A satisfying remake with an extra pinch of drama- The New Indian Express

By | June 6, 2021

Express News Service

A famous verse about love from the Bible goes, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” This is perhaps the most apt summary of the Keerthi Pandian-starring survival thriller, Anbirkiniyal. Just like love, Anbu (Keerthi) too checks all these boxes. This ‘ love’ connect of the Gokul-directorial, which is more evident when we think of the Tamil version, “Anbu sagalathaiyum thaangum…,” doesn’t end with the name of the lead.

The girl herself is an epitome of love, and Anbirkiniyal is filled with characters willing to go to any extent for love. This Tamil version of Helen is more of a ‘kudumba padam’ (family film) than the original because it stars the real-life father-daughter duo of Arun Pandian and Keerthi. Interestingly, the younger version of Keerthi in the intro sequences is played by her niece Driya. Despite the brilliant casting, which acts as the film’s USP, the duo’s performance becomes a sort of stumbling block to the emotional core. It is strange to see the loving father and daughter oversell their chemistry in front of the camera.

Their performances during the initial emotional scenes leave us cold. Arun Pandian seems to have been slowly discovering his space in the film with each scene and finally gets comfortable with his character during the latter half, when things take a serious turn. The solid supporting cast compensates for the unconvincing lead performances in the beginning, and holds the film together. Praveen Raja delivers an admirable performance as the impulsive lover, Charles , and carries the right kind of intensity as the story gets serious. Ravindra Vijay, who made heads turn with the recent Uma Maheswara Ugra Roopasya, is in his element as the annoying bad cop.

It would be interesting to see Vijay break this typecast and play a likeable character in the future. Director Gokul’s cameo is also bang on and I found myself cheering for his ‘mass’ moment. Anbirkiniyal enters a whole new trajectory and gets us to the edge of our seats, quite literally, after its lead gets trapped in a cold storage unit. The visuals of Mahesh Muthuswamy and the special makeup by Roshan G are so spot on, even the audience will find themselves shivering in the theatre.

Notwithstanding his penchant for making outlandish fun films, Gokul leaves no space for fluff here and does a great job of recreating the intensity of the original. With scenes where the protagonist turns cardboard and tape into ankle support, a bunch of cardboards into a mini igloo, and leaves absolutely no stone unturned for her survival, Helen and its remakes will certainly be remembered as some of the cleverest escape-room thrillers. The smart and well-researched writing of Alfred Kurian Joseph, Noble Babu Thomas and Mathukutty Xavier transforms this simple story into a cathartic epic and astonishes us.

The freezer room, in a way, feels like Keerthi’s den, as the actor, who delivers only a passable performance in the initial portions, stuns us as the lone survivor. Her small build adds more drama to the proceedings, and her mini moments of success feel effortlessly heroic. I especially loved the scene where she wipes the blood off her nose, weeping, and comes to terms with her dreadful situation. As I walked out of the cinema hall, I was reminded of yet another quote about love, the one from Thirukkural which goes, “Anbirkum undo adaikkum thazh…” and realised that just like love cannot be confined to a chamber, exceptional tales like Helen cannot be restricted to a single language. 

Director:Gokul
Cast: Keerthi Pandian, Arun Pandian, Praveen Raja, Ravindra Vijay

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