Anantham, even in the weaker portions, is thoughtful, inclusive, and shows a lot of heart.

‘If only these walls could talk’

It’s a common phrase, often used to speak of unknown stories. In Priya V’s series Anantham, they do. Well, not literally, but in spirit. Anantham is about the eponymously named house, and the various people and their families who have inhabited it over five decades. It’s a bouquet of stories — a mosaic of emotions. There’s a bit of everything — grief, loss, love, romance, fear, discovery, anger, etc. For some, the house heaps fortunes. And for others, disasters. Its inhabitants are mostly people who society raises their eyebrows at — blind people, unemployed debtors, three single women living together, a gay couple… But the cornerstone of Anantham is acceptance.

For the most part, we live in denial — of our desires, and misgivings. How do we accept our trauma or failure? The film beautifully brings out the biggest paradox of them all — For a lot of us, it is easier to accept strangers who break free of regressive social rules. But we struggle to embrace the same when it happens in our family, with our loved ones.

One of Anantham’s best and most heartwarming moments is when Venkatesan (Prakash Raj) admits that he had failed as a father. “I was so progressive for the world. I supported so many people without reservations. But when you didn’t follow the plan I had for you, you became my enemy,’ says Venkatesan to his son Ananth. It’s a rare insight into the human psyche, an acknowledgement of the founding stone of conservatism. Anantham has several such moments. But it’s a series that’s best watched with an open mind.

With all its hits, it also has its share of misses. Anantham tends to get too melodramatic at times, especially with its ‘house with a life’ concept. The writing is too on-the-nose at several points — Anantham would have definitely benefited from lesser exposition. There are also some leaps of faith the narrative pushes you to take. However, these are punctuated with smaller surprises. It further helps that the series clearly steers away from stereotypical portrayals. Even the more sinister characters are written with nuance — they are grey, not black.

Priya V uses this part hyperlink-part anthology narrative to touch on some heavy themes — domestic violence, mental health, homosexuality, etc. But Anantham stands tall on the shoulders of some terrific performances. It’s the series’ biggest strength. Amrutha Srinivasan is splendid as the articulate, intelligent blind woman Seetha. And then there’s Vinoth Kishen and Vivek Rajagopal who melt your heart with their vulnerability. I also loved Vinothini’s trademark nonchalant humour. And then there’s the ever-dependable Prakashraj and Sampath. It’s really tough to pick a favourite. The series also probably has most sensitive representation of a queer relationship in mainstream Tamil cinema. How refreshing it is to see two men with bulging biceps be so vulnerable, and treat each other with such tenderness!

Anantham is not perfect. Its murals are often cut into by snakey cracks. It ends on a cliffhanger that feels forced. But even in the weaker portions, the film is thoughtful, inclusive, and shows a lot of heart. For that, my love for Anantham is infinite.

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By akagami

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