The run time of Irumbu Thirai was said to be two hours and forty minutes. But sitting there in the theatre, it felt more like five.
This Vishal action ‘thriller’ loses its... uh... thrill due to a screenplay which moves at snail’s pace. We are all for character development and solid back stories, but not if it means the actual movie only begins an hour after the time printed on our tickets! However, what works for this movie is the timing of its release.
The premise of Irumbu Thirai is highly ambitious and the director P S Mithran seeks to educate more than entertain in this film. The world is currently grappling with the ramifications of the Cambridge Analytica exposé, as it struggles to understand how seemingly innocent data given to social media sites, shops and tele-callers is used to manipulate and predict your actions.
This film attempts to address these doubts for the common man and, to its credit, it stops short of preaching and attempting to produce a solution. And it succeeds to a large extent, because you will think twice before you share personal data with marketing executives after you watch this movie.
Kathiravan (Vishal), a Major in the army, finds that he is unable to procure a loan to pay the dowry demanded by the family that he wants his sister to marry into. Why an army officer would agree to this illegal and outdated practice is beyond us, but that is not the only crime that Kathiravan commits in the film. He manages to obtain the required amount through fraud but soon finds himself to be a victim of cyber crime. The next one and a half hours (yes, the movie starts after the interval) is spent following his journey to bring down the ‘kingpin of the dark net’ who has amassed a great amount of wealth by stealing people’s data.
The director sets the tone of the film at the very beginning, as a cyber expert lectures you on how there is ‘no privacy in the digital world’. But after this particular dialogue, you are left waiting for the hero – who is busy bullying his colleagues, flirting with his psychologist (Samantha Ruth Prabhu) and reuniting with his family – to get down to business. As the first half drags on, the director painstakingly explains every step that leads to Kathiravan’s family being cheated. He touches upon the ‘impossible’ conditions that banks put in place to sanction loans and also how easy it is for people to steal information through your smartphones.
In India, where even the Defence Ministry website is not immune to hackers, this comes as no surprise. The director takes a dig at Prime Minister Modi’s pet project ‘Digital India’ and also talks about how all your Aadhar details can be accessed for a price as cheap as Rs 500.
While the intention to cause alarm is there, the screenplay fails to bring you to the edge of your seat even once through the course of the movie.
Vishal and Delhi Ganesan, who plays his father, both execute their roles flawlessly even if the characterisation itself is highly contradictory at times. Samantha’s character, meanwhile, is the reason for an agonising extra 40 minutes, which the film could have done without. The villain in this movie doesn’t reveal himself till the interval but is always two steps ahead of the hero and his depiction falls into the same category as Arvind Swami’s from Thani Oruvan.
The film has just two songs, one to hype up the hero and the other to show him connecting with his family, but even this was more than necessary. The background score fails to create the tension necessary to elevate the film and to define moments of clarity for the hero. Cinematographer George C Williams has, however, worked wonders with the camera, be it the beautifully framed scenes in Kathiravan’s village or the fight sequences. The colour tones in the film help maintain the notion of reality, which lends its message a certain level of credibility.
The film is interspersed with excellently choreographed fights, with one scene even adopting parkour, which is developed from military training. But even this is not enough to make up for the lack of pace in this thriller.
Despite this, however, you remain seated when this film ends because the director goes on to explain the alleged dangers that the Unique Identification Authority of India has put citizens in. And as a part of this data-driven society where Instagram knows what you shopped for on Amazon, you can’t help but feel uncomfortable.