IspadeRajavum IdhayaRaniyum - An Inconsistent Mess that's more of a ranting than a film
Toxic masculinity is such an interesting theme to explore in a Tamil film. It throws you a challenge to break the stereotyped hero.. as majority of protagonist we have and had were toxic males in one way or another. It makes the film mainstream enough to incorporate adrenalin rushing action sequences. It presents the contemporary mindset of a generation. Yet, Ranjit Jeyakodi's "Ispade Rajavum Idhaya Raniyum" settles to be this confused, self-obsessed film that keeps on throwing its takes on love and trust.
The film deals with how a super alpha male like Gowtham handles his relationship and breakup. We get that he has a troubled childhood ever since his mother left him. We get that he has trust issues because of that. We get that he has an inner child that sobs for constant assurance. But, nothing convinces you as the scenes waver between extreme highs and lows. The film is awfully inconsistent. At one point, you see them making love in a Gaspar Noesque sense. And, the next scene, you are in a testosterone driven sequence of him screaming and shouting. At first place, you never really get why they fall in love. The love story behind doesn't live up to the intensity that the film tries to portray or thinks it is.
And the inconsistency gets increasingly bizarre as the film progresses. The mother - son relationship is vaguely told. You don't really make anything out of it. His relationship with his father keeps wavering between a disturbed and being distant. There is a painfully cringy drug episode featuring the director himself, spelling Siththar Paattu and all. There is a 'soup' gaana song out of nowhere that tries to recreate 'Anjala' in Vaaranam Aayiram. There are voice overs over and over about what is a relationship, what it feels like to be betrayed, how does a heart break works, what it is takes be in love.. but neither of this comes through the story that we see.
Harish Kalyan plays Gowtham with a hitting conviction. He wavers along with the inconsistent screenplay and story. Be it a guy with a trust issue, an alpha romantic male, a toxic male, a violent protagonist.. he nails it all. Shilpa Manjunath plays Tara, a character that is utterly underdeveloped. Is she a strong woman who gets attracted to a violent guy? Is she a submissive woman who keeps coming back to her toxic lover? Is she confused about making a choice? Who knows? Her family backdrop is caricaturistically rich. Her fiancee is a rich, 'Peter' dude that we have seen in hundreds and hundreds of Tamil films, used as a mere tool to irk a Middle class hero. Men who rely on their bodyguards when hero comes to hit them. I wonder what it bothers our filmmakers to show their female leads being engaged to someone who is as humane as their protagonist. Why they are always the 'Amul Babies' who just roams around in posh car and throws lavish parties in ECR with their dad's money.
Cinematography by Kavin Raj is impactful. The strong colours and handheld camera work at intense moments narrates you a story on its own. Bavan Sreekumar's editing pattern that keeps going back to and fro between past and present, memories and reality is intriguing. Sam C.S delivers a high octane soundtrack and background score that elevates the mood and theme the film tries to / struggles to address.
Director mentions bunch of films to which he has paid homage in the film. It has Kaatru Veliyidai, Tamasha (Female lead is even named as Tara), Laila Majnu even Katradhu Tamizh. It fails in blending up the emotions of these films in a film that has no story or backdrop to hold it. At the end, as the film keeps juggling between two confused characters, it goes haywire. There are two brilliantly executed sequences though featuring some terrific performance by Harish Kalyan. One, where he forces her to get registered for marriage. And one, at the restaurant, where he asks him to call off her wedding right now. The scenes drop a heavy impact and makes you wonder how terrific the film would have been if the rest of the film lived upto this intensity. But the film happily tries to be pretentious.
Ranjit Jeyakodi's 'Ispade Rajavum Idhaya Raniyum' is a two hour long, self-obsessed rant of director's take on love and relationships. The standout from the film is Harish Kalyan's hard-hitting performance and the technical brilliance from the cinematographer, editor and music director.