Cast: Vijay Sethupathi, S.J.Surya, Bobby Simha, Karunakaran.Anjali, Kamalinee Mukherjee
Direction: Karthik Subbaraj
Production: C. V. Kumar
Music: Santhosh Narayanan
Karthick Subbaraj’s critically acclaimed films ‘Pizza’ and ‘Jigarthanda’, brought him wide recognition not only from the audience, but also industry stalwarts like Superstar Rajinikanth and Maniratnam with the latter openly hailing him as a great director. With so much of expectations riding on his shoulders, the maverick director has hit the bulls eye with his third film ‘Iraivi’ in conveying its feminist theme in a hard hitting manner, although one should say, to a niche audience.
The film opens beautifully with the three women Vadivukarasi, Kamalinee Mukherjee and Anjali longingly putting their hands out of the windows trying to feel the rain each one a prisoner of their respective men dominated lives. Then there is the lovemaking scene that introduces Vijay Sethupathi and more importantly Pooja Devariya the already liberated young girl. Both these scenes prove the high caliber of writer-director Karthick Subbaraj beyond any doubt.
Arul (S.J. Surya) is a film director who becomes an alcoholic after his film is unreleased due to a tiff with the producer whose long suffering wife is Yazhini (Kamalinee). Jagan (Bobby Simha) is the younger brother of Arul who is a feminist. Michael (Vijay Sethupathi) works for the brothers in their sculpt shop and is treated like family. Michael is forced to marry Ponni (Anjali) and behaves insensitively to her as he is still in love with Malar (Pooja Devarya0. Circumstances force the three men to take to a crime and this leads to a chain of unfortunate incidents and how finally the women become liberated forms the rest of the story.
‘Iraivi’ has brought forth a very intense actor in S.J. Surya who gives an award worthy performance as the alcoholic. Be it the scene when he questions a young filmmaker bragging in the bar, the scene where he has to say sorry to the producer or the final scene in which he has to display many emotions in a single close up shot, S.J. Surya takes top honors. Bobby Simha seems to reserve his best for Karthick Subbaraj, for after some lackluster work since ‘Jigarthanda’ he has once again hit top form here and especially in the pre-climax where he declares his love for his friend’s wife and his monologue to his unconscious mother confessing about his scheming ways for the sake of his ideology, Jagan is a role he can cherish for his entire life. Kamalinee Mukherjee as the long suffering wife has done full justice to her role and so has Anjali as the young girl with dreams of a good life who is caged in a loveless marriage. Among the heroines it is Pooja Devariya who takes the cake as the bold woman who lives life on her own terms. Radha Ravi,Seenu Mohan and Vijay Murugan give good support while Karunakaran and Kali Venkat are mostly wasted in insignificant roles. Vijay Sethupathi has this amazing ability to dominate the screen in films like ‘Itharkuthaney Aasai Pattai Balakumara’ ‘Sethupathi’ and ‘NRD. Here he has simply got under the skin of Michael and all the great acting by S. J. Surya, Bobby, Pooja and Anajali are bounced off him and he happily allows them to take center stage while he scores by discarding his star image, a mark of a truly great actor.
Santhosh Naryanan’s songs sadly don’t have recall value and inappropriate placement of them also do not help his cause. The background score too gives a sense of déjà vu. Sivakumar Vijayan’s cinematography, Vivekh Harshan’s editing and Vijay Murugan’s art work are greatly responsible for bringing the director’s vision perfectly on screen. Karthick Subbaraj has chosen a subject, entirely different from his previous work and throughout the first half keeps the audience in a stranglehold grip and then in the climax delivers all the punches to drive home his themes of loyalty, brotherhood, deception, betrayal and most importantly ,feminism. He deserves kudos for his dialogues especially those mouthed by Pooja, Bobby and Surya that cut deep through the male dominated beliefs of the society.
The second half pales in comparison to the first as the narration meanders away with a few inconsistent sequences. The songs and their placements are a major irritant and also the smuggling and the murders that occur dilute the core subject of ‘Manithi’ the director sets us up for.