Oru Naal Iravil is about the small, random decisions the central characters make, and how their lives change irreparably as a consequence. Sathyaraj plays Sekar, an overprotective, conservative man, who decides to marry off his 18 year old daughter. Because she has male friends at college. Varun plays Suri, a big mouthed autorickshaw driver, who sheepishly grins at every other female who sits in his auto. He also runs errands for Sekar on occasion. Yugi Sethu plays Sethu Bharathi, once a popular director, now struggling to survive in the industry. How each of their seemingly harmless mistakes intertwine and impact their lives forms the theme of Oru Naal Iravil.
The film begins with an animation of a mousetrap inside a dingy space. Towards the middle of the story, we see a mouse inside a mousetrap, signifying Sekar’s plight. Sekar is locked inside a small, empty commercial space with a sex worker (Anumol). This is a performance which establishes Sathyaraj’s credentials as a seasoned actor. Sathyaraj vanishes. In his place, the hypocrite Sekar emerges. There are powerful scenes where he displays an unwarranted anger towards his daughter, or where he gives in to a moment of temptation and seeks the paid company of a woman. In scenes where he is trapped, where the scenes rely purely on the actor’s mettle, he is at ease, and delivers an effortless performance.
Her Malaylam films, Ivan Megharoopan and Vedivazhipadu, had already established Anumol as an actress of substance. Despite slight issues with the lip sync here, she puts on a credible show of a spunky sex worker, who has no regrets. Debutante Varun pulls off a fair performance as a shallow minded auto driver. Although, he does lack the subtlety in expressions that Vinay Forrt had mastered in the original. Yugi Sethu arguably has the most interesting role in the film. He plays a struggling filmmaker who is calm in tense situations, thinks through things, and provide solutions. All the while maintaining a trademark dour sense of humour.
The beauty of the film lies in the way the characters are written. None of them are perfect. They are like most of us, believably flawed and likeable. Sekar, for instance, is that man we all know. The stubborn middle-aged man who expects everyone around him to live under his rule. He’s a hypocrite and impossible to like, at first. But this Iravu is a night of discovery for him. One in which he is compelled to finally judge where he truly stands, having sailed halfway through his life with blinkers on. In the two nights he lives inside the closed shutters of his shop, he understands who really matters, and sees the little known sides of the people he trusted. When he finally steps out of his prison, Sekar emerges a new man, and sets foot in a new world.
The twist in the film comes late into the story, keeping us riveted and waiting for it. Major credit goes to Joy Mathew who penned the story and directed the original. But equally appreciable are Anthony’s efforts to film with such care. The result – Oru Naal Iravil is true to the original Shutter, yet holds its ground and stands tall. Owing much to the performers on screen.
Oru Naal Iravil is a film that lingers long after the watching. It displays human feelings realistically. There are no saints. Nobody preaches. And yet, a lot is learnt in less than one night.
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