Director: R Kaiser Anand
Cast: Andrea Jeremiah
Slut-shaming, victim-blaming, gaslighting, murder – these are only the tip of the iceberg that rape victims experience when they gain enough courage to speak out against the crime that has been committed against them. . The recent OTT version, Anel Meley Pani Thuli, directed by R Kaiser Anand tries to go beyond the tip of this iceberg through its main character Mathi. She is a smart and intelligent woman who strictly adheres to the moral codes established by society. If a brave, intelligent woman like her were to be sexually assaulted, what would she do? How would she react?
Would she really have the courage to stand up to the criminals and their extremely devious ways of trying to back out of legal action? This question and many more cross our minds as scene after scene unfolds. Andrea Jeremiah as Mathi does her best to portray the inner workings of a survivor’s mind, and she comes close to it during moments of silence.
These are the times when she contemplates her life, wonders why she’s unable to move on, and wonders if the fault is hers at some point. Although he was forced to step down from a legal battle initially, there is a part of Mathi that really wants these men to be punished. It’s clear that she can’t move forward until the people who hurt her are punished. It reports to the Department of Justice and expects the system to do what it is supposed to do.
Even during the film’s tense moments, it’s not the statements she makes that leave an impression. These are the moments when her body quivers with anxiety, the movement of her eyes following the movements of the men who have hurt her, the anger and sadness she feels at not being able to defend herself. These are the moments that really pack a punch. It leaves you cringing in your seats and making you uncomfortable. It reminds you of times when you felt vulnerable, places and people who attacked you. To be able to do this without dialogs, is no small feat. Andrea succeeds brilliantly.
It is because it is too close to reality that a feeling of apprehension sets in. It is also because of this that scenes featuring sexual violence are more difficult to watch and digest. I’ve wondered this many times lately, given how many movies use rape as a plot. Sure, Anel Meley Pani Thuli might not desensitize the issue at hand, but it certainly sheds light on the violence itself. It puts the woman on screen through such a brutal ordeal that women who watch the film not only want not to see this violence, but their first instinct is to rush. Why? Because we know how it feels, to varying degrees, but we know. So, who is this highlighting of the brutality of sexual violence aimed at?
That aside, another problem occurs when you start to feel off notes in certain scenes that contain a lot of dialogue. While the intent behind the closing monologue is understandable, it alienates Mathi like another woman. We feel disconnected from the rest of the film. Likewise, the scene of Mathi addressing a judge during the hearing is forcefully placed. Again, while the intent can be appreciated, it doesn’t really match the treatment of any part of the film. The movie tries to balance messaging while digging deeper, and it didn’t do the movie any good.
Would I want my friends to watch this movie? No.
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Anel Meley Pani Thuli is streaming on Sony LIV
Priyanka Sundar is a film journalist who covers films and series in different languages with a particular focus on gender identity and politics.
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