Movie Review: ‘Iraivi’ Is Real, Relatable and Disturbing 

Iraivi is written and directed by Karthik Subbaraj.

3 min read
Tamil poster of the film <i>Iraivi. </i>(Photo: Thirukumaran Entertainment)

Karthik Subbaraj, the director of the Tamil film Iraivi, cast the actors he wrote the movie for. And it shows. Just like the director, most of the actors come from a short-film background and are now well-established actors on the Tamil silver screen. But while the other characters perform, SJ Surya comes alive.

For those who came in late (or didn’t come in at all), Surya is an actor, director and musician, whose Vaali (writer and director) and Khushi (writer and director) can be considered flashes of brilliance. Then he got into acting in his own films and spoilt it all.

In a sense, it was as if he was waiting for another director to coax the real actor in him. Iraivi comes 16 years after Khushi, which is arguably the last good film he’s associated with. And it’s worth the wait. There are scenes where he laughs, cries and laughs again in the same shot, delivers philosophical soliloquies and screams enraged. And yet, none of it feels over the top. You get the feeling that that’s how he is in real life.

The movie runs for 2 hours and 45 minutes. I thought I was in for an overlong movie with mid-film-boredom crisis.

I was wrong. It’s not one story. It’s linear only in the timeline of events. It’s almost like a recreation of a chunk of someone’s life. After the anti-climactic ending, one gets the feeling that life for the surviving characters isn’t going to be ‘boringly ever-after’. The tumult is going to continue. There will be rage and there will be blood. And the cycle of betrayal, love, happiness and tragedy is going to continue with unabated virulence.

A screenshot from the film <i>Iraivi</i>. (Photo: Youtube)
A screenshot from the film Iraivi. (Photo: Youtube)

So here’s the thing: There’s extreme emotional upheavals, jail time, three major murders... and all through this, there is no suspension of disbelief. Even the murders you can sort of relate to. There’s a scene between Vijay Sethupathi and Bobby Simha (the two biggest biggies from short-film backgrounds) where the tension is so palpable the cinema hall went silent. My heart was beat-boxing. Anjali performs beautifully in the little screen time she’s given, but the director writes her predictably.

Ego, in the garb of machismo, drives the film. A knee-jerk reaction would be to categorise it as a film about women from a flawed male perspective. Simha reveals as much in his monologue to his comatose mother. But it’s not.

It’s about greed and desire. Everything and everyone is reduced to currency and possession. Even Goddesses. And so the women are bound, gagged and slow-tortured by the men in the film – all mostly figuratively and emotionally. Sex is had with another woman in mind (and vice versa). Loyalty to ‘friendship’ trumps responsibility to one’s family.

But all of the characters, including the women who are victimised, only seek happiness for themselves. And that’s what makes it so real and relatable.

The only downer are the songs. They’re all good, but they just don’t fit. The only exception is Manidhi that plays out in the end credits. The background music though is brilliantly bang on and unpredictable.

Iraivi disturbingly tells you that gender is not based on one’s plumbing. I’m not sure if it’s a weekend watch. It’ll leave a bad taste in your mouth. But do watch it.

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