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Iraivan: Listless Jayam Ravi Thriller Has Few Thrills To Offer

Iraivan wants to be a cat and mouse game between the hero and the killer but fails miserably because it cannot build up to anything. Aditya Shrikrishna reviews.

Iraivan: Listless Jayam Ravi Thriller Has Few Thrills To Offer
Poster for Iraivan

Last Updated: 01.30 PM, Sep 29, 2023


BODIES. Bodies. Bodies. I Ahmed’s Iraivan is littered with dead young women’s bodies. Naked—blurred, yes—with limbs cut off and eyes gouged. After a point, there are so many that it becomes exploitative. Yes, it is yet another crime thriller with a psychopathic serial killer who targets only women and a possible copycat, but the camera’s gaze seems to enjoy this process more than the serial killer and that’s always a problem. It doesn’t help that every actor in the film is uninterested in being there.

Jayam Ravi is listless, Nayanthara’s days of being the female-lead-with-four-scenes are long gone. Why just Nayanthara? The archetype must be done and dusted for anyone. Even Azhagam Perumal looks bored at one point. Rahul Bose as the killer named Brahma plays it so straight that he looks like he was waiting for someone to yell “pack up”. Yes, we know the killer. Written by Ahmed, Iraivan wants to be a cat and mouse game between the hero and killer but fails miserably at it because it cannot build up to anything. It wants to be a police procedural, but it cannot because we can see all the cards and every question is answered as soon as it comes up. A violent, deranged murderer is nicknamed “smiley killer” because he leaves a note with a smile drawn in blood along with naked, mutilated bodies of young women around the city. Ahmed liberally borrows from Joker, from the Batman comics. The smile, a scene out of The Dark Knight with the killer hanging out of the car window and feeling the wind on his face… There is even a minor whom-should-I-save-first question left hanging at the end of the film.

Poster for Iraivan
Poster for Iraivan

But the film amounts to nothing. When it begins, it puts us right in the middle of the characters’ lives. This is not always a bad thing if we are dropped into the plot and introduced into a complex web of either suspense or psychoanalytic games—like Mysskin’s Psycho. Mysskin’s film balanced the cat and mouse chase while also delving into the serial killer’s mind. With Iraivan, we parachute into a random selection of encounters, the friendship between police officers Andrew (Narain) and Arjun (Jayam Ravi), and Andrew’s sister Priya’s (Nayanthara) unrequited love for Arjun. Arjun, a cop who is a loose cannon with his mood, fists and guns, quits the force after failing to save Andrew during an operation. What does he do next? Something no one could predict—he moves into Andrew’s house to live with Priya, Andrew’s widow Jasmine, and five-year-old daughter Sophie. What universe is this? Then he decides to open a coffee shop. The dynamics here are so alien because somewhere between that cold open and these events, we get the opening credits. A cold opening credit sequence within a cold open. And in the first 30 minutes of what is supposed to be a chess game between the cop and the killer, Ahmed includes three songs from another disinterested participant—Yuvan Shankar Raja.


I wondered about the name Arjun, Andrew and the Catholic family he is close to, and the serial killer named Brahma. But I came up with nada. Iraivan has nothing to offer, not even a mystery. At every step of the way we know what is happening and what will happen. Sometimes the scenes don’t even add up. One senior police officer and a retired detective are debriefing another senior cop who just had a heart attack. He is describing, from his hospital bed, how even he cannot take these events, forget the civilians (imagine the plight of the audience), only to suffer more complications. Allow a man to rest!

Iraivan pushes the limits of dumbness. The retired cop, Arjun, is free to go feral in this case. I expected some kind of return to duty, the film keeps hinting at his motivation; but he’s just a civilian who knows the face of every officer and commands them at will. There can be only one explanation for this. This is a film that was stitched together on the edit table. They shot a bunch of serial killer movie tropes and came up with a movie in post. This is “let’s fix it in post” taken to its furthest.

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