Saturday, May 29, 2004

Ammoru: A Retrospective

If you were wondering where exactly this mythical "eastern slant" is, lets kick it off here....

AMMORU (India, 1995)

AMMORU manages to combine all the usual Bollywood pre-occupations (marriage, familial bonds, hinduism) with an amazingly wild mythological fantasy storyline, some great CGI special effects, and quality production, to form one of the most interesting films to come out of India in a long time.

The prologue, as we watch a Shiva-style goddess become Ammoru, the protector of a village, sets the tone well, with the actress giving an engaging Brigitte Lin style performance. Unfortunately, she has little else to do for much of the film.

The central drama concerns a girl who witnesses an evil sadhu attempting to bury a virgin alive, in a bid to gain magical power and riches. The sadhu's mother, unhappy he has been jailed for life, vows to get her revenge on the girl, and proceeds to make her life a misery. This first half of the film works well, with great performances by the evil family, and the special mystical effects used sparingly but effectively.

It shifts tone for the second half, with Ammoru manifesting herself as a child to save the girl, and the sadhu himself being released early and seeking his own revenge. The film eventually begins to submit to standard Bollywood conventions, but redeems itself by upping the fright-factor and the crazy special effects, and bringing back the original adult incarnation of Ammoru to kick some ass!

AMMORU will be of interest to world viewers, as it gives a fascinating insight into the strange culture of southern India, a world where demons, goddesses walk among us as avatars, and it manages to do it without resorting to lowest-common-denominator movie-making as in 99.9% of the other movies coming from the sub-continent.

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