Khateja Qureshi | Published On: Oct, 20, 2022 | 07:20 AM
In one of the early scenes, a girl child tells Ammu (Aishwarya Lekshmi), who is about to get married to Ravi (Naveen Chandra as a cop), that the groom-to-be really scares her and her friends. Director Charukesh Sekar makes it feel like a normal exchange between the protagonist and a child. But, if you think of it, it is an unconventional way of foreshadowing Ravi’s character. Usually, filmmakers fall back on time-tested, obvious tropes to establish a bad guy. ‘Ammu’, doused in rare sensibilities, thinks beyond – in multiple ways.
Ammu and Ravi start their marital life on a feel-good note. There is nothing that the housewife can complain about. Ravi is a passionate and empathetic police inspector. If you haven’t watched the film’s trailer, you would have no reason to suspect him; you and Ammu would be in the same boat. But Ravi slowly starts baring his fangs, spurting toxicity all of a sudden. There comes a point when Ammu can’t put up with domestic violence anymore and decides to call it quits, only to gaslight herself. But then, her plans change when she bumps into a criminal on parole, played by Bobby Simha.
Ammu forgetting to bring lunch for her husband becomes the starting point of the marital discord. If you think the barrage of abuses Ravi throws at Ammu is all because she forgot to bring him lunch in time on just one day, you are mistaken. The film doesn’t do a character study or offer expositions on the dynamics of a toxic relationship. Rather, it expects the viewer to understand that men like Ravi exist everywhere and there is no need to explain their malignant nature. So, Ravi is not a drunkard. He is not an evil person exploiting the system; far from it, he is the kind of cop women would be proud of.
Ravi is one of those slice-of-life men who fake non-existent angst. At times, he tries to sound like a victim, duplicitously subjecting Ammu to insults in others’ presence. Relationship experts say that a lot of toxic relationships begin with one person hurling insults at the other one in the form of ‘jokes’. It could be a female person. It could be a male person.
Ammu’s psychology is tapped into at regular intervals. When she says “He loves me” about her husband, she could well be reflecting the thinking of millions of wives. Ravi’s mind games, the unpretentious references to realities like social conditioning, and the assertion of rights over one’s body have been done without over-dramatization.
Bobby Simha’s character could have been etched in a more fascinating way, though. Aishwarya Lekshmi, who was recently seen as the boatwoman in ‘Ponniyin Selvan-I’, is brilliant. She reflects her character’s little joys and profound sorrows so well. Telugu actor Naveen Chandra is extremely talented and he proves it once again. With this, he could well become a sought-after artist in Kollywood.
‘Ammu’ may not work as a plot for many, but it definitely works as a drama that outgrows the male-centric narratives spun by regular movies. There was a time when our family dramas used to shame wives for the sins of the husbands; the burden of keeping the family intact supposedly lied only on the woman. ‘Ammu’ debunks regressive thinking without being preachy anywhere. Watch it!