Ivan Thanthiran: A not-so-slick thriller

Whatever else may be its failings, Ivan Thanthiran will be remembered for being a film in which RJ Balaji was fairly competent. His sequences are a throwback to the irreverent comedian he was originally adored for being. Cheeky digs at films and actors, politically incorrect barbs on politicians… they are all in place. As his character and Shakti (Gautham Karthik) proceed to relieve themselves on the road, he merrily sings, “Varlaam varlaam va.” After blowing up dozens of balloons, he quietly complains, “Hey Ram heroine lips madhri aiduchu.” In another scene, as Shakti and the heroine (Shradha Srinath) have a verbal duel in English, he gets frustrated, and joins in with a trademark incomprehensible line that is a random mix of several phrases including, “If you smell what the Rock is cooking.” There are more jokes: one about Alaipayuthey (the protagonist is named Shakti, after all), and another about a famous politician’s memorable line when getting arrested on live television.

The story isn’t bad either. It’s about a couple of Ritchie Street-based ‘reverse engineers’ (a fancy term for those who specialise in making imitation gadgets), and how they get a corrupt education minister to meet his reckoning. RJ Balaji makes a couple of over-long speeches–one intended to please engineers, and the other not so much–and there’s also naturally, a lot of techno talk, including about computers, hacking, and tracking devices. It’s all fairly inventive, like the depiction of social media and its world of memes as having the power to dethrone a minister, and the usage of curious devices like the miniature surveillance camera that is mounted on an ‘e’ (housefly), perhaps on account of all the e-stuff going on.

Ivan Thanthiran
: Gautham Karthik, RJ Balaji, Shradha Srinath
Director: R Kannan
Storyline: A couple of reverse engineers take on a corrupt minister

Ivan Thanthiran never truly rises to becoming a solid thriller. It’s partly on account of the predictability of the narrative, and partly because of the on-off nature of the seriousness of its treatment. It’s pretty short at 121 minutes, and yet there’s time for a mediocre opening song for the hero, and a mandatory duet. And in a thriller such as this, there’s just no excuse for such dampening elements. Sometimes, believability is compromised for effect, even in scenes that are to act as breathers. A scene in the beginning, for instance, shows Shakti and his friend partaking in a drinking game, but that’s not enough. The film goes on to tell you they have just consumed 20 beers each.

Every time you expect the film to rise a pitch higher, it instead goes the opposite way. There’s a portion in which Shakti, against odds (and belief, to be honest), saves a friend just as he is about to be murdered. This is followed by a scene in which the heroine changes her mind about the protagonist for no apparent reason. At a job interview, when asked why she wants to join the company, she says–and this is the stuff of Tamil cinema legend–“Iduppula madippu venum.” I shan’t explain any further, but suffice it to say that any film with as mediocre a love angle can only reach a certain ceiling for the slick thriller it aspires to be. And yet, the gods know that we have been subject to much worse.

This review was written for The New Indian Express. All copyrights belong to the organisation. Do link to this page if you’d like to share this review.

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