Annabelle Sethupathi (Annabelle Rathore in Hindi)
Director: Deepak Sundarrajan
Cast: Vijay Sethupathi, Taapsee Pannu
Annabelle Sethupathi tries to evoke curiosity in the viewer from the very first scene. A weird plot of a bunch of ghosts caught in a beautiful palace unfolds, without much logic why they are locked in there and cannot leave. Equally nonsensical is the one uncertain solution there is to their predicament. I am still trying to get over the ridiculousness of the story, so I’ll try to summarise it the best I can.
The plot borrows from the oft-repeated trope of old haunted palaces, reincarnation and unsatisfied spirits. A modern-day Indian reincarnation of a British woman (Taapsee Pannu) from the 1940s enters the palace that was built for her by a king (Vijay Sethupathi), is confronted by a bunch of ghosts whom only she can see and who think she is their ticket to salvation.
The director’s assumption that this was a film worth making is as baffling as the decision to cast Taapsee in both her British and Indian characters. In her fancy fedoras and floral dresses, she resembles a model for a spring-summer fashion line than a woman from 1945. Vijay Sethupathi, who makes an entry in the second half, looks like a badly dressed north Indian groom in most frames. Costumes are key to establishing a period and the maker’s lack of attention to this detail, among many others, is a clear indication of a job done without dedication.
Despite the drama centered around a ‘magnificient palace’, there’s nothing much to write home about production design. The film’s look and feel is that of a school play with visibly blunt swords, cheap props and a bunch of adult actors who actually run around like children.
Horror comedies are in vogue across film industries and some watchable ones have been made recently. The title of Annabelle Sethupathi borrows from a Hollywood horror film, which is also mentioned in a dialogue. There are comic scenes, there’s romance, but horror? A sum total of one jump scare.
The one baffling question that remains unanswered at the end of the 2:14 hour run, was why would actors of Vijay Sethupathi and Taapsee Pannu’s caliber, choose to star in a film as inane as this? The emotions invoked in the romantic scenes between them, mostly owing to Vijay’s restrained performance, is completely nullified by meaningless chase sequences and slapstick humour in most parts.
Jagapathi Babu is a powerful presence as a quiet, but heartless villain, and his story is expected to continue in Part 2. Yogi Babu as the all-purpose masterchef carries the film on his shoulder majorly. His dialogues might have better impact in Tamil, but you know what Hindi dubs of south films sound like. Apart from that possible loss in translation, there’s nothing to miss if you skip this flick.