The title of this film, written and directed by debutant Kaiser Anand and produced by Vetrimaaran, is the same as the title of a song from Gautham Vasudev Menon’s Vaaranam Aayiram. In the latter, we see a woman’s happy, intimate moments with the guy she is in love with. The poetic title, ‘Anel Meley Pani Thuli’ ( which translates to ‘A Dewdrop Over Fire’), is so apt for the song. Like the hapless dewdrop engulfed by fire, the woman, in this case, is consumed by love. Everything about the song – its lines, music, vocals, and picturisation – warms the cockles of one’s heart.
Kaiser Anand’s film, on the other hand, evokes drastically different emotions. Even before the first visual of the film, as the opening credits roll, you get an eerie feeling. The background sound — a dull hum interspersed with cricket chirps — forebodes something evil. As the movie opens, its protagonist, Madhi (Andrea Jeremiah), wakes up without her pants in the middle of a forest deluged by darkness. She soon realises that she has been sexually assaulted. She is scared, wounded, confused, and helpless. Unlike the girl in Vaaranam Aayiram, who seemed to be living her dream, Madhi has woken up to a nightmare that has just begun.
Anal Mele Pani Thuli
The title beautifully fits this film’s narrative as well. Here, ‘A Dewdrop Over Fire’ signifies a hostile environment. Or, more specifically, an unsafe society for women. A 28-year-old woman, who goes sightseeing, gets sexually assaulted. When she reports the crime to the nearby police station, she shockingly realises that a few of the cops there are the perpetrators. They strip her again, record her nudity, and use the video to blackmail her. When she registers a complaint against them, they doctor the recording and upload it to a porn site.
In Madhi’s words, the perpetrators use her own body against her. After physical pain, she now has to endure mental pain. The media preys upon her privacy. A friend doubts her integrity. More importantly, she feels she is robbed of her honour due to social conditioning. She has to fight the demons outside as well as the ones inside her.
Kaiser, thankfully, does not make us feel sorry for Madhi. He rather makes us empathise with her. He portrays her as a survivor, not as a mere victim. Though she has a few people in her life to support her, like her fiance, she does not want to depend on them.
The film’s first 30 minutes show her as a resolute, independent woman who can stand up for herself and for others. The establishment of her strength is not overdone either. For instance, when a female co-worker’s ex-boyfriend tries to harass the co-worker in the workplace, Madhi merely looks him in the eye and sternly asks him to vacate the place. This is not a film that milks the situation to insert an unwarranted fight sequence to show that women are strong.
A few instances of a female cop and judge mouthing expository lines of social messages, albeit politically correct, sticks out like a sore thumb in otherwise organic storytelling. Kaiser Anand’s writing is well-researched, sensitive, sharp, and more importantly, engaging. Santhosh Narayanan’s beautifully restrained background score feels almost absent but makes the storytelling more affecting. One can say the same thing about Velraj’s camerawork as well.
But the most impressive thing about Anel Meley Pani Thuli is Andrea’s performance. She uses her eyes to a great effect in this film. For instance, in that scene with the coworker’s ex-boyfriend, her eyes convey confidence and courage. When the gruesome crime is inflicted upon her, her eyes resemble that of a wounded animal. When her fiance, after a hospital visit, unwittingly offers her empty words of solace — “Just take your tablets and sleep. Everything will be fine.” — she just gives him a look that seems to say, “Dude, are you serious?”. Her body language, too, changes — ever so subtly — according to what her character is going through.
Anel Meley Pani Thuli is one of Andrea’s finest performances. We hope there is more to come.
Anel Meley Pani Thuli is streaming on SonyLIV