2018’s Malayalam hit Helen gets a fully faithful remake in Tamil, this time over-sweetened in tone. The father-daughter relationship that forms the core of this survival story is served up with dollops of extra whipped cream. The initial scenes are so treacly and over-cute in a tone I thought I was watching one f those sponsored evangelical heal-the-world films.
Make Mili from Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s film ten times more of an angelic busybody, and we have Anbi (Keerthi Pandian) in this film. She gives medicines to the elderly and even promises to find a boyfriend for an elderly lady who does an awful impersonation of a coy virgin (please give the award for the hammiest performance to the lady).
Abi's rapport with her father verges on the obsessive. He can’t leave her alone for a minute. No wonder she disappears on him.
This is where the film sheds its plastic plumes and gets down to some serious suspense with Anbi accidentally getting locked for the night in a freezer of a mall with only frozen and chicken and live rat for company. The young actress who gets herself into this awful predicament has worked hard on looking panic-stricken and anxious, though she is no patch on the sunny-faced Anna Ben in the original Malayalam film.
There, I said it! We always tend to compare the remake unfavourably, though here I must say the remake is so faithful it renders the process of adaptation irrelevant. Why a scene-by-scene remake when we already have the original available on the streaming platform? Having said that I must admit this Tamil take on the original is not an entire loss. The father and the boyfriend (Praveen Raja)’s frantic night-long frantic search for the missing girl still conveys a sense of panic and urgency although we know exactly how it will culminate.
The cruel apathy of the cop on duty cannot ring false no matter how many times we see it on screen. Also, some of the key rabble-rousing moments from the original are intact. Watch out for a sequence where a jailed criminal in the police station helps a Good Cop to extricate vital information on the missing girl from the Bad Cop.
Also, the way the hostility between Anbi’s father (Arun Pandian) and his daughter’s boyfriend melts as the night of crisis progresses, is convincing. If you have not seen the original then watching this remake is not a bad idea. But if you want to suspend the opportunity to watch Janhvi Kapoor play the same role in Hindi, then give this one a skip.
Directed by Gokul Anbirkiniyal gets 2 and a half stars!
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