Ivan Thanthiran Movie Review, Film Companion
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Language: Tamil

Director: R. Kannan

Cast: Gautham Karthik, Shraddha Srinath, RJ Balaji

As beginnings go, the one in Ivan Thanthiran (He’s a Wizard) isn’t without intrigue. Sakthi (Gautham Karthik) is being held captive – we don’t know his name yet – and drugs are being shoved up his nose. This narrative technique of parachuting the audience into the middle of a scene is increasingly being used. One reason is just the jolt we get from facing a hero-in-danger situation without knowing the what, the why – we’re meant to keep this scene in mind until we return to it. The other is that we know there’s at least something at stake as the screenplay takes the scenic route around the ‘mass’ elements meant to take tight genre pieces to all audiences.

Like the comedy by RJ Balaji, who plays Sakthi’s imaginatively named friend, Balaji. Consider the scene where the duo ends up in a police station, where Sakthi’s legendary tech skills are needed. As Sakthi goes about retrieving a lost computer file, Balaji and the other cops sit around blowing balloons – because you know, every police station just happens to be equipped with party decorations. Balaji asks a female cop how she’s so good at blowing [balloons]. She says she’s used to doing this at home. A knowing pause later, she explains: “For my kids.” The problem isn’t that the joke is anti-women. It’s anti-humour.

Balaji’s jokes function like running commentary. When Sakthi invents an affordable phone, Balaji helpfully explains that the phone isn’t like a girlfriend that you keep changing every day. It’s like your… mother. It’s one thing to use jokes to dumb down a movie with a tech-heavy plot. It’s another when the jokes themselves are dumb. The other ‘mass’ element, romance, is handled marginally better. There’s one nice stretch where Sakthi tells Asha (Shraddha Srinath) he loves her. There’s playfulness in the lines. It almost makes you forgive the out-of-nowhere duet.

The director, R. Kannan, has no idea how to stage a scene and push our buttons – the way Devaraj contains a situation involving an incriminating video should have been way more explosive

The plot revolves around a nefarious minister named Devaraj (Super Subbarayan). It’s the usual reworking of the Shankar playbook. Colleges are closed due to inadequate facilities. A vegetable vendor’s son is asked to fork up 25,000 bucks for a hall ticket; the distraught student clambers atop a train carriage and electrocutes himself on the wires above.

We get lectures about the plight of engineering students who are reduced to working in fast food joints. No one seems to want to say anything about the plight of the audience.

Things get better in the second half. The director, R. Kannan, has no idea how to stage a scene and push our buttons – the way Devaraj contains a situation involving an incriminating video should have been way more explosive. But once the genre thrills kick in, the film turns at least watchable. When we return to the opening scene, we think it’s because Sakthi messed with the minister. But it’s an accident. Or is it? This is a cool twist, and you wonder why the other scenes couldn’t have been written with a similar sense of surprise. To borrow the film’s philosophy, the ‘mass’ elements are like girlfriends. Plot integrity is like your mother.

Watch the trailer here: 

Rating:   star

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