Annabelle Sethupathi movie review: Vijay Sethupathi, Taapsee Pannu in a tolerable horror-comedy

Annabelle Sethupathi feels tolerable because of its self-aware nature and the way it subverts horror-comedy tropes.

Of all the horror-comedy films in Tamil cinema so far, Annabelle Sethupathi redeems itself by being tolerable. As Yogi Babu’s character points out in the film, there is nothing new it is offering. Debutant director Deepak Sundarrajan has subverted the overused tropes of Tamil cinema’s horror-comedy genre, sans noise and cringe dialogues.

The film opens in the 1940s. We meet Jagapathi Babu, an aristocrat, falling in love with a palace built by his equal Veera Sethupathi (played by Vijay Sethupathi). Sethupathi constructed the palace as an expression of his love for his wife Annabelle (Taapsee Pannu), a Brit. Jagapathi’s character is a megalomaniac and he desires to own the architectural wonder. Sethupathi refuses kindly and you can already guess what might have happened next.

Cut to the present day, we meet Rudhra (Taapsee again). She is a member of a family of thieves and ends up in Sethupathi’s palace, which is now owned by Jagapathi Babu’s family. The beautiful palace wears a desolate look as anybody who stays in the castle during a full-moon night dies mysteriously and becomes a ghost. The catch is the ghosts are trapped in the palace and hence they can’t attain salvation.

Shanmugam (Yogi Babu) was a palace cook who died over 70 years ago and is the quasi-leader of the aristocratic ghosts. He believes that a person who survives a full-moon night in the palace will help them go to the light. Entre, Rudhra, who looks exactly like Annabelle.

Annabelle Sethupathi is a self-aware film, and few things underlines this as well as its treatment of Yogi Babu. Insulting Yogi Babu’s looks is being passed off as humour in Tamil cinema these days. The film seemingly makes a conscious effort not to do so. His character is treated with respect by people he served when he was alive and goes on to become their leader in the ghostly realm.

And then, there is Vijay Sethupathi’s performance with Taapsee. In a way, it looks more like Sethupathi’s demonstration as to how to treat women, done in the public interest and less like a performance. But, still, it strikes a chord. Especially his final moments with Annabelle.

Annabelle Sethupathi is streaming on Disney Plus Hotstar.

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