Cast: Vishal, Arjun, Samantha, Delhi Ganesh, Robo Shankar
Director: PS Mithran
Even if you haven’t received the email about the Nigerian prince who wants you to take his millions in exchange for a share, you must have gotten a cold call or an unknown message offering you a loan or selling you a service. “Did you know that your phone number is with 30 lakh people?” states a voice at the beginning of Irumbu Thirai and that’s just one of the numerous shocking facts that are thrown at us in this 160-minute-long eye-opener of a film.
Vishal plays an Army Major, and from the way he pulls it off, it’s pretty surprising that no one has made the most of casting him in a uniform (he previously played a cop in Sathyam and Vedi). As Major R Kathiravan, Vishal’s tall stature and physique stand as embodiments of your average citizen’s anger towards society. The actor, in this intense story, shines, partly due to some well-written commercial stretches. His character, initially shown as a typical masala film hero who hangs around a bar looking for a white girl to settle with abroad, eventually transforms into one who wants to get down and dirty and get the thankless job of cleaning the system done. As for Samantha, it looks like playing a doctor is her lucky charm. After Theri, she delivers a splendid performance as Dr Rathidevi. If you can ignore the incessant shots of her smiling.
Delhi Ganesh, as Kathiravan’s emotional father, Rangasamy, gets a role worthy of his ability. He is a chronic borrower, a stark contrast to Vishal who detests being in debt, and the poignant scenes between them are wonderfully framed. The film’s antagonist Satyamurthy aka white_devil (played by a suave-looking Arjun) is described by one of his minions as ‘digital world oda don’. As a bigwig in the society who lives a double life as a cold-hearted hacker, he knows the power and the value of information, which he uses to his advantage. With a touch of Siddharth Abimanyu in him that defines his devil-may-care attitude and because-I-can mentality, the Action King delivers the evil we missed out in Kadal. After all, when was the last time we had a villain who was almost always a step ahead than our hero?
Given that we are faced with the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal, online groups such as Anonymous, people hiring hitmen via the dark web to eliminate others and various sources citing the lack of security of our details in the Aadhar database, there couldn’t be a better time for a film that questions whether we are ready for a digital India. It’s hard to believe that the film marks the directorial debut of PS Mithran considering the richness in detail in this film. But it’s natural given that he’s a disciple of the man who gave us Marmadesam and Chidambara Ragasiyam — director Naga. Right from the green bullet (which only army personnel can own) that Kathiravan rides, to the use of white in costume and the accessories of Satyamurthy which resonate with his moniker, the attention to detail is wonderful to see.
Mithran also resists the temptation to come up with a duet despite having a melodious track such as Azhagae. The director should also be lauded for not shying away from taking digs at a millionaire who ran away from the country, a minister who blocked the sun’s heat with thermocol, and of course, the seeming inability of the country’s government when it comes to safeguarding the personal information of its citizens. Be it the shots of a village’s greenery or the concrete jungles of Chennai, George C Williams’ cinematography makes the film look sleek and classy. On the downside, the film’s runtime could have been lesser, had the director avoided the stretches designed to cash in on the action image of Vishal.
If last year’s Velaikkaran taught people how they are cheated as consumers, Irumbu Thirai shows how our digital data is taken for a ride along with us. On the whole, it works as a relevant commercial entertainer.