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Film / Anjali

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Anjali is a Tamil language movie, made in 1990, which was submitted to the Oscars for consideration for “Best Foreign Film”. It tells the story of Anjali, a girl born with a congenital brain defect, whose family initially struggles to accept her, but eventually do.

Shekhar is a civil engineer working on heavy construction projects. His wife Chitra is a stay at home mom to son Arjun and daughter Anu. They are expecting their third child Anjali to be born, but complications arise when Chitra is wheeled into surgery for a C-section. Later, Shekhar announces that Anjali was stillborn. Although his wife and kids are devastated by this, they recover quickly.

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Three years later, the family has moved on. They are comfortably settled into an upper middle class life in an apartment complex full of other families, so Arjun and Anuhave lots of friends. The kids spend their days playing, singing and dancing. However, the kids catch Shekhar sneaking off with some woman while lying to the family about being away on business. After Chitra threatens to leave Shekhar and take the kids over his perceived infidelity, he reveals the truth.

Anjali wasn’t stillborn, but was born with a congenital terminal brain defect. She wasn’t expected to live beyond two months. In order to spare his family the trauma of watching the baby suffer and die, he lied about a stillbirth so they’d grieve and move on faster. But Anjali has miraculously survived into a developmentally challenged toddler. After visiting her in a clinic where she’s been all this while, an overjoyed Chitra agrees to bring Anjali home. However, things don’t go quite as smoothly. Due to her mental disability, Anjali fails to form a maternal bond with Chitra, much to the latter’s chagrin, and is disliked by her siblings for not being a normal child they can play with. She does however bond with her father, and the ex-con neighbor everyone is scared of. After a horrible prank is played on her by the other kids in the apartment, Arjun stands up for her and gets teased and beaten in the process. This however strengthens the bond between him and Anjali. When he later threatens to fight and thrash anyone who teases Anjali, the other kids and Anu, slowly come to accept her too. This worries the other parents who worry that Anjali’s strange mannerisms will rub off on their children too. They give Shekhar and Chitra an ultimatum - institutionalize Anjali or leave the co-op apartment complex. The ex-con however shames them, claiming that Anjali showed him more human decency than they ever did. Scared of him, the other parents back down.

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Eventually all the people come to accept and adore Anjali. She still hasn’t bonded with her mother yet. But just the night after, she suffers a stroke and starts convulsing uncontrollably. Can she survive this?

A side story revolves around a construction materials scam Shekhar uncovers at his project. Then he witnesses a murder. Then threats are made against him and his family.

  • Adult Fear: The baby of the family suffers a stroke and consequently gets brain damage from hypoxia. At he same time, the entire family is targeted by organized crime.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: Why the ex-convict stands up for Anjali when the other tenants in the co-op threaten to have her institutionalized.
  • Death of a Child: Anjali suffers a fatal stroke and dies in the end.
  • Downer Beginning: Movie begins with Anjali’s apparent stillbirth.
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  • Downer Ending: See the above entry for Death of a Child.
  • The Dreaded: The ex-convict living in the apartment building, played by action star Prabhu.
  • He Knows Too Much: Shekhar is targeted by a gang that was running construction materials racket, because as an engineer he figured out their scheme to bid high but use substandard materials and pocket the difference. He then witnessed them murdering someone to cover their tracks.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: Chitra suspects Shekhar of having an affair. He was actually meeting with Anjali’s doctor and sneaking off to spend time with his little girl.
  • Oh, Crap!: When Anjali suffers a stroke and starts convulsing.
  • Oscar Bait: The movie was conceived as such and submitted for consideration for Best Foreign Film.
  • Please Wake Up: Anu, when Anjali won’t wake up, having died in her sleep.
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