YouTuber Blue Sattai Maran made a name for himself by skewering Tamil movies. When Elamaran’s movie, Anti Indian, was released, it was expected trolls would take delight in skewering it. But Maran has come out relatively unscathed with his dignity intact.
Given his record of rubbishing everything, Maran had to walk the razor’s edge, which he has done carefully. By taking no sides and by being an equal opportunity critic of all positions and everybody, Maran’s Anti Indian succeeds.
Anti Indian talks about Badshah, born to a Muslim father and a Hindu mother. Badshah who makes a living drawing political graffiti on walls is murdered when the constituency where he lives is facing by-elections. Controversy erupts over how his death rites should be performed. The local mosque turns away his body since Badshah was never circumcised and had not followed Islam’s tenets.
His uncle, a Hindu, takes him to a crematorium whose staff refuse to take his body since his name was Badshah. Then someone suggests that Badshah’s mother had converted to Christianity a few years ago, so a church could be approached.
As the controversy heats up, police protection is given. The local tahsildar intervenes to keep the peace.
By taking no sides and by being an equal opportunity critic of all positions and everybody, Maran’s Anti Indian succeeds.
At this point, a back story is told. The ruling party was in danger of losing the elections. And the police were asked to ensure that didn’t happen. The ruckus over Badshah’s death rites raises the possibility of the elections being canceled.
Anti Indian is an expose of all stakeholders in power. Criticism of one stakeholder in and of itself would trigger a controversy. Credit must be given to Maran that he had the courage to direct his guns at everyone without preaching. Maran doesn’t say here’s how things must be, ideally.
Anti Indian features all the debates, points of view, and analysis on media including social media. It presents a snapshot of public life today. Anti Indian does not shy away from boldly talking about things that are still taboo in public discourse.
Anti Indian is remarkable in the sense that no one is spared. Screenplay norms demand that there should be a protagonist and an antagonist. The villain has to be bad for the hero to be good. For Anti Indian, the hero is the audience. All the characters have their strengths as well as weaknesses. A mother who is sitting by her son’s dead body sends across her Voter ID to collect the cash that is being distributed to bribe voters. By taking no sides and by being an equal opportunity critic of all positions and everybody, Maran’s Anti Indian succeeds.
Credit must be given to Maran that he had the courage to direct his guns at everyone without preaching. Maran doesn’t say here’s how things must be, ideally
In Chennai, people sing and dance during funerals. The singing and dancing builds up as time passes and often starts to become an attention-drawing performance. The themes of these songs veer away from the solemnity of the occasion. In Anti Indian, the funeral songs turn to love and romance themes.
If a movie stands for someone or something it has to deride or put down someone else. This is common in Tamil films and invites opposition from one section of society. Anti Indian attacks everyone. Movies critical of social trends are forced to take a stand on at least a few issues. Anti Indian tries not to take any stand.
Anti Indian does slip occasionally. For instance, Badshah’s body eventually gets a Muslim burial, which can seem to take a stand. The death rituals of one religion are shown as going against the religion’s own principles, shifting the balance against that religion just that little bit.
While the title of the film promises that the theme will be subversive, it hints that the true anti-Indians are those in power and those with religious authority who create disorder in society and perpetrate injustice. Recent movies have been critical of the judiciary but Anti Indian spares the judiciary barring a reference to delays in settling religious issues in court.
Anti Indian has its flaws, especially in the technical aspects. It takes a generous cinematic license by ignoring the norm that bodies need to be supported by proper documents before they can be buried or cremated. Another license is the dead Badshah turning to the camera and speaking. The background score could have been handled better, too.
Elamaran has, however, taken care to avoid all the faults he found in other films. Anti Indian reinforces his reputation of being a muckracker. It has created a flutter.