Anand Shankar must fancy himself a magician. He uses speed to distract. His movies are cut from a magician’s cookbook, giving one no time to dwell on one trick before moving on to the next. There is rapid movement in every frame and a calculated jumpiness in the editing that can leave the viewer breathless. It worked in Arima Nambi, where he pulled off a hit with the wooden Vikram Prabhu playing a man in pursuit of his girlfriend’s kidnappers. In Irumugan, Anand Shankar is up to his old tricks again, piling on scene after scene of rapid movement and action. Except the tricks are old and the action stilted.
Akilan Vinod (Vikram) is a former intelligence officer driven to brooding by the loss of his wife and partner in intelligence officering, Meera (Nayantara). Akilan Vinod and Meera Akilan. A nice ring to the names, both modern and very Tamil. And then you have the villain named Love. No last name.
Love, or someone pretending to be Love, has come up with a drug that makes ordinary people turn into supermen after a second or two of posing with their eyes closed like they are contemplating a solution to the Riemann hypothesis. In a strategic move, Love has made a decision to sell his product exclusively in the growing terrorist marketplace. Out comes Akilan from forced retirement, joining forces with Ayushi (Nithya Menen) on a hunt for Love.
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There is an established formula for someone setting out to make a lighthearted comic caper. Cast someone well-known to pair with a superstar and let them carry out the mission together, romancing their way to killing the villain and saving the world. Anand Shankar duly follows the script here, casting a saleable superstar and having her pair with Vikram on the mission to eradicate all signs of Love. They succeed, but Nayanthara dies, only to appear in flashback sequences.
Nayanthara looks as fresh as Vikram looks worn, and the shift in power between the lead actors is nowhere more evident than in the songs. She is the ice-maiden to his desperate lover, moving minimally and holding poses for the camera; a star who knows she is one. Vikram tries too hard to work up some swagger in that faux-preppie style that he employs for his city-men roles. Here is an actor that is trapped in his method, someone more comfortable with the mechanics of preparing for a role than actually playing the role. He is grating as Love — the gay, cross-dressing villain that he overplays with earnesty. His last big hit was 2005’s Anniyan, and it is somewhat fitting that he still uses Remo as his reference for Akilan.
Nithya Menen puts her look of perennial surprise to good use, even as she tries to slow proceedings down singlehandedly by speaking each word with exaggerated care. If she had more lines, this would have been a much longer movie. Also, didn’t Kabali rescue Riythvika?
Irumugan‘s premise is scarcely believable, which might be fine for an action comedy, but the screenwriting is dreadful and dated. Thambi Ramaiah’s wisecracking underling – a rehash of Aboorva Sagotharargal’s iconic Constable Sambandham – is neither wise nor funny, and a serious drag on the pace of the movie. Ramaiah is from the school of acting that believes that facial contortions make people laugh, and here he is paired with a tone deaf composer who seems to believe that odd noises in the background constitute humour. Every character is a caricature drawn from the rules of the genre, the sage lead officer (Nasser) who raises his voice at random times and gives Vikram whatever he wants, the bumbling rules-Ramanujam at the office who talks a lot.
Halfway into the movie, Shankar loses interest in coherent plotting. He has Karunakaran play an evil villain who suddenly and for no apparent reason sits Vikram down and walks him through the story thus far. Complete with Youtube videos and a lecture-demonstration involving adrenaline and Adolf Hitler. A pre-climactic sequence at a hospital in Malaysia is painfully bad, with Love employing a number of chemical concoctions to stunning effect. (A laughing gas spray keeps nurses laughing for longer than Nithya Menen completes a full sentence). Irumugan does nothing to arrest Vikram’s fall from stardom after this year’s 10 Endradhukulle, but an actor with as many movies under the belt as him should really be picking better scripts.
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This movie is Harris Jayaraj’s comeback vehicle, after he took an unexplained break from movies. We are glad to report that Harris is back unchanged, rehashing songs and inventing strange languages to fill them with. It is puzzling that a music composer with over a decade of experience would churn out such atrocious music in the background, filled with outlandish sounds and high volume chants that bear no relationship to the scene on screen. Even the normally reliable Thamarai is on autopilot for the songs (”You’re swinging in my heart, When eyes can speak, why do we need the weight of words”); while Madhan Karky pens the formulaic but surprisingly well-written Kannai Vittu about a man lamenting his lost love (Where are you my teardrop? Out of my eye and past my cheek… where are you my teardrop?).
But nothing beats the unironic use of Love in the lines. “Love never dies,” and “Usually people fall in love, but you made Love fall.” Such quotes are best left for Chennai’s autos.