Jiivi Movie Review: Commercial compromises weigh down this well-written thriller
A competent thriller aided by its strong and flawless writing
When I heard the title Jiivi, the first connection that occured to me was ‘Arivu Jeevi’ (a super-intelligent person), which seemed fair given the film was promoted as the story of a guy who prefers brain to brawn. After watching the film, I’m now wondering if the title is in fact a verb, and the word actually means, ‘stay alive’ or ‘survive’. This film does revolve around the protagonist’s struggle to live his life just like those who are blessed with more money than him.
Though we have seen several films where the lead is a loser who takes a dirty shortcut to climb up the hierarchy of life — Thiruttupayale and Sindhanai Sei come to mind — Jiivi doesn’t feel cliched or outdated, owing to the realism in Babutamizh’s writing. Every single person in his world has a backstory, a purpose, a character arc, and their own set of flaws. Even the nicest character in the film—Ibrahim—is not entirely selfless when it comes to helping others. However, despite all of them having downsides, they don’t judge each other. For instance, when the protagonist Saravana’s (Vetri) sister elopes, and brings disrepute to the family, he stays calm, and says, “Kaalaklathula kalynam panni veikadhadhu enga thappu, ava enna pannuva pavam?”
Director: VJ Gopinath
Cast: Vetri, Karunakaran, Rohini
Karma is the sole ruler in Jiivi. What goes around does come around in this world. Instead of leaving it up to God to deliver justice, the film questions his very existence convincingly with dialogues like, “Namba sorukku seththuttu irundhappo vedikkai partha kadavul, thappu seirapodhum paarkattum.” Jiivi also introduces an intriguing theory called ‘thodarbiyal’ to define how karma works. This concept could have been much more effective if they had cut back on the spoon feeding and allowed the audience to figure things out on their own.
Though the portrayal of Saravanan and his house owner’s (Rohini) family threatens to turn into a rehash of the ‘kuruttu thambi, koon vilundha akka’ template of the 80s, thankfully, the film doesn’t linger on this and instead gives us other things to focus on.
During a particular conversation between Saravanan and Mani (Karunakaran) in a theatre, the former says, “The decisions we make during crucial situations determine whether we are a hero or comedian. En kadhaila naan dhaan hero.” A dialogue like this forestalls any questions about why Vetri was chosen to play the lead in Jiivi. For his part, Vetri looks comfortable and seems to have worked a lot on his acting after the strong criticism he faced for 8 Thottakkal. His smart script selection covers up for his limitations, and in this regard, he reminds me of Vijay Antony. Having said that, the actor still has a way to go to be able to do complete justice to such a role, especially when alongside a talented actor like Karunakaran.
The strong and almost flawless writing of Jiivi compensates for its lacklustre execution. Babutamizh’s dialogues in particular deserve a huge shout-out and is easily one of the best efforts, this year. Though the film manages to get the basics right and steer away from commercial compromises, the forced love angle, and the song that follows, stick out.
Jiivi is a competent thriller, but could have been more had Gopinath and Babutamizh understood that the organic emotions in the story, like pain and desperation, were enough to propel this story. There was really no need for a forced romance.