What I love about Netru Indru Naalai is not the theme; after all, time-travel has been done to death the world over. Look at this Rolling Stone list, for instance, which also features a 1961 movie based on the famous novel by H G Wells – there have been many interpretations, and just as many time-machines. But what’s great about INN is the way the subject has been dealt with. Sure, the typeface in the title is all too geometric, with very science-y motifs, but peek underneath, and you’ll find the strangest wreath ever, quite out of place in a film that looks to the future.
Lemons and chillies.
How’s that for a sample?
INN has an awesome premise, where ‘science’ – loosely defined– and astrology co-exist easily, and are talked and laughed about in the same breath; with some humorous commentary on a society that remains trapped between the two. One of the leads – Karunakaran in yet another funny do – is an astrologer (Pulivetti Arumugam) whose skill at reading the planets is just as bleak as his friend’s (Vishnu Vishal as Ilango) life. What do they do when they chance upon a machine that can flit between the annals of time in the blink of an eye? Reverse a war? Save the earth? No. They simply use it to better their business: helping people find things that they have lost. All in the name of astrology.
Director Ravikumar is definitely CV Kumar material. The production house that is famous for its quirky movies, and for making stars out of debutant directors. Indru Netru Naalai is quite within the league, and in time. It’s probably a first for Tamil cinema – and just like the previous ventures of Thirukumaran Entertainment, rides very little on heroics. No flashy introduction to the leads, no mind-numbing songs, and negligible action. Of course there’s a very robotic Arya in a guest role – but what blessed relief! The jokes are straight-faced, borne brilliantly by the screenplay, and there’s a solid theme which is worked out pat to the last detail.
As the movie begins, a Kurt Vonnegut quote flashes on screen. From Slaughterhouse-Five: ‘All things past, present and future have always existed, and always will exist’. And just like that, Ravikumar sets the premise for his trick. One that has everything and very little to do with the evolution of science, and its study. It isn’t hard to pin down the influences. A steady diet of Tamil novellas, full of supercomputers and robotics.
INN is science-fiction bordering on fantasy; a genre that needs deft handling. It has to convince. It needs to convince. How else would the humour work? If it does feel surreal – laughably so – soon after the interval, the feeling is quickly dispelled. In a particular instance, when Pulivetti Arumugam deadpans brilliantly, I laugh.
“Unakku idha otta theriyuma?” he wonders aloud, pointing at the time-machine.
Bizarre instances do occur in this onionesque film. When Ilango takes his girlfriend (Mia George as Anu) for a spin in the time-machine – in what is meant as a touching moment – they drive her mother to the hospital so that she can birth Anu.
Even more bizarrely – in a gross violation of time-travel rules – Anu then kisses her infant self (!)
And of course, neither Pulivetti Arumugam nor Ilango can work the time machine. They need a Giridhar Parthasarathy (TM Karthik) for that. One who wears Pink Floyd t-shirts, dreams up nutty inventions, and drives voice-automated cars. And that’s where – even as the director attempts to break free from those traditional cinematic tropes – the movie remains firmly entrenched in the past.
The Indru Netru Naalai Review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have an advertising relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.