With an unusual, yet intriguing plot featuring a bevy of talented artists, the movie entertains only in parts, thanks to some of the underwritten characters
A still from the film
Story: A cop asks a four-member gang of thieves to stay in an allegedly haunted palace for a few days to check if the building is possessed by spirits. He, along with his grand father, plans to take over the palace if they find the four of them alive after staying there for a few days.
Review: Tamil cinema has churned out numerous horror-comedies in the past few years, perhaps, more than any other film industry. Going by the trailer of Annabelle Sethupathi, the film comes across as the latest to join the bandwagon. However, director Deepak Sundarrajan, in his recent press interaction, said that the movie is a fantasy comedy, and that there isn't any horror element in it despite having a host of ghosts in the story.
The film begins in 1948 - Kathiresan (Jagapathi Babu), a rich man, is smitten by a huge palace built by King Veera (Vijay Sethupathi) for his wife Annabelle (Taapsee). Veera rejects Kathiresan's request to sell the palace to him in a polite manner, and the latter decides to own it at any cost. After gaining control over the palace, Kathiresan, along with his big family, passes away, but their spirits get stuck on its premises because of an unknown reason.
Cut to 2021, a four-member gang of thieves, including Rudra (Taapsee), her father, mother and brother, gets caught by cop. The officer asks the four of them to stay in the seven decade old palace which is allegedly possessed by spirits. The great grand son of Kathiresan, the cop plans to take over the palace, along with his grandfather, if he finds the four-member family alive even after staying there for a few days. In an unexpected turn of events, Rudra gets to meet the spirits of Kathiresan's big family and Shanmugham (Yogi Babu), who served as a cook at the palace. Will Rudra and family survive?
Haunted spirits, huge palace and Yogi Babu - these are some of the tried-and-tested recipe - in Tamil films in the recent years. However, the filmmaker has added the fantasy aspect here instead of spooky elements, which works only in parts. Though the story looks quite interesting on paper, it lacks conviction in execution not only because of the logical loopholes, but also with regard to conceiving an entertaining screenplay. The director cleverly tries to justify the lack of logic in horror stories through some funny conversations between the spirits, but that doesn't come across as an apt excuse for the bizarre plot.
Having said that, the movie has a few amusing moments, though. Yogi Babu steals the show in comic sequences which has a bevy of seasoned actors, thanks to this one-liners and the situation he is in. Though some of his jokes fall flat, he scores over others and dominate many scenes making others mere spectators.
Taapsee is quite comfortable in the dual roles she plays, and manages to bring noticeable contrast between the two characters. Radhika Sarathkumar and Rajendra Prasad, who is seen as Taapsee's parents, perform in whatever roles are written for them, but the senior actors have only little to contribute to a story like this. The character Jagapathi Babu played is a cakewalk for him, but the senior actor is getting repetitive in terms of his appearance and selection of roles.
Vijay Sethupathi, as the composed King Veera, impresses in the flashback sequence, which is one of the best written episodes in the film. His chemistry with Taapsee and the dialogues between them make us root for their love story, which ends in an unexpected note. Unlike many films, here, the director doesn't resort to sequences in which the protagonist and her look-alike, who lived decades ago, are connected, leading to the latter's spirit entering into the former's soul.
Verdict: The film comes across as a hotchpotch of several movies released in Tamil and other languages. A bevy of talented actors who appear in most of the sequences are left without having scope for showcasing their talent. Goutham George's cinematography is appealing while Krishna Kishor's music holds the film only in a few scenes.
Annabelle Sethupathi is streaming on Disney+ Hotstar.