Directing a film with ‘no story’ in Kathai Thiraikathai Vasanam Iyakkam and a film with just a single character in Oththa Seruppu Size 7 (remade in Hindi titled as Single Slipper Size 7 starring Abhishek Bachchan), R Parthiban, is a man with out-of-the-box ideas. He doesn’t fail to impress his fans with his one-of-a-kind approach to cinema.
Imagine watching a 90-odd minute theatrical play except that you are watching it on the big screens, not live and you don’t get distracted with backstage movements. Iravin Nizhal offers such an experience in this wild experiment.
Iravin Nizhal (The Shadow of the Night) is a phenomenal addition to Parthiban's unique list of films as it creates history by being the world's first non-linear single-shot film.
The film begins with a making sequence showing the mammoth efforts that went into filming it and the practical difficulties involved to achieve this technical feat. With changing lighting setups, costumes and location shifts, without compromising on the camera focus and the artists’ performances, Parthiban pulls it off to render an immersive experience for the audience.
Mind you, these swift switches have to happen all within the flash of a few seconds and it ain’t just about him, he needs to get the whole set with over 300 workers to toil in unison for his vision, with extreme precision. One wrong move and the film has to be shot all over again. Parthiban proves he is a visual raconteur par excellence in this ambitious project Iravin Nizhal.
The story revolves around Nandhu, a ruthless financier who takes a trip on his memory lane to recount his tragic past, repenting for his heinous crimes and seeking redemption all while he is in the hideout waiting to face off a criminal godman.
Nandhu’s world is built with sexual abuse, drugs, rape, murder, deceit, suicide, swear words and corruption. Growing up in a cruel environment, his life derails one day at a time. The arrival of the women, Lakshmi (Sneha Kumar), Chilakamma (Brigida Saga), Parvathi (Sai Priyanka Ruth), and Premakumari (Varalaxmi Sarathkumar) change him for both good and bad.
We cannot start talking about what worked well in Iravin Nizhal without mentioning production designer RK Vijaimurugan’s brilliantly constructed set and cinematographer Arthur A Wilson’s camera work to capture the frames as is, since it is a single-shot film.
The way every scene is choreographed in order to perfectly capture the rapid fluctuation of emotions - first love, betrayal, anger, depression, acceptance and transformation, all within a restricted location is commendable.
Some of the dialogues in the film like ‘Kuttrathukku thandana iruku, Kuttra unarchikku?’ (There is punishment for your sins, but is there one for your guilt?) are honest, raw and impactful.
There are some fascinating moments where the present-day Nandhu enters into his flashback and screams to his younger self in the past to warn him of the bad event that will take a fatal turn in the future. However, such impactful scenes are few and far between.
Iravin Nizhal has its own share of misses. It is extremely important for the audience to stay indulged in the story, for them to not get lost wondering what was happening.
While swear words and regressive portrayals can be shrugged off as the characterisation of Nandhu who is shown as a sinner, there are places where he is making a change to become better, however, he still utters certain archaic and problematic statements.
Parthiban’s take on rape and rape-related pregnancies are quite sceptical in a way. For instance, there is a scene where Premakumari (Varalakshmi Sarathkumar) explains how traumatic it can feel to nurture the fetus of a rapist. A few scenes later, Nandhu jokes that he raped his wife to make her pregnant. Ironically, the story is about Nandhu who claims to have suffered from being born as an illegitimate child and has experienced sexual abuse himself.
However, AR Rahman’s music is the biggest backbone of the film. ‘Kannethire’ adds soul to an otherwise lifeless protagonist and ‘Kaayam’ in the background score will haunt you for days to come.
Director and the actor in Parthiban outperform the writer in him, in this brilliantly shot but not so engaging Iravin Nizhal.
(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)