Iraivi- Movie Review by Ram Anand

Iraivi isn’t about bonding. It is about unbonding. It is about rain, and getting drenched in it. The film starts with the shots of three women- a young school girl dreaming about the man she will marry, an educated woman hoping her marriage will be different than other marriages, and an old woman complaining about her husband’s neglect of her.

A protagonist of Iraivi, Michael, learns about the feelings that his friend had harboured for his wife all along, and true to the stereotype of men, he stutters his way into asking his wife if she reciprocated his friend’s feelings and if she had slept with him.

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It starts raining, and his wife, the simple village girl with that simple village girl name, Ponni, darts outside to take off the clothes that he had put out to dry earlier. She is yet to answer the question.
“Enna, padithiya ne kekeriya?” she looks at him with such self righteousness that his male ego suddenly wilts. Without drawing up a list, she subtly points to him how she had remained quiet about him having affairs with other women.
He hugs her, and attempts to stammer his way into coaxing an answer.
“Whatever questions you are going to ask me, I will not answer them.” Once in a generation, you get a filmmaker like this- bold, adventurous, and running an unflattering commentary on the chauvinistic fabric of the Indian society.
And then the filmmaker puts that voice into the character that represents most of the women in the Indian society- who store their dreams away and throw away the keys, allowing their lives to defined by the actions of the men they are bonded to.
It is that voice that says she is not answerable to him, not after the way she had constantly uprooted herself for his sake.
Iraivi isn’t about bonding. It is about unbonding. It is about rain, and getting drenched in it. The film starts with the shots of three women- a young school girl dreaming about the man she will marry, an educated woman hoping her marriage will be different than other marriages, and an old woman complaining about her husband’s neglect of her.
It ends with shots about the three women as well- their lives turned upside down and their dreams shattered by the men with whom they trusted their futures with. It ends with them taking their freedom and liberty in their own hands.
There’s that beautiful allegory about rain- “between wanting to get wet in the rain, and being completely wet when we do, that is as far as our liberty and freedom goes.”
Her friend, in a moment that passed by so subtly, asks her to “break the cycle.” To be independent of men.
Of course, everything that happens in between is the story of three men- an alcoholic director, his crooked younger brother, and a trusted aide who always allowed temper to get the better of him.
But these three men never saw themselves as a drunkard, a thief, and a hot tempered moron. They saw themselves as men- for whom the drinking is justified, the stealing is justified, and even a murder is somehow justified.
Their women saw right through them and what they were, but the opinions of their women never mattered- until they threaten to walk away, that is. And the cycle of self destruction begins again.
SJ Suryah is immense as Arul, the alcoholic filmmaker. He had claimed time and again that this movie will redefine him as an actor, and what an actor he proved himself to be. The final monologue at the train station could only be carried out by a seasoned, able performer, and SJ Suryah is a complete show stealer. Maybe now, his transformation from a director to an actor is finally complete.
A close second in terms of performance is the Anjali. Given a strong character again after some time, her acting chops is second to none and she brings out the transformation of Ponni ever so beautifully.
Vijay Sethupathi, as usual, effortlessly walks through his role, while Bobby Simha and Kamalini Mukherjee do the bare adequate.
Santosh Narayanan’s music never runs far from the narrative tone of the movie and the final song is such an epitome of liberation.
As for Karthik Subbaraj, who wrote and directed this masterpiece, I remember those in the cinema clapping when his name appeared at the end of Jigarthanda.
And I saw people doing the same for Iraivi. In  what is only his third film, Karthik Subbaraj is expressing his art in a way that is truly liberating.
Do not let anyone fool you into thinking this is an experiment. This is a raw, honest piece of mastery. Maybe it threw the conventions of ‘How to make a Tamil movie’ out of the door and into the open sea, but an experiment this was not.
Instead, Iraivi is a carefully crafted piece of work that deserves every bit of centerstage it gets.
It it doesn’t, one can only assume quite a number of egos had been bruised about the story told here. As they say, the truth is never pleasant.
Rating: 9/10

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