Not just fortune, it seems even the Tamil public favors the bold. Regardless of the quality of the content, anything edgy, whether it’s an intimate romantic scene or swearing dialogue, usually gets praise. It is in such brazenness that it highlights Anti Indian, the directorial debut of Youtuber C Elamaran. he revels in its boldness, even at the cost of oversimplifying it. there is no ‘kuriyeedu’ here; everything is simple and cheeky.
The film begins with a close-up of the face of Basha (Elemaran), who has been killed by unknown persons for unknown reasons. neither the film nor the characters care about finding the culprits. this is intentional and leaves us with much to ponder. after a long delay, his brother-in-law ezhumalai (jayaraj), a nearby local politician, receives the body for burial. ‘ezhumalai’ as brother-in-law of ‘basha’? that is because his mother is Hindu while his father is Muslim. Due to mixed religious identity, his body is not accepted in either a Muslim cemetery or a Hindu crematorium.
in parallel, we see how the prime minister (radha ravi) and the police department are preparing for an upcoming by-election, which he is very likely to lose. the opposition has the upper hand, and only superstar actor ‘kabali’ can tip the scales. So the cm and the police have to come up with a plan to win or stop the elections altogether. the sequences involving the cm and the police officers create a sense of unease, as they discuss sinister plans very casually. When the case of Basha’s body comes to the attention of the media, these men in power plan to use it to their advantage.
Since the jallikattu protest of 2017, Tamil cinema has shown quite an interest in the idea of political conspiracy and police brutality. however, most movies have done so with caution. even the recent blockbuster maanaadu focused more on entertainment and less on social issues. this is where anti indian stands apart from the rest. It doesn’t beat around the bush and it’s always in your face. ezhumalai wears a saffron tilak on his head. the leader of his party is called raja. and yet the film is careful not to take sides. paint Hindus, Muslims, Christians, media, policemen and everyone in the film with the same brush.
so the problem is, what is really the voice of the director? maybe, the nameless character, dressed in black (ghilli maran), who makes fun of everyone, is the voice? he wanders around asking questions, like the one he asks ezhumalai: “how are all the leaders of your party righteous while the followers are dark?” however, I was wondering why this movie stayed away from caste issues. surely, this is a conscious decision of a filmmaker, which makes all other subjects a goal.
the trade is simple. On a shoestring budget, Maran has pulled off a decent film that doesn’t care about nuance. no aesthetic shine, no attention-grabbing compositions. it may be technically inferior, but the content makes up for it. the film only cares about its story, and I really liked how it is shown and not told. there are exhibits, sure, but they’re decently executed. for example, the idea of juxtaposing the impromptu gaana singing session at the funeral, while the police and politicians come up with evil plans, is well done. it reminded me of the climax of kaala, maybe it was supposed to. however, there are tonal inconsistencies. Predominantly, the film tries to be a satire, but sometimes becomes sober and realistic. In the end, it left me in awe of the loudness and boldness of her voice.
As a YouTuber, Maran has been known for his cheeky portrayal of movies, directors, and actors. As a filmmaker, he has stood up to men of all religions and all kinds of politics…and, ultimately, those who wield power. perhaps the greatest value of the film lies in setting a new benchmark when it comes to freedom of expression in Tamil cinema.