SRI BANNARI AMMAN

A movie review by Balaji Balasubramaniam


Cast: Vijayashanthi, Karan, Rajan P. Dev, Laya
Music: T.Rajendar
Direction: Bharathikannan

Whenever a well-known actress takes on the role of the goddess, it is a sure sign that the actress, once a top heroine, is now past her prime. After Ramya Krishnan(Nageswari, Sri Raja Rajeswari), Meena(Paalayathu Amman) and Banupriya(Thaali Kaatha Kaaliamman), it is now the turn of Vijayashanthi to don the greasepaint as one of the avatars of Amman. But her presence is the only attraction in Sri Bannari Amman, which, inspite of not being helmed by Rama. Narayanan, doesn't offer anything new or different from the other Amman movies.

Vaanamaalai(Karan) is a politician determined to win the elections. He seeks the help of a sorcerer(Rajan.P.Dev) who advises him to build a temple for Sri Bannari Amman. But when this doesn't help him win, both Vaanamalai and the priest lose confidence in the goddess and instead, turn to the dark side, trying to invoke the demon Kandasura. Meanwhile the goddess(Vijayashanti) arrives in the village as a medicine woman to thwart their plans. To escape her, Vaanamaalai weds a local dancer Bhavani(Laya), who has earned the goddess' blessings that her husband would not die. But Vaanamaalai succeeds in turning her against the goddess.

With sparingly used graphics and a storyline that is not stuffed with episodes of the goddess helping her devotees through miracles, the movie begins with the promise that it might be better than other recent devotional movies. It is a pleasant surprise to see Vijayashanthi help a villager with the suggestion of woman power rather than a silly, graphics-aided miracle. But this doesn't last long and with the arrival of Laya, the movie reverts to the time tested approach.

Things get real confusing as the movie proceeds with there being no apparent reason for Rajan.P.Dev or Karan to try to eliminate Vijayashanthi. Even the possible suspense about how Karan would be punished when his wife has received that she would die a 'sumangali' is forgotten in the mess. The movie lunges around creating more knots than it can unravel as Laya herself is turned against the goddess and promises on Amman herself that she wouldn't call the goddess to her help. The final portions involve everything needed to drive the devout audience into a frenzy, including a pregnant woman dancing on broken glass!

Vijayashanthi makes a suitable goddess, whether calmly delivering advice or radiating anger at her enemies. Befitting her status as action queen, she also has a fight sequence. Karan, who has become a regular in devotional movies these days, and Rajan.P.Dev are fine as the bad guys. Vadivelu has a comedy track as a thief and a couple of his episodes, especially the one where he meets Vijayashanthi, raise some laughs. Kushboo, Sukanya and Nalini have cameos. T.Rajendar composes the music with suitable songs.