Is Rahul Gandhi really PAPPU

India 1997Anandan (Mohanlal) dreams of a career as a film star. On the set of his first major production, he met the poet Tamil Selvam (Prakashraj) and became friends with him. Thanks to Selvam's dialogues, Anandan plays the role with fervor. He returns home for a short time and learns that he will be married to the beautiful Pushpa (Aishwarya Rai). After a few days of young happiness, he returns to the set - and learns that production has been stopped due to lack of finance. In order not to become a burden to him, Pushpa drives to her parents. Meanwhile, Anandan got a lead role. When he tries to tell his wife about it, he finds her in the grave. She died. The grieving actor becomes a megastar. The masses love him - which is exactly why Selvam hires him as the flagship for the party he co-founded. Thanks in part to Anandan's popularity, the party wins the parliamentary elections. Selvam becomes Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. Anandan returns to his set and now has more time for Kalpana (Rai), a beautiful girl who looks like Pupsha. She is a cheeky woman who knows exactly what she wants. It also makes Anandan rethink his relationship with the now power-conscious Selvam. When he gave a speech about corruption in the party at the funeral of the party president (Nasser), Anandan was expelled. He founds his own party ...
Mani Rathnam (aka Ratnam) is next to Ram Gopal Varma the most interesting contemporary Indian director. While Varma's films are often produced with a lot of style, Rathnam has another trademark: the controversy. Whether Dil Se or the ingenious drama Bombay - Rathnam knows where there are hot irons in India. He tackles them courageously. "Iruwar", which he filmed in his southern Indian homeland, Tamil Nadu, is no different in this area. The first words we read are "This is not a true story". That's just only partially true. For those familiar with the political scene in Tamil Nadu, it quickly becomes clear that Rathnam fictionalizes the real friend-hostility of actors MGR and K. Karunanithi (background here). As I said: a hot potato. But since I don't know the political landscape in South India, I enjoyed "Iruwar" as a pseudo-documentary biopic. Almost like an Oliver Stone film. Thematically, "Iruwar" is really a rich bouquet. It's about friendship, love, politics, corruption of power and the film industry. Almost too many topics for a two and a half hour film. In fact, the drama also seems tremendously disheveled. For a long time you don't know what Rathnam is getting at and if you are not familiar with Tamil politics, short scenes, which are immediately important to insiders, appear overheated and unclear. The film takes on an episodic character, which also prevents it from generating true emotions. In the second half, when it is finally clear what Rathnam is all about, the cut is just way too bad. A good editor could have gotten so much more flow out of the material. It almost hurts to see how hacked "Iruwar" is.

Technically, "Iruwar" is not up to date anyway. The camera work is a shame. Often there are unnecessarily shaky tracking shots, then again the framing is bad (central people are cut off in the picture) or the lighting is weak. That's even the case with the songs. In Hindi films, the songs are always the epitome of video aesthetics, here they are filmed honestly. A dance number by Aishwarya Rai in front of the Taj Mahal: an image for the gods - but it silts up in "Iruwar". All of this is all the more astonishing because the cameraman is called Santosh Sivan, the esthete who is now also working as a director (Asoka, The Terrorist). I just don't get it. It may be that Rathnam wanted a documentary approach. This also works for certain scenes. But certainly not for the songs. And to round off the technical problems: Rathnam replaces important dialogues with music in a few scenes - for example in a speech by Anandan and in a scolding of taboo (she makes a brief appearance as Tamil Selvram's lover). This idea may work on paper, but it is poorly implemented. As beautiful as A. R. Rahman's music is, you really want to hear the dialogue at these points.
Well, you might think I didn't like "Iruvar". That is not right. The potential just wasn't fully used, especially in technical and narrative terms. But there is absolutely nothing to complain about about one thing, and those are the actors. The Kerala born Mohanlal (Company) gives the best and most subtle performance of his career. He doesn't look good and probably doesn't fit into a high-gloss Bollywood film, but after you've gotten over that impression, he grows like more into the role. From film loo to statesman. What a performance. His co-star Prakashraj is in no way inferior to him. A few short appearances, including those by Tabu and Nasser (as party leader), are also convincing. And then there is this former "Miss World", who made her debut in the work. Aishwarya Rai was dubbed (she's from Mangalore on the southwest coast), but wow, what a debut film. In the dance numbers she is more nimble than ever later, I had the feeling. Her acting performance is not yet fully developed, but as soon as she can play "easily", she shines. You just have to like them. The first time you see her in the film, she has hazel eyes, which completely threw me off course. She has such beautiful green-gray eyes. Well, that was just so you can tell them apart with their second role (without lenses). Be that as it may, Aish is just wonderfully beautiful in "Iruvar". There is an attitude somewhere in the mountains that alone proves why she won the "Miss World" title in 1994 in the first place. And every film that makes Aish dance in the rain has already won. Melting ...
"Iruvar" should not be missed by lovers of Indian films as it differs from Bollywood films in a few ways. Of course the language (Tamil instead of Hindi) is different, but the songs also sound different. Somehow more spherical. The actors and landscapes are also different from those known from Hindi strips. But even considered in itself "Iruvar" is a film worth watching. The technical flaws spoil the fun, but Mani Rathnam's courage and the ingenious game of the actors can only be praised.
Available on DVD - I saw the Tamil version (code 0) in Tamil with English subtitles.
Alternative title: The duo