A common trope found in a horror/thriller films has to do with a nugatory cell phone. The damn thing goes out of reception under dire circumstances. We have all rolled our eyes during these moments. It’s such a cliché after all. Naseef Yusuf Izuddin’s Irul takes the effort to handle this trope better. It makes Alex (Soubin Shahir) irritated by the sight of smartphones by placing him in a relationship with a busy lawyer named Archana (Darshana Rajendran), who is constantly engaged on her phone. When he sits with her for a cup of coffee, hoping to have a conversation, her phone starts ringing, killing the intimate mood Alex had aimed for. He walks out.
Alex is a writer and businessman. He is a successful writer, which is made evident by Archana (“You seem to have a lot of fans, Alex”) and a man who comes up to him for an autograph at a bookstore. You think that a man like Alex, who writes and handles a business, would understand how hectic jobs could be. Therefore, he would also understand the importance of the phone calls received by Archana. But no. He is selfish and wants her to choose him over her work, a.k.a., ignore the ring, talk to me. Dude! The lady is a lawyer. Her clients need her services. Your romance can surely wait. Archana reminds Alex how busy she was during his case. But if Alex was so discerning, we would not have this movie. The plot requires him to make bad decisions so that thrills can be supplied to the narrative. Hence, when he plans a surprise for Archana, a weekend away from the city, he imposes a rule that requires them to leave their phones at home. Open Fundamentals of Horror 101, and you will find that this is a red flag. No good has ever come of people who have ventured into the dark without their mobiles.
Look closely and see how Irul plays with contrasts. The section before the opening credits is filled with routine (Alex rides a cycle, drives a car, visits a bookstore, has a coffee, and so on). As soon as the credits kick in, everything is imbued with style (we get aerial shots of a car moving on a zig-zag hill road as if navigating through a puzzle, there is a close-up of a drink being poured inside a glass). The frames, too, alternate between yellow and blue. In the earlier portions, Archana displays a cheerful face while Alex is disconsolate. In one scene, outside a house, she is perched on the steps under the warm yellow light, while Alex goes searching around under the coldness of the blue shade. Inside this house, you can draw a contrast between the host and the guests. The guests are Alex and Archana. Fahadh Faasil steps into the shoes of the host (since his name is not immediately revealed, I will leave it for you to find). This “conflicting style” slowly seeps into the centre, giving rise to the main focus of the story, where a choice needs to be made between the truth and the lie.
Irul progresses by driving over nonsensical bumps. Listen to a character rationalising his conduct in a particular situation, and you will facepalm. The objective here is to create tension, even if it means developing witless remarks. Ideally, this should leave you with a sour taste, but Irul works because the actors are convincing and are able to translate the unreliability of the situation to the screen. I was not sure which side was expressing irrefutable verity and which was pronouncing questionable falsity. The lack of details regarding the background of the characters elevates the doubtful factor of the film. Amidst its various issues, I winced when the contents of Alex’s novel were openly discussed in front of Archana, who had not yet read the book. She didn’t seem to mind, but it’s always a good idea to start off with a spoiler warning.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.