Language : Tamil | Running Time : 160 Minutes | Director : Selvaraghavan
In Aayirathil Oruvan, Selvaraghavan pointed towards a messianic character finding his calling. The hero at that time was Karthi. This time, in Irandaam Ulagam, we have Arya with make-up suited for the Twilight series, donning such a role. I think we can safely say that Selvaraghavan is a director who has seemingly reversed the objectifying of his females with objectifying his men. When you look at Selvaraghavan’s career, Irandaam Ulagam comes across as natural progression, his central themes are going to the polar opposite of his earlier films, from empowering men, he has come to empowering women characters and he brings his themes of lust, misogyny, sexism in one world, a far off world that’s not earth and in earth he brings the opposite. There have been telling signs that Selvaraghavan’s themes though remaining similar to his earlier films, post Pudhupettai or starting with it, his male characters have started to be the ones needing looking after and the women becoming the traditional men. It is a theme that’s hard to miss and the first thing you notice about the movie is how this classic line of women and men being altered in one world and heightened in the other.
One of the interesting differentiation Selvaraghavan offers in the two worlds is the way he objectifies his men on earth and women in the other world. In a classic Selvaraghavan moment, instead of one of the hero’s lackeys commenting on a girl, it is the girl’s friend who “evaluates” the man. The way Madhu(Arya) is evaluated by Ramya’s(Anushka Shetty) friends is one of the more well-conceived segments. The way it all boils down to physically measuring a person, right down to the thighs was a moment where Selvaraghavan’s typical eccentricity came through. In the other world, it has Maruvan(Arya) checking out Varna’s(Anushka Shetty) thighs with lusty eyes. The contrast here is essential to the kind of filmmaker Selvaraghavan has been and is trying to be. The earth portions are him trying to make his men emotional fools and give the women some power, some character. In reality, all his men have been emotional fools but the women were objectified. Now, the earth portions are the men being objectified, the man is still an emotional fool but he takes the role classically occupied by women.
In this film, it isn’t the boy playing the doctor and the girl doing the social service but it is the other way around. Here, we have the girl busy in her life as a doctor and the guy involved in every activity that might be classified under social service. When it comes to the other world, it is a similar situation in terms of the characterisation of the Maruvan and Varna in the sense that Varna is the one with the introductory action scene where she fights an exotic beast while Maruvan has eyes filled with lust at the sight of Varna and is a loser by all means. In a few scenes, this contrast becomes an interesting observation and it is this observation coupled with moments of light heartedness that is typical of Selvaraghavan that keep the film going on in the first 30 minutes. A girl about to be married gives details about her college trip even though she tells later that she is a girl who won’t go against her family’s wishes. She wants him but she has to be wowed. The fact that this isn’t about a man of brute force stalking a girl but a man not accepting a girl’s proposal and then falling in love with her only to be rejected by her and then wooing her makes the Earth segment particularly interesting. This isn’t classic Selvaraghavan but here’s something that he hasn’t done before and it is exciting to see what he is going to bring next.
As interesting as the earth segments are in the first hour, the sequences in the other world are hilarious. I don’t know if the costume designer and production people involved had any idea how to design the other world. I think this movie has to win the award for the worst costumes designed for films since 1950s. Imagine Mangal Pandey like red sepoy overcoats and 30 men defending a city and 30 others attacking it with European paved streets and Russian fur coats for winter wear. That’s how brilliant the production is and we are hard pressed to take any if those portions seriously. For a large part, we are trying to find something good in those portions but we realise that it is just Selvaraghavan defining a world with lust in place of love and trying to show us the difference between the two. There are portions where Arya’s clenched jaw and vampire make up don’t help the proceedings as well. I am sure I didn’t have any problem with Caucasians speaking Madras baashai, problem with the whole “other world” remained with the poor selling of such a place. Rather than a different planet, the looks of the other world were more suited a to an underfunded Albanian TV serial. Purple skies, exotic birds and animals are nice to have but without a proper design to a city or the people in it, there’s very little to fall in love with the other world.
The film goes quite well till we have Madhu and Ramya on earth, with Madhu trying to woo Ramya. The movie works in the urban milieu to an extent, even though there is very little of what actually defines love. For a love story, there’s hardly any situation where we feel the characters’ love or lust for each other. When Maruvan jumps behind Varna and tries to force himself on her, it is a scene where the heroine’s valor comes into play. When Madhu loses Ramya and starts hallucinating that everyone he sees is Ramya, it creates a moment of pleasantness but the essence of falling in love is completely lost upon us. The essence is even more withdrawn and inexplicable in the other world. Varna falling in love with Maruvan doesn’t show a range of emotions to go through. Initially, she dislikes him and then when they are married off to each other, she feels that her freedom has been taken away and then she falls in love with Maruvan when she learns of a story. There is a story somewhere here of a love that’s lost, a love that’s won and a fight to teach people what it is to love but not for one minute do we sense these moments, we aren’t invited to feel those emotions.
It also doesn’t help that the lead pair never manage to convince us that they are in love. Ramya calling Madhu – “Madhu baby” is not the way we would call an exemplary portrayal of love. Anushka Shetty is quite good when she has to somersault or wield a sword but when it comes to displaying a range of emotions that Varna has to go through, she is not able to give anything past a peculiar scowl. Arya is a lost cause in this film. As Maruvan, he looks fit and like a warrior from a video game series but the fear, the lust, and the machismo is not something that sets the screen on fire. There are moments when you wish that the film actually had Dhanush in it rather than Arya. Dhanush would have brought a feast of emotions that would have made the film seem a bit better than it turned out to be.
There is a moment where the director offers explanations to everything that is going on when the character of Madhu’s father rides on a scooter and delivers a monologue that is supposed to explain all events. It is a moment that is supposed to put all things into perspective. It does connect a few things and it is supposedly poignant. Amid many other sequences where the feelings of the characters makes things happen on screen, which we observe but never feel, this surreal moment ends up passing off as something that’s meant to make us feel good when everything else has failed to put things into motion.
Coming from Selvaraghavan, Irandaam Ulagam is a shoddy film that touches all boundaries of bad filmmaking. When considering it as an extension of Selvaraghavan’s career, we can only classify this film as a natural progression of themes for a filmmaker who has forged quite a few new boundaries.