Director: VJ Gopinath
Cast: Vetri, Rohini, Karunakaran
Streaming On: Aha Tamil
In the 2019 release Jiivi, audiences were presented with a noir that has a fatalistic twist. Filmmaker VJ Gopinath took the tired narrative threads of a theft case and mixed it up with fantastic ideas of fate, destiny, and inescapable karma. Despite its mostly uninspired performances, the existential thriller managed to keep us hooked with its relentless charm of the subject matter. But the same cannot be said of Jiivi 2.
Friends and partners in crime, Saravana (Vetri) and Mani (Karunakaran) return to the sequel, which picks up where the original left off. Saravana is now a married man and has left behind his scheming ways to take care of his blind wife. Mani, on the other hand, remains unaltered. Though he is still racked with guilt over losing their gold loot, which got Saravana entangled in a karmic mess in the original, they try to pick up the pieces and move on with their lives. But in vain.
As an inebriated Saravana vents in a scene at a local bar — reminiscent of a crucial sequence from the original — no amount of money is enough to sustain a marriage. And so, he predictably goes back to his old ways. This is conveyed symbolically with a signage at the bar that says "thottal thodarum: if you touch it, the habit continues," a phrase that alludes not just to Saravana's love for liquor, but also to depravity.
The sequel introduces us to new characters — but none of them make an impact for us to register their names or intentions. There's an unsparing police officer (played by Jawahar, who bears an uncanny resemblance to brother and actor Nasser), a bratty college student who splurges all his money on expensive whiskey and smokes, and his Tamil soap-loving paati. The sequel, like its predecessor, is rich with ideas but is clueless about what to do with it all. For instance, the paati suffers from short-term memory loss, a character trait that could've been a potential goldmine in a crime thriller such as this. But the makers barely play up this angle. Characters like these are what made Jiivi an enjoyable ride. Of course, the regulars in the universe, owner akka (Rohini) and Kathir (Mime Gopi) make their appearances in the sequel as well, but their angst and arcs – which went on to be part of the original's highlights — are underplayed.
Metaphysical theories such as thodarbiyal (coincidences that connect generations of a family) and mukkona vidhi (the triangle theory of fate) are explored through the prism of theft and death in the sequel, too. But the same concepts, which sounded refreshing in the original, end up sounding convoluted and tired in Jiivi 2. The film also crams the frames with obvious visual metaphors, which end up losing their value. So, when the number '666' is used to signify — no points for guessing — a person's devilishness and a lizard is seen as a harbinger of bad luck, we know the film is not big on subtlety.
But to the film's credit, not all metaphors are dull. Scenes from Rajnikanth's seminal 80s titles, Paddikadavan and Anbulla Rajini, are used and played in the background as important allegories, often symbolising the fate of the main characters. These small easter eggs in the sequel remain to be some of the only indicators of wit that Jiivi is still remembered for.