Synopsis: A family of thieves is forced to stay in a palace that is believed to be haunted. Will they become the latest victims of the ghosts?
Movie Review: At the outset, let’s make it very clear that Annabelle Sethupathi is not your typical pei padam. Even though the film involves ghosts, a palace and a bunch of comedians, it is not a horror comedy, like the Aranmanai franchise. In fact, the ghosts in the place are actually ones looking for salvation. In fact, they are ghosts who do not want to scare away the people who enter their place!
At a conceptual level, this is an interesting take to have for a film with ghosts, and the rest of Annabelle Sethupathi, too, has many ideas that are good on paper. An extraordinary palace that has been built by experts from different continents. A ghost who prepares a feast. A protagonist who has past-life regressions, but isn’t too bothered by them. An antagonist who is a clueless ghost. A romance between two individuals who are from different cultures and speak different languages. The extravagant lifestyle of the kings of the yesteryears. A climax that doesn’t involve the clichéd ghost-getting-its-revenge idea.
However, the trouble is that all these remain exciting only as ideas. The film is filled with flatly-directed scenes that lack the rhythm that comedy needs. It relies solely on the actors, who are sporting enough to act ridiculously, to make the scenes funny. Take the scene in which Rajendra Prasad, who plays one of the thieves, prances around a room with a sword thinking he is all alone. Unfortunately for him, Chetan and Devadarshini, who are ghosts, happen to be in the very same room, and seeing him with a sword, Chetan, who was royalty when he was alive, decides to join him. But all that Rajendra Prasad can see is a sword fighting him on its own. He runs away in panic, and Chetan, realising that he has scared the guy, runs after him, apologising for scaring him. But all that the former can see is a sword that's after him, which only doubles his fear. This is something that should have been instantly funny on screen, but going by the way it is directed, it only comes across as childish.
Unfortunately, much of the humour in the film is of this kind. Perhaps, the idea was to make the film appeal to kids, like the Muni franchise, which, despite its faults, also has strong melodrama to ensure that the adults are engaged as well. Here, in trying to keep things light at all times, the director takes away every hint of drama, so even tragic moments do not affect us as they should.
Things get somewhat better in the second half, with Vijay Sethupathi and Taapsee making a broadly written romance work. Plus, the actors are in good form. Radikaa Sarathkumar gets to channel Yogi Babu in a scene and it is fun to see the veteran act in a comic role. While he has been funnier in many films, Yogi Babu manages to make us chuckle a few times with his one-liners and anchors the motley bunch of supporting actors. The director smartly uses this character to lend a self-aware vibe to the film, commenting on the horror movie tropes that we come across in our films. In the end, you feel like having watched a film in which the cast and crew seem to have had fun making it.