Who is the tragic hero in this story? This is the one question that might pop into your head right after watching Iratta.
Last Updated: 12.56 PM, Mar 08, 2023
One of the key challenges that the audience might face watching Iratta, which is written and directed by debutant Rohit M. G. Krishnan, is who to root for. The film tells a twisted tale of twin brothers, who are separated at a young age and grow up with a lot of bad blood between them. And film breaks several storytelling rules (not a good thing in this film) to achieve an Oedipus-esque tragic end.
You are not bonding with any of the characters even though there is an emotionally heavy subplot about a traumatised childhood at the heart of the narrative. You don't worry about the tragedy that might befall the identical-looking protagonists. And that undercuts the drama and any possibility of developing emotional attachment with the lead characters.
Iratta begins with the death of Assistant Sub-Insoector Vinod (Joju George). He's the twin brother of Pramod (Joju George again), who is a deputy superintendent of police. There is no distinctive mark that helps us to tell Vinoth from Pramod. They both have the same haircut, moustache, and beer belly. With the film's lack of budget for special effects, it clearly fell on the shoulders of Joju to bring the distinctions between his two characters by facilitating in-camera effects with his acting. And Joju has done a fine job in that respect. The character distinctions between Vinod and Pramod were very conventional, to begin with, and that must have made Joju's job easy.
Vinod is a brute, ill-mannered, law-abusing, raping and pillaging drunk. His character is so vile that even his Freudian backstory doesn't make us feel an iota of sympathy for him. And Vinod's vileness is established in the first few scenes. It won't take long before you start feeling that his death was a good riddance to everyone in the hilly town. And when you start feeling that, from then on it's an effort to stay with the film as you no longer care about Vinod. You know the sudden and gruesome death of Vinod was a long time in the making.
In the film, Pramod is the second fiddle to Vinod's reckless whimsy. By Vinod's standards, Pramod is a noble being. Even though Pramod is a wife-beating and alcohol-abusing cop, he's still tolerable. Vinod crosses the lines many times, including when he threatens the innocence of children to get back at a rival cop. We feel disgusting every time we look at him. You know he's beyond redemption when he ends up rapping a teenage girl under the influence of alcohol and gets away with it. Vinod becomes a menacing, cold, moralless thug that drives the engine of this story that lacks heart.
And yet writer Rohit continues to throw at us a few scenes that in a way portray Vinod as a man worthy of our compassion. Well, you can blame this motif on the structure of the narrative, which is a collection of memories of people, who knew Vinod at a personal level. For some, he's an outright ogre to an utterly helpless woman like Malini (Anjali), he's a saviour. Vinod stays true to his character and tries to sexually exploit Malini at the behest of helping her in the beginning. After she rebuffs him, surprisingly Vinod shows a change of heart and tries to become a better person. But, right on cue, when he's about to turn the corner, his past crime comes back to bite him.
Who is the tragic hero in this story? This is the one question that might pop into your head right after watching Iratta. While we can appreciate the film's cleverness, the film makes it difficult to have an emotional connection with it. It takes a lot of effort to stick with a film that is replete with characters that we don't care for. It's clever but it's not as devastating as one might have felt if the film had managed to make even a bleak emotional connection with the audience.