With three talented actors in the cast, Naseef Yusuf Izuddin’s Irul had set up high expectations before its release on Netflix on Friday. The premise is promising. A young couple stranded in a house with a stranger they cannot trust. For those who love thrillers, minimalism is always a delicious prospect because there are no distractions and you become a part of the mind games on screen.
Soubin plays Alex Parayil, a writer who has just published his first novel Irul, focused on a serial killer who targets women. He plans a special weekend with his lawyer girlfriend, Archana. Darshana Rajendran, who broke out of her friend/sister roles with C U Soon, is arresting as the confident and later panicky Archana. Among the three, it is her performance that is the most convincing and she roots the film whenever it tends to run away and become self-indulgent (the operatic bit in slow-mo towards the end, for instance).
Of course, you know that this special weekend is going to be a disaster. The film employs dark tones, ominous music and jump scares to underline the fact that things are definitely going downhill. It is raining, it is dark, and when Alex leans forward to kiss Archana in the car, another vehicle rushes past them with a screech. It is meant to be unsettling but the scares become predictable after a while because they follow a pattern.
There’s a vague nod to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho too, with the portrait of a mother on the wall and the clothes in the wardrobe. Fahadh as the mysterious stranger puts on quite an act with his robe and yellow shades. Fahadh has never shied away from playing wacky characters; in fact, the more bizarre a role, the more he appears to relish it. In Irul, he preens around like a peacock and you wonder why he is hamming so much. Thankfully, there is an explanation for it, even if it leaves you with more questions than answers. The role itself is too deliberately written for Fahadh that it doesn’t allow the character to breathe on screen as himself.
Soubin is usually an absolute natural on screen, but as Alex Parayil, he seems miscast. The writer’s character itself is poorly imagined — having written a book about a serial killer, he’s quite dismissive of the psychology behind the crimes. Umm, Mindhunter anyone? The brief discussion that the three characters have about the serial killer, with the camera swivelling from one face to another, looks anachronistic.
There is suspense, yes, and mostly thanks to Darshana’s performance. The film does make you look forward to the denouement when the pieces of the puzzle will fall in place. But when that happens, you are left with a giant EH rather than an AHA. Naseef appears to have spent too much time planning the atmospherics and too little on plugging the holes in the leaky plot. There are so many craters all over it and so many unanswered questions that you feel cheated.
And that is enough to turn a thriller that had so much going for it into a crashing disappointment.
Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the series/film. TNM Editorial is independent of any business relationship the organisation may have with producers or any other members of its cast or crew.