Ispade Rajavum Idhaya Raniyum Review: A romance that isn’t afraid to tread uncomfortable zones
IRIR isn’t afraid to get its hands dirty; it’s a film that means well, and that isn’t scared to show its men for the obnoxious people they are
Director Ram often talks about how his films are theses. You could say that about Ranjit Jeyakodi’s second film, Ispade Rajavum Idhaya Raniyum, which begins with Socrates’ quote: The hottest love has the coldest end. The film’s an attempt at introspection upon the nature of romantic love, on broken men, on unhappy women. How does the average male behave in love? What’s in it for the woman? The lead male, Gautham (Harish Kalyan), grapples with a few more questions: When does love transform into hatred? What prompts a lover to turn into a killer? IRIR is about love and its tragedy. Quite naturally, there’s a dedication card at the end to films like Blue is the Warmest Colour, Romeo Juliet, Tamasha, Kaatru Veliyidai… all films that deal with complications arising out of contemporary romantic love.
Director: Ranjit Jeyakodi
Cast: Harish Kalyan, Shilpa Manjunath
This film can also be seen as a take-down of the superficial romances we get, in which the sun shines bright and rainbows flash forever. IRIR shows much interest in trying to understand the psyches of both parties, Gautham and Tara (Shilpa Manjunath, whose awkwardness begins to be less of a problem as the film progresses), characters who are extensions of your stereotypical male and female. Gautham is aggressive, ego-centric, and above all, in need of love. Tara is full of love and patience. Gautham is a taker; Tara is a giver. The relationship is between a man who is consumed by his darkness and a woman who tries desperately to kindle light within him. Ispade Rajavum Idhaya Raniyum.
Gautham is defined by his violence. It’s how he expresses himself. When he acts, he hurts. When he talks, he spits venom. It’s hard not to get reminded of the toxic masculinity in Arjun Reddy. As an aside, I do think Harish Kalyan would have been quite apt for the Arjun Reddy remake. I totally bought him in this film. There’s a fair bit of romanticisation of his violence. Heroic entries, CS Sam’s dubstep tracks, Tara looking in awe… all of this adds to the seeming appeal of Gautham’s unhindered violence. It’s what draws Tara in. The name she’s saved Gautham’s number under — Rowdy — is a fitting summary. But where Arjun Reddy cannot stop looking at its protagonist with love, IRIR can. It proceeds, thankfully, to sneer at his false heroism. Towards the end of the film, a man, embodying Gautham’s mental state, prods him into violence, with the sort of misogyny that’s been known to incite appreciation in theatres. Director Ranjith proceeds to point out how dangerous these ideas are, and even better, tries to narrow down their source, in a bid to arrive at a solution. It’s important that certain scenes in this film don’t get taken out of context and viewed in isolation.
IRIR is the relationship between an anti-hero and a heroine, the love story between a perpetrator and a victim. In a sense, Ranjith seems to be arguing that it’s how most relationships are. In a recent interview with us, he spoke about his belief that men are blessed demons and women, cursed angels. You see this in IRIR, as the man hurts and hurts some more, only to receive more and more love. You have to, as an aside, wonder if this sort of deification of women is useful for them, but that’s a topic for another day. It’s hard not to cut slack for a film that firmly has the toxic male in its crosshairs. IRIR means well, and I say this despite it having a despicable TASMAC number in which the male goes about bashing women. But IRIR doesn’t take his side, and proceeds to point him out for the idiot he is. The song comes at a time when he’s sinking deeper and deeper into hatred. There’s a dominant use of red as the film progresses to signify this plummeting of his character. It’s wily to have such a song, and then to turn it against itself. Songs tend to have their own lives though, and you have to wonder what damage it will cause, existing out of the film’s realm, and whether the decision to indulge as much in Gautham’s idiocy was necessary.
It’s impressive that despite being a toxic romance between a broken man and a healing woman, Ranjith’s treatment of how love occurs between them is surprisingly respectable. Gautham has no courteous words to offer, but doesn’t pursue her without consent. He doesn’t seem to have a problem with her smoking. When on a bike ride, she puts her hand on his shoulder, he doesn’t get into raptures over it. He doesn’t get too overwhelmed too fast; he doesn’t stalk. The girl, for her part, is given quite some initiative. It is she who initiates the relationship with a wink. She shows interest in making out with him, and when he’s a bit too coy, she takes the reins. I wish IRIR hadn’t made a big deal out of her falling into a swimming pool, or later, of her having to be sleeveless on the road. They hardly fit the kind of girl she is.
This film is about broken men. Gautham’s broken. His father’s broken. His friends are broken, and keep spouting generic toxic relationship lessons. They aren’t funny either. They are a big part of why substantial portions seem unconvincing. Tara’s fiance, Rohit, like many other men in this film, is a piece of work too. The women meanwhile are all reeling from the toxic effects of coming into contact with these men. Gautham’s mother, Tara, Tara’s friend (whose spunk I quite enjoyed)… the list goes on. I’m partial to films like this which are a result of much introspection. The romance genre has been under-explored in our cinema, and when done, usually operates in superficial and comfortable territories. IRIR isn’t afraid to get its hands dirty; it’s a film that means well, and that isn’t scared to show its men for the obnoxious people they are. It needed way more finesse in writing, sure, and way better chemistry between the leads. These are rudimentary issues, but IRIR aims higher and digs deeper than many in this genre do, and I always have a soft spot for such films.