Anbe Sivam (Love is God) - Experience the Life-Changing Journey

                          Confrontations about globalization, religious fatalism and compassion, economic disparity in current day India are all some of the themes of this Tamil/Indian movie. It interlocks several themes of our times. 

                           An ad executive has donated a rare group of blood to a wounded young boy, a victim of train accident. The boy dies, despite the doctor's best efforts. The ad guy breaks down on watching these events and outcries, "It is at times like this, I doubt the existence of God." Speaking to his co-traveler, a atheist, he corrects himself saying, "But I am not an atheist like you." The other guy replies, "Who told you i am an atheist?" I believe in God" and points his finger in the direction of his fellow-traveler (to his protests) and states, "You are God. I see God in men who feel the distress for a death of an unknown person." Apart from the above mentioned themes, this single scene sums up the entire philosophy of Kamal Hassan starrer "Anbe Sivam." (2003) At its heart this film twists a phrase "God is Love" to a more humane "Love is God."

                          Indian films are often stereotyped as light entertainment with song and dance. Inspired from the Steve Martin starrer "Planes, Trains and Automobiles", Anbe Sivam is not devoid of the artificial/light entertainment but at the same time grants us a life-changing experience. Anbe Sivam is one of those movies that has marvelously explored the themes of humanity just like the classics "The Great Dictator", "Schindler's List"etc. Kamal Hassan, one of the few unique distinguished film personality of India, may stumble now and then in his choice of roles, but just when he falls into a rut, he often rises like a phoenix. His versatility was showcased once again with a striking impact in this movie. He has transformed himself as Nallasivam, a differently-able person with bruises and a limp, whose sense of humor remains with him through his ups and downs.

         Nalla Sivam (Kamal Hassan) is an trade-union activist, an idealist, a staunch believer of communism, a man suffering from dis-figuration and an human full of love. Anbarasu (Madhavan) is an young upper middle-class ad executive. They both come across when their flight from Bhubaneswar to Chennai is cancelled due to heavy rains. Nalla Sivam is a poor, middle-aged man who talks much and has opinion about everything in life. Anbarasu, who has to be in Chennai in three days for his marriage, finds it as a strange situation with a talkative man.

              The rains and floods forces both to stay in a room which looks less classy according to the standards of Anbarasu. But being habituated in poorer ways of life, Nalla Sivam brushes away these discomforts acts resourcefully. The two guys then start a journey through the widely contrasting lives of India's poor and rich in bus, train, ambulance and taxi. During the journey, Sivam recalls his past love-life, where he functioned as an street artist and activist for workers empowerment and also falls in love with the repressive factory owner's daughter. The story travels with witty exchanges between the maverick and the ad-executive over their disagreements. They disagree just about everything -- God, rich vs poor, consumerism, communism and power of money to name a few.

                  Anbe Sivam was originally planned to be directed by Priyadarshan and later went to the hands of commercial potboiler director Sundar. C, even though every scene shows Kamal's touch. To say that Kamal Hassan's performance is excellent would only seem redundant. His well-defined characters, strong storyline and a intelligent screenplay negates the need for the familiar formula that casts populist heroes as champions of the downtrodden. The script joins slapstick comedy with witty language and wordplay that makes it a thorough laugh amongst the seriousness of the theme.He perpetually reinterprets communism, religion on the whole as love for the fellow human being.       

                  Madhavan's Anbarasu character is a like a tight rope walk. A general Indian movie might have handles him like a villain. Here he has equal screen space and has done the role exceedingly well. Watching the antics of this ad executive, we might feel that it reflects a pinch of character in all of us. Many of us might live the same superfluous life and the way Anbarasu digests and walk thorough the sudden lessons of life is well handled by Madhavan. Then there is a commendable array of technicians- Arthur Wilson with his excellent camera work, Prabahakaran's impressive artwork, especially the train accident set and Sai Suresh's editing- all serve as the pluses for the movie.

                  Cartoonist Madan's dialogues adds a different dimension to this movie. There are many situations where the conversation become serious, like Sivam talks of his father dying in a Tsunami and just when you may feel sad there would be a dose of humor that might completely change our emotions. Madhavan ignores a dog saying it's just another dog. Kamal responds saying turn the word DOG and it results in GOD. These are one of the dialogue with an excellent sense of logical humor. The dialogues on the point of whether MNCs are good for India might ensue a debate within ourselves.

                   Through Sivam Madhan and Kamal contrives communism in a different light, like the response of Sivam to Anbarasu's attack on him that he was trying to live a dead ideology because the greatest monument of it (Soviet Union) has collapsed, Sivam hits back by enunciating, "If Romeos like him will stop loving if the monument of love, Taj Mahal is destroyed." Vidyasagar reached great heights as a composer for this film. Penned by lyricist Vairamuthu, "Nee Naan Sivam" is one of the best and extremely thought-provoking song of Indian cinema.

                   Whether your ideologies are conservative or liberal, left or right, an zealous Kamal fan or not, this deftly interspersed movie is likely to entertain as well as engage you. Like "It's a Wonderful Life", "Shawshank Redemption", Anbe Sivam was a box-office failure, but since then has been appreciated for its laudable message. In this era of globalization, our life style and culture is changing rapidly, but just don't forget that, "Love is God."

Anbe Sivam - IMDb


ராஜ் said...

Nice review...One of my all time favorite movie...but never watched it in theaters... :)

Deepz said...

Loved the review. :)
Anbe sivam is one of the best movies of Kamal Hassan. His love for the medium and unique craftsmanship set him apart from the rest.

Haricharan Pudipeddi said...

I can watch this film any number of times :) Thanks for bringing it up on Kamal's birthday.

Arun Kumar said...

@Raj, Thanks for the comment. I too missed it in theaters, but has seen numerous times since then.

@Deepz, Thanks for the comment. Keep visiting the blog.

@Haricharan, Thanks for the comment.

Dark Knight said...

Very nice review. This movie is one of those movies I never get tired of watching.

Veera said...

Arun ..

Anbe Sivam is a most Influencing and Inspiring Movie ever ... I simply love the way you reviewed this Master piece of Dr.Kamal Hassan but Mr. Nassar too deserve due credit for his brilliant performance .

Anonymous said...

watching ANBE SIVAM?oh what a great masterpiece! happy to the bones as i watch! :) i fell inlove with the indians even more and the culture! this is listed as my 3rd FAVORITE movie of all time! and hey, I AM A FILIPINO:) More power guys!

Unknown said...

great observation for this masterpiece.