Critic’s Rating : 3.5 / 5
Iravin Nizhal Movie Review : Iravin Nizhal’s impressive filmmaking overcomes ineffective writing
Iravin Nizhal Movie Review: If there is one thing you can always be sure of with a Parthiban film is that it will never be a lazy, thoughtless effort. In fact, too many ideas is a defining characteristic of his films. His constant quest to give his audience a different experience is what makes his films something to look forward to (and slightly dread, because his failed experiments, like Koditta Idangalai Nirappuga, have that what-was-he-even-smoking quality).
Iravin Nizhal, like the best of Parthiban’s films, isn’t a film you can ever fault for lack of effort. The filmmaker actually makes us see this effort with a making-of feature that is played before the actual film. The film is said to be ‘the world’s first single-shot non-linear film’, and in this almost 30-minute feature, we see the blood, sweat and tears (both literally and figuratively) that had gone into making this film in one 96-minute-long unbroken shot. You often hear filmmakers talk about how much hard work they have put into their films, but here, we see it – the inventiveness in building the world of this film, the heartbreaks when minor mistakes result in the team having to shoot the film all over (one crane error at the 92nd minute would have definitely been soul-crushing), and the jubilation when they finally manage to get it all right in the 23rd take.
Moving on to the film, it opens with Nandu (Parthiban), a film financier, learning that the cops are about to arrest him, and making a run, with a gun, which he hopes to use on Patamananda (Robo Shankar), a fake godman, who is one of those to have out him in this precarious position. As he lays waiting for his target at a dilapidated ashram, he recounts his eventful life, the people who pushed him into darkness, his sins and the one flicker of light that’s still part of his life.
In terms of content, Iravin Nizhal is an too familiar tale of the rise and fall of an individual. We see how a child orphaned at birth is shaped up the societal forces, forced into a world of crime for survival, how love helps him to get out of it and how he is pushed back into the ceaseless pit of darkness. We see the women who walk into his life – Lakshmi (Sneha Kumar), Chilakamma (Brigida Saga), Parvathi (Sai Priyanka Ruth), and Premakumari (Varalaxmi Sarathkumar) – shaping it up positively and negatively. We get the Parthibanisms (there is even a nod to his first film Pudhiya Paadhai). On the whole, it is old wine in a new, quirkily designed bottle.
But it is the form that makes the film truly interesting and unique. Like his previous film Oththa Seruppu Size 7, which experimented with just one actor in the cast, this film also feels like something that would have worked as a stage play. Despite the elaborate sets, the film is focused on one character, who also happens to be the narrator. Even though we have five actors (Chandru and Anandha Krishnan get the maximum screen time) playing this character at different stages of his life, the voice belongs to Parthiban, which makes it hard to shake off the Oththa Seruppu vibe.
But to his credit, the filmmaker doesn’t make the film static. Arthur Wilson’s camera is constantly on the move, and the effect that the film give us is that of flitting inside a person’s memories. One moment we are in 1971, when he is just an infant, and the next we have him as a man counting his (ill-gotten) riches. On the downside, this continuous movement also makes it hard for us to get into the character’s shoes and experience his emotions. Many a time, we wish for the narration and the camera to slow down. Because of the way it is designed, the film (and the camera) seems to be interested only in moving on to the next scene, and doesn’t let us to fully absorb those emotions, even when a character is sexually abused or dies.
This approach certainly robs the film of being an emotionally impactful one. In single-shot films like Victoria or 1917 (which technically has multiple shots stitched to make it seem like a one-shot film), the nature of the content dictated their form. A night of partying takes a dark turn.. A young soldier has to deliver a message in the midst of a war.. These premises lend themselves to such techniques because they are mainly about the what-next. But here, it is primarily about the how – how did Nandu turn out the way he did and how will he find redemption – which requires deeper writing and immersive filmmaking.
That said, Parthiban has clearly mentioned in his pre-release interviews that his only intention behind doing this film was to find out if a non-linear story could be filmed as a single-shot film. Like the makers of the early silent films, who were more interested in exploring the new technology that was cinema and finding out how it could be used, which came in handy for those that came after them, Parthiban has, with this film, broken a path for future filmmakers to experiment with unconventional storytelling using the single-shot technique. There are several moments when you marvel at the smoothness with which the scenes transition from one time period to the next. Parthiban also uses music (AR Rahman, whose stirring score is like a ray of light in this film’s dark world) sound effects cleverly to make us forget that entire film has been shot in one place, inside the huge set that we are shown in the making-of video. In that sense, this ‘project’ is definitely a success as Parthiban achieves what he set out to do.