Innale Vare Movie Review: An Ordinary Thriller About The Extraordinary Lives Of The Rich And Famous

With Innale Vare, director Jis Joy sheds the Archies Experience Store aesthetic to embrace the darker side of the movie business. If news breaks that this was the work of Jis Joy’s evil twin, I wouldn’t be surprised

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Cast: Asif Ali, Nimisha Sajayan, Antony Varghese, Reba John

Director: Jis Joy

Streaming On: SonyLIV

It might take you a minute, but you’ll be tempted to double-check the name of the director around 15 minutes into Innale Vare. Of course, you don’t really doubt that you’re watching the work of writers Bobby and Sanjay, but the fact that feel-good extraordinaire Jis Joy has directed this makes you want to observe it more keenly. There are bits that remind you that you’re still in a far corner of the same brightly-lit world he’s worked hard to build in his other films. Scenes set in the day, for instance, are soaked in so much golden light that even lunchtime feels like it’s 6 AM. The same goes with the director’s obsession with situations and characters arising from the Malayalam film industry. We had Lal Jose playing a version of himself in Sunday Holiday and his previous film Mohan Kumar Fans was almost entirely about an ex-superstar. But with Innale Vare, he sheds his Archies Experience Store aesthetic to embrace the darker side of the movie business. If news breaks that this was the work of Jis Joy’s evil twin, I wouldn’t be surprised.

The gaze that takes us into the world of Malayalam movies is more voyeuristic than satirical. The people, their problems, and their predicament are hardly the same as that of the good people who inhabit his previous films and when we meet young Superstar Adi (Asif Ali doing a lot of heavy lifting with ease) he’s dead broke and in the midst of many personal crises. He’s having an affair with a married, ex-co-star even though he’s weeks away from getting married to a woman he’s actually in love with. He seems to be having scenes with other women too but it’s the financial strain that’s disturbing his sleep. It doesn’t take long to enter the inner world of this superstar and yet we never feel an ounce of envy seeing him live the big life.

In one of the film’s most striking scenes, he realizes midway that the ad he shot was for a toilet cleaner. On one side of Innale Vare is the study of a superstar’s inflated ego. What is the price he must pay to keep his image alive? And if that image is once broken, how smart should one be to reclaim an even better one? These are the aspects of Innale Vare that hold it in place even when it switches mood to become a full-fledged survival thriller and a thriller about identity theft. With just a minute on sound editing software, we see how easy it is for a person to live as another if they were to gain access to their phone. This is also where you learn how lonely it is to live Adi’s life. He must navigate the mess he gets into because years of association with him and has created deep mistrust even for his closest friends.

Yet the film never really does much even when it’s time for this character to transform. In a sense, you get the feeling that the film has pledged its allegiance to Adi, even though it’s hard to feel invested in a man who borders on being twisted. Credit for that must go to how Asif Ali has chosen to play Adi. He shows glimpses of a man on an ego trip yet he’s also invested in the softer moments where you see someone who’s just not able to deal with the complexities that come with fame and money.

The writing doesn’t always sustain the engrossing setup it begins with and even when the twists appear, it feels too over the top to stay true to its world. Add to this the fact that the film keeps throwing references to give it a meta reading and you also sense how problematic it can be, given the time, for a film to focus on a conspiracy that absolves the actor of his crimes.

But that’s another debate for another day. Another point that kept taking me out of the film was the way a particular apartment felt too designed and set-like. It’s like the team had looked through Pinterest posts to find a mid point between a psycho-killer’s lair that must also double up as a boho-chic bachelorette pad with distressed furniture and a room for the distressed. You also get the same grating feeling like in Bobby-Sanjay’s previous works when the dialogues switch from Malayalam to English. You also wish the film had invested in creating a few more characters with genuine depth apart from Adi (I still haven’t figured out Antony Pepe’s motivations). The film feels uneven like the work of a director trying to do something that’s outside his comfort zone. Innale Vare may have had what it takes to keep you invested with its interesting setup and complex themes. But like its protagonist, the film too loses its plot somewhere in the middle.

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"Vishal Menon: Vishal dropped out of law school to focus on his fondness for film, particularly mainstream Indian cinema. He is a film critic, previously with The Hindu after a stint at Deccan Chronicle and Reuters News. If you thought the book was better than the movie, don’t tell Vishal.."
  
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