I am amazed at the extremely polarised discussion on Iraivi – an average movie that should have been just passed along like many other Tamil movies that come every week. Iraivi is a story of how men’s decisions in the family affect the lives of women. The center piece of the story is a movie made by Arul (played by SJ Surya) and the producer is not willing to release the movie due to differences with Arul. His brother Jagan (Bobby Simha) and Michael (Vijay Sethupathi) are trying to help Arul to release the movie. Arul resorts to drinking and this affect his wife Yazhini (Kamalini Mukherjee). Meanwhile, Michael gets married to Ponni (Anjali) but cannot forget his affair with Malar (Pooja Devariya), who is a widow. The decisions they make in order to save Arul’s movie affects their wives and rattle their life.
Iraivi has some beautiful moments in it – in fact, the way it starts will actually make you notice how Karthik Subbaraj uses rain to show the emotional state of three women. Rain is used as a leitmotif throughout the movie to show the different emotional states of women and in the end, independence (or is it?). There are some scenes that are really well crafted, Ponni’s outburst at Michael or Yazhini’s helplessness between her love for Arul and the reality or at the end when Arul makes that phone call. And that’s the problem with Iraivi, it impresses you in patches. Iraivi suffers from convoluted story-telling. It makes you wonder why this story need such a meandering screenplay to make a point. It’s like an idiyappam (string hopper) that doesn’t have a start or an end. After the second half, you are left to wonder, “What’s the point”? Yes, the men in the story are male chauvinist pigs and not so surprisingly, Karthik Subbaraj establishes this in the first 40 minutes of the movie. He continues to overindulge with his characters and that doesn’t do any good for the movie. It was almost as if like Karthik wanted to show off his intelligence. The best movies are the ones that allow its characters in their own flow.
I had problems thematically too. Iraivi, the name itself is an issue for me. Most men don’t understand the idea of feminism. I always say we either just try to keep a woman in the pinnacle or drop them as a doormat. The whole movie shows how women are being used as a doormat and suddenly at the end they rise up to become a goddess. It’s the patriarchal way of seeing feminism. Take for instance Malar’s character played by Pooja, she had to be a widow to have casual sex. What if Malar was a single woman and is not interested in marriage? We need a reason for her “so-called” immorality and in a way, the director himself thinks his character is immoral. The same with the characterisation of Yazhini, she accepts the remarriage with someone not because she wishes to but because her family wants to. Why can’t she live alone? Or does she have the choice? The idea of benevolent sexism runs throughout the movie and Bobby Simha’s character is the epitome of that. The movie camouflages this benevolent sexism as feminism and people have bought in to it.
Wait a minute. Why am I talking about this in a review? Why would the people in the Tamil movie industry and literary writers are talking about this average movie? Why haven’t they discussed previous instances of movies that talked about feminism (in many ways)? Why this polarised discussion? Is it because it’s from a movie director who masks himself as the beacon of new wave cinema? I have seen people who don’t even write about Tamil movies writing about this one. Tamil film directors are using exotic adjectives to glorify the movie that is below par in numerous levels. Have you seen the same for Uriyadi? None. Literally, None. What a waste of time and energy.
Iraivi is an average movie that doesn’t need this amount of attention. It should be passed along like any other stupid masala movie – probably talk about the acting prowess of SJ Surya and Anjali or how bad the songs from Santhosh Narayan or random adjectives on the cinematography and editing that the usual reviewers add to their review (although they don’t know anything about it). Iraivi is just worth that much.
A 2/5 for Karthik Subbaraj and I hope he steps down from the high castle.
- What’s with nostalgia indulgence of Karthik Subbaraj – in fact, even those old cars and sets hampered the movie experience. It was novel in Jigarthanda but in Iravi – overdone.
- Unlike the majority, I still consider Karthik Subbaraj as an average director. Pizza was an interesting thriller but Jigarthanda is a mashup of two Korean movies.