I Ahmed’s Iraivan faces an issue that this new age of content demands us to be aware of; the film is testimony to the fact that the shelf-life of ideas is shrinking and that you always need to be a step ahead of others.
In recent years, we have seen a fair share of psycho-thrillers that successfully piggybacked on the comeback of the genre, thanks to Raatsasan. But the problem with Iraivan, a pure-genre psycho-thriller starring Jayam Ravi and Nayanthara — releasing almost a year after it wrapped production — is that we got a surprise hit in the meantime withPor Thozhil, a film that shares a tad too many similarities with Iraivan.
The comparisons will be unavoidable and quite unfortunate for Ahmed’s film as he seems to have had a really earnest psychopath story to tell, one that stands apart in its over-arching theme; about how power corrupts men to play god. Assistant Commissioner Arjun (Jayam Ravi) cannot wait for God to serve justice, so, he doesn’t even wince when he puts down criminals in his illegal encounter spree. As he himself admits to in the very first shot (a simple, sobering entrance), Arjun is fearless and lacks empathy for those he believes are rotten, and Ravi plays Arjun with a straight face and soulless eyes. Before you squirm and hesitate to know further, given the history of cinema glorifying police encounters, Arjun admits he’s not a good guy and we do get a pay-off later.
Director: I Ahmed
Cast: Jayam Ravi, Nayanthara, Rahul Bose, Narain
Runtime: 154 minutes
Storyline: A psychopath kills 20 young women in Chennai and wreaks havoc as an angry cop named Arjun prepares for a difficult manhunt
Arjun pays heed to only Andrew (Narain), his best friend and colleague, the only voice of consciousness, someone who is constantly worried about what Arjun’s actions could bring upon them and their loved ones. Andrew, aware that the path Arjun has chosen is unredeemable, doesn’t hesitate to break the heart of his sister Priya (Nayanthara) who wants to marry Arjun.
Life goes on until a truly gruesome psychopathic killer called Bhramma a.k.a The Smiley Man (played by a brilliant Rahul Bose) enters the scene with a bone-chilling sequence. He abducts, dreadfully tortures, and kills 20 young women within a short period of time. The city is on high alert and women are petrified to step out… but worry not as Arjun manages to nab the killer. Oh wait, worry more as things take a wild turn when the nutjob mysteriously escapes his asylum and turns more monstrous than before.
Much of what follows next is the standard psycho-investigative thriller; this includes ridiculous writing we have seen before, like when the hero proves he’s all brawn but no brain by giving away his presence in a situation that needs stealth.
However, Iraivan almost comes into its own after the halfway mark, thanks to some really well-written twists in store. A scene that has Brahmma explaining the value of life in our world is superb. But once again, the script struggles to tie it all together, and if not for the climax, the final stretch would have undone any good that the film worked hard to build.
Meanwhile, Ahmed and the producers deserve credit for the casting, as even the actors who just appear in a scene or two leave a lasting impression, most noteworthy of them being Charle as a doting father and a pathologist who conducts post-mortems. Rahul Bose deserves more for all he brings to the table, especially since there is another actor in the film who comes close to stealing his thunder. For Jayam Ravi though, this is a rather dull outing.
The film alsoprofits from how uniquely it builds its world, and the cinematography by Hari K Vedantam (who surprisingly gets a tribute as Ashish Vidyarthi’s character is named after him), as well as the colour grading, play a vital role in immersing us in this gnarly world.
For all that it promises initially, Iraivan should have worked — it had the barebones to become a landmark psycho-thriller — but the writing and the amateur handling of elementary genre tropes work against itself. That, and the timing of its release.
Iraivan is currently running in theatres