhakaran.
Anjanam Azhagiyapillai (SJ Suryah) has grown up imbibing the philosophy of Vallalar, and cannot bear to see any living creature harmed, be it an ant, worm or human being. An engineer, he works with the TN Electricity board, and lives in a small rented pad in Chennai while his parents live in Thanjavur. His parents want to get him married, and so Anjanam and parents are at the house of a potential bride in Thanjavur. It just so happens the lady is not interested in this marriage – she has not even turned up, much to the chagrin of her parents, and his.
Taking the hint, Anjanam and parents leave. There’s no elaborate build-up, no scenes of regret, no guilt, no accusations and allegations about pride, family honour and such.
Anjanam returns to Chennai, where a chance remark by one of the members of this bride ritual, his own continued woes with his landlady, and some well placed jibes by his friend Ravi (Karunakaran) lead to him deciding to buy a house. He eventually decides on a second-hand flat that used to be a smuggler’s lair. The smuggler, played by Anilkumar, had hit upon a way to hide diamonds inside rusks, and had more or less gotten away with it when he gets arrested by the police, putting the flat on the market.
Unaware of the flat’s past, Anjanam moves in. And, the woman he was supposed to “see” before marriage begins to call him, a slight change of heart. She works at a jewellery store, and thus Anjanam and Mekala (Priya Bhavani Shankar) begin a very lovely, quiet, mature romance.
Back in the flat, Anjanam realises he has a rat problem. Missing rusks. Missing food. Strange creaking noises at night. However, his philosophy of not hurting a living thing prevents him from poisoning it or other extreme measures. He lays out traps, but the rat very cleverly avoids them. Soon, Anjanam falls sick due to the rat, bringing him and Mekala closer. Mekala expresses a desire for furniture in the house, something she’s always dreamt of having. But for government employee Anjanam, this is super expensive – sofas starting at Rs. 150,000 while his total budget for furniture is Rs 50,000! Eventually, Anjanam buys a super expensive red sofa that becomes the pride of his house. He wants to surprise Mekala and doesn’t tell her. The night before the grand unveiling, however, the rat has wrecked the sofa. Further, a fire accident destroys whatever is left.
All this is just a backdrop to the Mekala-Anjanam romance, the most amazing thing about the film, for me. This is also the hero introduction for the rat, which, in true Tamil cinema fashion, does stunts atop of tall buildings, gives villains and sidekicks the slip when needed, has a rain-song, and manages to save its family.
The smuggler returns and attempts to retrieve his diamond-encrusted rusk. He manages five out of six, and realises the rat may have eaten the remaining rusk. And then adventures happen, there’s a big cat-and-mouse chase, loads of mix-ups and close misses. And we roll to a lovely, very satisfying, moving ending.
In an interview, Nelson Venkatesan said they used a live rat for the shoot, not a CGI creature. And, this has paid off. The rat looks and feels believable, and combined with excellent camerawork that gives us the rat’s PoV, there’s a lovely build-up of tension and excitement. It’s not an extraordinary rat, it is not a super rat with superpowers. It just wants simple things: food, comfort, and to be among familiar surroundings. This makes the film all the more brilliant. There’s nothing in Monster that would be out of place in everyday life, including the local ambimaama character, a retired man who will tell you enough times in a day to keep things quiet and to not throw things about in the flat above his – irrespective of what dangers the flat is in.
The Monster 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.