Anand Shankar’s Enemy, after an elaborate and promising start, fizzles out after its leading men, Vishal and Arya, are introduced
The first half hour of Enemy, directed by Anand Shankar, has a promising prologue. It reminded me of Ullasam as it involves two fathers and their respective schoolgoing sons.
Ramalingam (played by Thambi Ramiah) is so cautious about his son, Chozha, that he puts the coconut inside a small sackcloth bag before breaking it in a temple, lest a piece of shell pierces his son’s eye. His mockers even give him the moniker ‘Risk’ Ramalingam. His risk-averseness is not merely a gimmick. Anand, who has also written the film, provides a solid reason for why he is the way he is.
Meanwhile, Ramalingam’s newly moved in neighbour, Paari (Prakash Raj), is a retired cop who has overcome assassination attempts and suffered bullet injuries. Paari wants his son, Rajeev, to be strong, bold and brilliant and thus trains him to be a cop. The training includes solving 4 by 4 cubes, low-plank-crawls under an obstacle and other exercises. When young Rajeev complains of pain during the plank crawl, Paari adds more weight on his back. “You should learn to endure pain. Only then can you overcome your enemies,” he tells his son.
Chozha, meanwhile, imbibes Paari’s lessons secretly from next door. He even flicks one of the many cubes and solves it overnight. Ramalingam because he wants his son to stay away from risks. And, Rajeev, because Chozha is better than him. He dislikes Paari praising him more.
Anand takes about half an hour for this setup, even if it delays the introduction of the stars — Vishal and Arya. The writing is layered too. It is the story of two single fathers wanting their sons to be like themselves. There is also jealously brewing within Rajeev because his father appreciates Chozha more than him. At this point, a mysterious murder separates the two boys.
- Cast: Vishal, Arya, Thambi Ramaiah, Prakash Raj, Mamta Mohandas, and more
- Director: Anand Shankar
- Storyline: How jealousy turns a boyhood competition into a life-and-death rivalry
This was a solid setup for a cat-and-mouse game between Chozha and Rajeev (at least that is what the trailer and the title promised).
But, like a Deepavali firecracker that sparks for a long time, raising our anticipation, only to fizzle out, the film starts to fumble after this promising build-up.
Anand manages to keep us guessing on a few occasions. For instance, just as we predict the film to be a game of oneupmanship between a cop and a thief, we are proven wrong.
But soon after the main stars of Enemy, Vishal and Arya, appear on screen, the film starts its descent. By now, Vishal looks after a supermarket in Singapore with his father. But he is also proficient in hacking, superb in hand-to-hand combat, and is an excellent marksman. If the Avengers were recruiting in Singapore, he would have been a frontrunner.
Arya, meanwhile, has become one of the world’s deadliest assassins. Despite the muscles, Arya lacks the menace of a deadly assassin. Even when he threatens to kill a bunch of children, he evokes neither fear nor anger. The women in the movie, Mamta Mohandas and Mirnalini Ravi, hardly have anything to do.
The writing also slackens after the setup. Anand brings into the plot the problems of Tamil migrants and Indo-China politics for reasons little known to us.
Despite the implications of protagonists being geniuses, none of their acts to outdo each other is particularly clever. Maybe that is why, in the end, they abandon brains for brawn and settle their scores over a bloody brawl.