Director: Lakshmy Ramakrishnan
Cast: Lakshmy Ramakrishnan, Subbu Lakshmi
Director-actor Lakshmy Ramakrishnan’s third film in as many years, Ammani, despite notable performances, suffers from a structural pitfall. The title character, Ammani, played by an 80-something Subbu Lakshmi, is only seen in fits and starts during the first half of the 92-minute movie. It was later, as it appeared to me, that Ramakrishnan (who also essays the 57 year old Salamma) realised that she had to give screen space to the elderly lady -- who certainly steals the show from Ramakrishnan, who like so many director/actors has this fascination to keep the camera on herself. Not that she is bad. In fact, she is splendid as a civic worker on the verge of retirement.
Widowed at an early age, Salamma sweeps her way through to raise her three children -- a daughter and two sons. While Salamma’s relationship with her daughter is estranged, she does not hesitate to send her grown up son to try and get his grandmother’s retirement money. Which is a paltry Rs two lakhs plus with almost the entire amount having to be given away to a money lender. But this does not deter her grandson or Salamma’s two sons and their wives from eyeing the money. One of the sons is a wasting drunkard, while the other drives an autorickshaw, having taken a loan for it in the hope of repaying it from his mother’s little booty.
With the family squabble taking centre stage for much of the narrative -- with a liberal show of poverty and angst -- Ammani, also a widow and who happens to live in Salamma’s dilapidated home, goes about collecting empty plastic bottles at night and sells them. We find later that the old woman has collected quite a pie -- which again becomes a point of lure for the grandson, sons and their wives.
Often, Ammani’s plot resembles a lecture in morals, and familial tiffs and the grab-money lines has been the subject of many films. Ramakrishnan’s work, as such, has nothing novel to write home about. But, yes, the performances of the two women are marvellous -- one with her mischievous twinkle in her eye and a never-say-die attitude, and the other weighed down by remorse and regret seeing the utter selfishness in her children. Some catchy lines, but they do not lead to a believable climax.