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Jiivi Review: Decent Thriller, Debatable Theories


Director: V J Gopinath

Cast: Vetri, Karunakaran

Jiivi [Being] opens with an aerial shot of a flyover, pauses over a knot. Below, an auto ferries some women, and a young man who appears to be reflecting on his past. The shot further progresses, now with Vetri, as Saravana, in focus, whatever he says subsequently transforms into visual thought bubbles on screen. Saravana isn’t the likeable sort, really. In fact, he seems to fuel intense dislike, perhaps thanks to the way he’s shown to be idling at home as the rest of his family, especially the women, hurry about trying to eke out a living. Or the way he looks back fondly on those aspects of his life. Nevertheless, director VJ Gopinath tells us he’s smart, for there’s nothing more that Saravana likes than books. He’s also curious and impatient to a fault, and as a result, wants to make a quick buck rather than morally – and legally – put his brain to work. His girlfriend spurns him too, and that acts as a rather powerful propellant. He orchestrates a crime, obsesses over every little detail, and just as he thinks he’s in control, Saravana stumbles upon a series of events that leads him to believe there’s something greater at work.

Jiivi wants to construct an elaborate drama around the circle of life – not in the regular, dry way that you’d imagine and certainly not a dreary pictorial of the cycle of life. Director VJ Gopinath is not as boring as that, though he doesn’t resist the temptation to call on ‘science’ to argue forth the script. In his tale, there are forces at play – nothing supernatural or remotely otherworldly, but one that earnestly draws on the ricochet effect: worlds set in different periods in time mirror the other. Not as dark or obviously inhuman as Netflix’s Stranger Things for there are no alternate dimensions in Gopinath’s script, only an intangible force seeking to restore balance. An old thief who is enjoying his spoils suddenly finds he needs to give in as a younger one emerges, and the younger, newly-minted thief is bereft of his ill begotten treasure. Some place else, a poor man who had been dealt a harsh blow in life finds himself in possession of riches beyond his imagination.

Gopinath’s characters could well be out of Mysskin’s universe.

At about two hours and a few minutes, Jiivi engages almost every minute of its run time. Granted, it isn’t brilliant or what you’d call path-breaking cinema. It also employs dubious tactics – right down to setting up a Muslim man as a potential suspect. Even as we think that the ruse is to make a pertinent point at large, preferably anything but a handy diversionary tactic, the film resorts to doing just that. There are jibes at activists, journalists and the media at large, and perhaps other entities that the filmmakers have an axe to grind with. When director Gopinath isn’t snarking on his personal dislikes or subscribing to some questionable values, Jiivi races to the end without an obvious break in narrative quality. Having said that though, it’s still one of the better films on Tamil screen this month.


The Jiivi review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

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