Karthik Subbaraj (33) is a trendsetting director in Tamil cinema. He made a sensational debut with that delicious Pizza (2012), a thriller made on a shoe string budget that became a sleeper hit. Two years later his gangster story Jigarthanda (title derived from a sweet beverage available in Madurai), got rave reviews and he was called the Quentin Tarantino of Kollywood on social media. The film, an average grosser, took over two years to produce, went over budget and Karthik had a bitter fall out with its producer Kathiresan.
Last Friday Karthik Subbaraj’s ambitious multi-starrer Iraivi (Goddess) released, with critics going ga-ga over it. Noted critic Bardwaj Rangan of The Hindu wrote, “Iraivi is an unusual feminist film, in the sense that it’s seen entirely through the prism of sympathetic male characters. Your men aren’t monsters who drink or cheat on their wives or subject them to torture. They do these things, yes, but… differently.”
The Times Of India critic M Suganth said in his review, “Iraivi signifies the transition of Karthik Subbaraj from a whiz kid who delivered visually dazzling works to a major filmmaker who merits serious discussion. If Pizza and Jigarthanda showed his directing flair, Iraivi is a showcase of his writing prowess. That doesn't mean the film is visually a lesser experience. In fact, it is equally impressive. The film is certainly the most interesting 'drama' we have seen in Tamil cinema in a while.”
Iraivi is getting polarised views on social media. Bollywood director Bejoy Nambiar tweeted : “Iraivi is a bold film with a very unpredictable &unique story @karthiksubbaraj grabs u by the collar & just doesn't let go. A MUST WATCH”.
— Bejoy Nambiar (@nambiarbejoy) June 6, 2016
But down south, Tamil director and actor Lakshmi Ramakrishnan tweeted: “For me Iraivi did not come across as a film with strong female characters, too much violence, and twist was horrible.”
FOR ME #Iraivi , did not come across as a film with strong female characters, too much violence, twist was horrible...
— Lakshmy Ramakrishnan (@LakshmyRamki) June 6, 2016
However, trouble started for Iraivi after the first-day-first-show when the powerful Tamil Film Producers Council (TFPC) members saw red after watching the film. In the film, Karthik depicts a character, a film producer, as the root cause of the hero's (a film director turned alcoholic) film is stuck in the cans. In the film, there is a violent scene where one of the hero’s associate and close friend clubs the producer to death using a hammer. The buzz in trade circles was that Karthik through that gory scene had shown his anger towards his Jigarthanda producer Kathiresan. Now a section within TFPC wants action to be taken against Karthik Subbaraj.
Meanwhile, one of the presenters of Iraivi , leading producer KE Gnanavelraja, felt peeved about the whole issue which by the weekend had blown into a major controversy. In a sensational Whatsapp audio, Gnanavel said that he deeply regret his association with Iraivi. The peeved producer said, “Unlike others, Karthik Subbaraj doesn’t know the pain of becoming a director as he never worked as an assistant to anyone. CV Kumar has introduced Karthik in Pizza and now with Iraivi, the director has not only overshot the budget and put the producer in an insecure state”.
The buzz in trade circles is that Iraivi starring mid-level stars like SJ Surya, Vijay Sethupathi, Bobby Simhaa, Anjali, Kamaleene Mukerjee, cost around Rs 13.5 crore including print and publicity. Karthik had promised to complete it for Rs 7 crore. The producer of the film CV Kumar had to release it on a deficit, and at the box-office the film is being liked only by critics and multiplex audiences and is not doing well in B and C centres.