In recent times, I have never been happier walking out of the theatre after watching a commercial film. We tend to take our commercial films lightly. So much so that it has become an explanation or a reason for a few creative decisions in films. Why do we need songs? It is a commercial film. Why do we need a romance track? It is a commercial film. Well, here is a film that has every so-called commercial element, but where Irumbuthirai differs is that it doesn’t take the audience for a ride. The elements have been written with dignity, respect and lots of research — the kind of writing that makes us rediscover how entertaining and engaging a commercial film can be.
Irumbuthirai (Iron Screen) revolves around the ‘dark net’ — the ugly side of the internet where we find several big brothers surveilling us. Cybercrime, data theft, information breach — you can’t find themes that are more relevant to the Cambridge Analytica generation. Irumbuthirai’s release might have been delayed, but Mithran could consider that as a disguised blessing.
Technology has percolated deeply into our lives and we have started to realise how vulnerable we are, and what could happen if that data reaches places it shouldn’t. When the characters talk about seeing links on their newsfeed about what they spoke over the phone, it hits deep. You have been there — this isn’t some mumbo-jumbo that has been conjured out of thin air. And, that makes you think. That is Irumbuthirai and PS Mithran’s biggest success.
When it comes to the cinematic language, we can segregate the tools used to communicate into two parts: the written and the unwritten. The written part which is the story, screenplay, characters and dialogues — the things that reach through to even to the casual viewer. And in Mithran, we have found a writer to watch out for. His dialogues are organically devised to meet their purpose. Whether it is humour or a punchline, it works because it doesn’t feel forced.
Irumbuthirai is a brilliant debut for the director. 2017 has been a spectacular year for debutante directors and 2018 has given us a worthy addition to that list.
In every commercial film, it becomes absolutely necessary to have a villain who is formidable. Essentially a cat-mouse game, our commercial vehicles don’t make sense if the cat isn’t terrifying enough. Mithran has given us a villain we will be terrified of. Even though his screen presence is limited, Arjun’s ‘white devil’ act ups the ante by several notches. Maybe the limited screen presence was intentional, after all we are talking about an anonymous enemy who runs away from owning a single identity.
Another reason to love Mithran’s writing is his hero. In this film, we get a protagonist and not a hero. He is someone who constantly learns from his enemy. We get a protagonist who understands that he isn’t invincible. And, thus he becomes a hero. Kathiravan is a character that seems tailor-made for Vishal. Mithran’s choices have been wise. It is necessary to have action and a few shots in a commercial film. How can we do that convincingly — make him someone who knows how to fight. The context has been so logically crafted that everything is a pleasure to watch.
But I won’t consider Kathiravan or Sathyamurthy as Mithran’s successful characters. For me, it is definitely Rathi Devi (Samantha Akkineni). As someone who constantly cribs about the heroines we get in our ‘commercial flicks’, Rathi Devi is a thing of wonder. Sensible, intelligent and integral to the story (yeah, that is how low our standards currently are), her character is how commercial heroines should be. The story might not be about her, but Rathi Devi is the pillar of support Kathiravan needs. Thank you Mithran, just for this.