It would be a dark and stormy night, many members assemble in a decadent mansion; there is murder; a shot in the dark, a cry for help; a fallen man, multiple suspects and one relentless detective.
I spent school reading Agatha Christie alone, to be specific I believed in Poirot and his little grey cells. Much of what I would read till today would be based on the foundation that Christie had so neatly cemented. She poured her fears into those novels each and every time.
Unknown to dame Christie herself, I was introduced to the genre before reading the books.
The growth of Tamil film programming esp Sun TV and Raj TV is not yet documented with flourish as much as the numerous early Doordarshan tributes onets to read once in a while. These channels brought to my screen movies old and middle age; that serve as my reservoir of knowledge and help me get by in daily life. I watched Vikram before the Bond films; Devar films before Disney films and led to many flash in the pan moments like when I realized that the Karthik movie ‘Charkravathy’ had much in common with Carol Reed’s ‘The Third Man’; it even goes a little further than the original by making Goundamani the villain in the final act. And so it goes.
It was one of those nights when the mysterious but now familiar voice announced “Digil Vaaram” (Thriller Week) and the shadowy voice of Major Sundarrajan boomed out of the screen advising me against sharing the ending of the movie to others who haven’t seen; naturally I folded hands and legs and watched. The film was Athey Kangal.
In some dark corner of Bangalore, stands a haunting yet inhabited house. Movement, there is movement in the hallway and a door is opened; lighting shows us that it is the face of a lady ready to go out, there she finds her husband; brilliantly showed in shadow.
Now that the first murder has been announced, the draught board is unveiled with each of the characters taking their place and each having their own involved back stories; including a beautiful girl (Kanchana) who along with her friends have come to the garden city with hope to do some social service; it is not exactly what a contemporary female activist would expect.
Kanchana’s suitor is played by Ravichandran a jazz singer at a hotel; a rather unusual choice of profession for a protagonist, even more so considering the subject matter of the film. But then it reasons out well, when the party breaks out into songs once in a while.
But the most intriguing/shocking aspect of the film is the murderer itself; the one with those red eyes who also lends his eyes to the title but also his voice to threat calls which propel this story forward, on viewing the movie recently; these parts created the tension for I already knew what was happening on screen.
“Considering those times” is a phrase I hate to use, you have no idea how I hate it. It is the complete embodiment of how lowly we look back at our past and at a maker who took the pains to make an engaging film and honest as he much as he(A.C.Trilokchander) could. Athey Kangal respects the viewer, gives him/her clues, doesn’t leave loose strings and never confuses. It even takes the time to take itself quite lightly too, in the form of songs and Nagesh who plays the friend who impersonates an Anglo Indian wife. It also manages to scare a bit. It is in every bit a mystery film, something Christie would have loved. <Speculating>
Respecting Major Sundarajan’s request, I will not divulge what happens henceforth. But there is one parting tip, when you know it is the killer calling; pick up the phone and say, “hello”.
- The subplot involving Nagesh was then drawn out into what I feel is a fully horrible feature film called “Aan Azhagan”, yes you guessed it right; it did star Top Star Prashant.
- Vedha, Athey Kangal’s music director reimagined(to use the intellectual term)or copied(and other unsavory words) the James Bond theme at key points in the film.