Genre: Action thriller
Director: Anand Shankar
Cast: Vikram, Nayantara, Nithya Menen, and Thambi Ramaiah
Akilan Vinod is a former RAW (Research & Analysis Wing) agent who has a bone to pick with Love, an eccentric gender-bending chemist who was responsible for the supposed death of his wife, Meera George.
The film opens at the Indian Embassy in Malaysia with an elderly Chinese man breathing in a drug via what appears to be an asthma inhaler. He then proceeds to bash up numerous security personnel singlehandedly. Indian police eventually declare that Love is the mastermind behind the attack and how Akilan sets out to foil Love’s plan to terrorise the world with the drug, Speed, forms the rest of the faltering plot.
What Did Not Work
As with every other Tamil film that attempts to experiment with science fiction, there are loopholes galore in Iru Mugan. Questioning every single one of them might leave you mentally exhausted at the end of this two and a half hour long film, so I would strongly discourage you against it. It is also rather bizarre that the scriptwriter chooses to patiently explain to the audience, at all the wrong junctures, certain scientific concepts. At one point, I felt like a student in a history class being educated on how Hitler kept his troops fighting relentlessly with the aid of crystal meth. I found myself wanting to shout out, “Alright, get on with it!” at some points of the film.
It is almost as if the scriptwriter does not expect an educated audience. Either that, or he felt the need to justify the scientific aspects of the film in case the audience should question its credibility. At the back of my mind, I imagined a scriptwriter thinking, “This is way too complicated for the mainstream audience to comprehend. Let me throw in some explanations to make them feel at ease. Then again, the smarter lot might dismiss all of this as hogwash. Best to back it up with some scientific evidence and let the plot appear a tad sophisticated.”
The Odd Love
As much as I loved Love (no pun intended), one can’t help but wonder why Love is the way he is. We are provided with zero background information on this bizarre character who loves the colour pink and bowties. You can’t blame the audience for wanting to ask questions such as, “Is Love gay?” and “Is Love transgender?” While Love exhibits a fondness for makeup, he also boasts a buff figure. Whatever Love identifies as, he has definitely secured his place under the ‘Most Eccentric Characters of Tamil Cinema’ category. Do I sense another award on the way for Vikram for this character whose face could possibly be the subject of nightmares? Perhaps a Filmfare Award. No chances of yet another National Award here for sure.
The Female Leads
Let’s talk about the female characters in Iru Mugan. There are two leading ladies taking on extremely unconventional roles (by Indian cinema’s standards) in this film. Nayantara plays a RAW agent, Meera George, and later a badass hacker, Rosy, while Nithya Menen is a junior RAW agent, Aayushi, who is assigned to tackle the case alongside Akilan. Kudos to the director for refraining from using both the actresses simply for the purpose of romancing the hero. While Meera is the love interest and wife of Akilan, Aayushi is spared from having to be a man’s significant other. We need more such characters in Indian cinema. Having said that, I also have to add that justice was not fully done to both female characters. In terms of screen time, Meera receives just about enough to leave a minimal impact on the plot. As for Aayushi, one can only wish that the director hadn’t conveniently terminated her in the second half of the film.
The Problem with Akilan Vinod
Right from the start, Akilan comes across as one of those strong, silent types who prefers to let his brains and sometimes, fist, do the talking. Four years on, he is still mourning the passing of his beloved wife, Meera. Given that his emotions are still intact, it is odd that he is unable to sympathise with the death of the young prostitute who had embarked on a mission to help the RAW duo crack the case. Contradictory much? Needless to say, Vikram plays both characters well and it is perhaps his acting that somehow manages to keep the film watchable till the end. If I had to pick the better played of both characters, I would have to point to Love. Though bizarre, bordering on eerie, and in between genders, Vikram nails a role that few actors would be able to manage. He also scores full marks in the beard department where Akilan is concerned.
The Power of ‘Speed’
Herein lies the biggest and most ridiculous loophole of them all. The audience is told that the purpose of ‘Speed’ is to provide the user with superhuman strength for the duration of five minutes. What does this enable him to do? Why, to singlehandedly bash up every single person who stands in the way of his mission, of course! But wait – is this not what the heroes of Indian cinema have already been doing without the magical aid of ‘Speed’ for decades? *slaps forehead* I rest my case.
The Anti-Masala Elements
Credit must be given where it is due. Although the movie fails on the overall, there are minor details which were refreshing as far as I was concerned. The audience was spared from having to sit through the entire love story of Akilan and Meera. The husband and wife pair was initially simply portrayed as a couple in love and about to get married. No “running around the coconut tree” nonsense here. (yay!) Secondly, Vikram was not given an unnecessary filmy hero’s introduction that would have further bruised the already weak plot. In fact, he was shown dealing with blows from a thug in his opening scene – quite unusual for a Kollywood hero. Double yay for filmgoers who crave the unorthodox!
Given that this is an Indian film, we have to talk about the songs, don’t we? Halena is rather catchy to the ears, but the choreography on the big screen disappoints big time. Vikram looks terribly awkward trying to pull off steps which I can only describe as strange in layman terms. Dance has never quite been the man’s forte, and those steps only served to thrust that weakness into the limelight. Bad move.
Iru Mugan Settai is a loud and wild number which may come across as jarring to some. I think it makes for a brilliant workout accompaniment while on the treadmill though. The gem amongst all the tunes for this film would be Kannai Vittu; it’s one of those numbers that soothe a melancholic soul in the wee hours of the night. Give it a listen and it could fast become one of your temporary favourites for the year. None of the five songs composed for the movie can be said to be on the track to evergreen fame. They all seem to consist of familiar portions of musical bliss extracted from Harris Jayaraj’s previous compositions and mashed together.
Still looking to catch Iru Mugan in theatres? It’s borderline watchable. But just once.