Some films make theatres feel like prisons. You shudder in claustrophobia and want nothing more than a few minutes of respite from the unyielding visual and auditory assault being inflicted on you. In desperation, after what seems like an hour, you glance at your watch to the alarming realisation that it’s just been 10 minutes since you last saw the time. Aayirathil Iruvar is Tamil cinema’s slap on every person who thinks film critics have an easy job.
Cast: Vinay, Samuthrika, Swasthika
Aayirathil Iruvar is Saran’s comeback, seven years after his last film, Aasal. It’s about a pair of identical twins played by Vinay: Sevaththa and Sendhatti (don’t even ask), who unlike conventional lovey-dovey twins, can’t stand the sight of each other. It’s their nature. One strange CG scene shows them throwing karate kicks at each other even while they’re in the womb. As they grow up, constantly trying to beat each other to pulp, their father comes up with an idea: he blindfolds them as they are winding each other up. In a good masala film, this would come in handy at a later point, but well…
One of them, Sendhatti, ends up getting separated from the family when he gets too involved in his stalking exercise. Not content with simply stalking, he also comes up with positively dreadful poetry and only we, the viewers, have the misfortune of hearing it. Sendhatti says these lines with a look of great satisfaction, as though he were Rumi reborn: “Aval panju mittayai minji vittaale.” “Boomiye satellite-ai sutrugiradhe.” The other twin, Sevaththa, threatens the woman he fancies with rape. Only he doesn’t call it that. He smiles and tells this girl (who’s called Adhirshtamalar by the way), “Nee enna police ta kaati kuduthanaa, nalaikku un kooda first night kondaadiduven.”
In the name of story, there’s a rival family, a kidnapping, the usual twin-swapping, a secret code to a Swiss account that for some reason is tattooed on a girl… It’s a strange, mindnumbing film. A femme fatale type says this for a punchline: “Naan Hawala na hooker, computer na hacker.” I sunk deeper into my seat, hoping nobody would recognise me in the theatre. There are numerous shots in the film that objectify the heroines of the film. When Sendhatti discovers a heroine, gagged and tied, in his car’s boot, his friend comments, “Audi car la ivlo azhagaana stepney irukkuma?” Talk about objectification, but you don’t get all that offended because that would need investment in a film’s world.
The screen turned dark suddenly, and I almost felt a surge of great joy till I realised it was only interval. I stepped—no, ran—out of the theatre to get some fresh air, to meet some happy people. Do you remember all those times you’d be livid at a slow guy at the snack counter who’d delay your return to the film? Well, I was praying I would get one of those guys, but the challenge resumed soon enough. It was time again for badly enacted, incoherent storytelling. In between the seemingly random developments, Saran manages to sneak in a couple of dreadful songs (by Bharadwaj) to loud sighs of frustration in the theatre. One of them whose opening line goes, “Maanga piece la molagapodi muththam”, goes on to reference the director’s own previous films, including Gemini, Kadhal Mannan and Jay Jay. In comparison, they all feel like Academy Award winners. In another song, there’s a line the hero sings, “Pirakkumbodhu naan otrayaaga pirandhen.” It seems that the lyricist had no idea about the heroes being twins.
The film’s shot like a TV serial, and as for the editing, let’s just say that it’s been a while since I saw an actor mouth lines to a song when it’s music that’s playing in the background. I walked out, glancing nervously behind me at the screen, plagued by existential questions: What am I doing in life? Where am I headed?
This review was written for Cinema Express, the cinema division of The New Indian Express. All copyrights belong to the organisation. Do link to its page if you’d like to share it.