Tamil filmmakers in the US seem to think that only thrills sell. So after Meiporul
, we now get another thriller Achamundu Achamundu
, which is also directed by a first-time director from the US and is fully set in that country. It has a less ambitious story and its director seems more comfortable handling drama than thrills but the far better production values result in a more satisfying film overall.
Senthil(Prasanna) and Malini(Sneha), along with their 10-year-old daughter, have just moved into a new house in New Jersey. While Senthil works at an IT firm, Malini is a housewife and has also enrolled in some computer classes to deal with her boredom. The couple hire a painter Robertson(John Shea) to paint their basement but he has an evil side that directly impacts the couple's life.
Arun paints a nice, plausible picture of the life of a Tamil couple in the US. The quick friendship from a chance encounter in a grocery store, the lament of a friend's parent at a birthday party - vignettes like this ring true and make the film realistic. And on a smaller level, the conversations between Prasanna and Sneha(about her feeling lonely) and the disagreements they have(like over their daughter sleeping in her own room) are over uniquely American issues. There is enough time spent on them, allowing them to become nicely fleshed-out characters rather than being treated as building blocks for the thriller portions.
But the problem is that it is easy to guess from the beginning - from the film's name itself or when we see the name painted in bold, bright red brushstrokes during the opening credits - that this is a thriller. So the relaxed look at the life led by Prasanna and Sneha works only until the film takes a turn into thriller territory, which happens when we learn the truth about Shea. But even after that point, the film doesn't develop the urgency and tension that are requisite for a thriller. It continues to show us the life of Prasanna and Sneha and we get glimpses of the kind of person Shea is but the intersection of the two, which is clearly what the film is moving towards, doesn't happen for a long time.
Shea's motives and acts here are more sinister than terrorizing, kidnap or even murder. So while all the violence does occur offscreen, some of the otherwise ordinary acts, like admiring a photo or playing a harmless game, do take on a different, creepy tone and get under our skin. And some of his overt acts, like the time he spends in his target's bedroom, do get downright disturbing. A wolf in sheep's clothing is always scarier than a wolf in plain sight and with his pleasant, likeable exterior and dark, perverted mind, Shea is exactly that.
The climax, when it does come, is a bit contrived since Shea changes his MO in a rather unbelievable manner. His unguarded behavior is in contrast to his quiet, unobserved acts until then and seems like something brought in to wrap things up easily. It is also too low-key to both justify the long, slow build-up and overlook the contrivance. The proceedings lack the drama associated with the final moments of a thriller but then again, for that very reason, they also seem more realistic.
Prasanna looks the part and turns in a measured, mature performance. Same goes for Sneha though its less of a surprise in her case. The two exhibit a nice, casual chemistry that helps the realism. Shea is convincing as the bad guy with a smile that changes from sincere to creepy as the movie proceeds. There are only a couple of songs and Kannil Dhaagam...
is instantly appealing.