December 6, 2013

Irandam ulagam review

Selvaraghavan’s latest attempt, Irandam Ulagam, is an invitation to imagine a world in which fantasies, conjured up under extreme distress, come true. The raw material for this love saga has been derived from the widely-held fantasy of human beings: the belief that dead people live in another word and that we would meet our loved ones soon after we die. In Irandam Ulagam, Madhubala Krishnan (Arya), a software employee, is selected by the invisible hand of destiny to meet Varna (Anusha Shetty), a carbon copy of his deceased girl friend, Ramya, in another planet. Typically, the function of such movies (those invoking the idea of alternative world/reality) is to shed light on the social reality of Earth by contrasting it with ‘Other’ world. Through this contrast, the audience is, generally, exposed to, either, the superior nature and value of human civilization (in films such as Promotheus, Humans valiantly fight horrific creatures) or understand the contradictions, perversions and predatory nature of the human civilization (Avatar did this beautifully, remember?).  Irandam Ulagam sidesteps this function. It features an alternate world whose morals and ethics closely mirrors our own. If you take away the exotic birds, purple and neon coloured planet in the sky and a ferocious lion with a human face (reminiscent of the famous ‘Twins’ from The Matrix Reloaded), the two worlds are indistinguishable.

By alternating between the events that unfold on Earth and the Second world till the halfway point, Selvaraghavan inadvertently creates a feeling of ‘Wholeness’. While the fiction lacks the much-needed drama, it contains somewhat interesting, but polemical nevertheless, social commentary about sexual abuse and repression of women. The little kingdom, run by a fascist King, is a place where misogyny is social reality and rape is every man’s birth right. Even the idea of Valour is accused of supporting rape culture and Tamil is embraced even by the White skinned.

As much as it vibrates with products of grand evolutionary process, Selva refuses to give much information about this world that he wants us to consume. For instance, when it is claimed that men in Irandam Ulagam have not known what it means to love and respect a woman, I wanted to know if they have evolved in a very different way as opposed to human beings. If they have not known what it means to love, then, clearly, their brains have not evolved in the same way, isn’t it? Like wise, what about the anatomy of people, the animals, minerals and metals found in the planet? The moment you think of another planet, say, Pandora, you need to properly define that the bones of the people living in that planet is made of carbon fibre. I do not demand an in depth exposition of these things in the movie, but I suspect if these things were even considered as worthy enough of his time. Lack of information leaves us with superficial and incomplete knowledge about the ‘Other’ planet.

The casting was also a big mess. It is great to imagine a world where Tamil is spoken by White men and women, but, to pull this off convincingly, the movie needed good white actors who were willing to learn the language. It simply didn’t work. I will end with Arya’s work in Irandam Ulagam. Frankly, he didn’t rise up to the challenge. Arya is probably the best bet for this role of a smart software engineer and a warrior son of a general. As Maruvan, the actor nicely blends into the movie’s fictional world. He shines in places were the comedy element is pronounced. But as Madhu, he is often put under a spot with an emotion-rich scene.  It is here that the actor struggles. Anushka, on the other hand, just about manages to escape unhurt. She has nothing much to do as Ramya, while she embarrassingly fights her way as Varna. The buck, of course, stops with Mr. Selvaraghavan, who has been, for a while, thinking up grand ideas but is not executing them in the best possible manner. Perhaps, it is time to go back to the basics. Start from North Madras, once again.

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