Irul movie review: Fahadh Faasil, Darshana Rajendran thriller is a damp squib

Irul is a disappointing contrast to Fahadh and Darshana’s earlier team-up in Mahesh Narayanan’s C U Soon, a pandemic-time release that became a national sensation with its thoroughly original story and storytelling style.

Anna MM Vetticad April 02, 2021 15:37:06 IST

2/5

Language: Malayalam 

The cast consists of a trio who rank among Mollywood’s best, the cinematography by Jomon T John is at places breathtaking, and good money has been spent on setting up the plush home in which most of the action in Irul (Darkness) takes place. A house with a magnificent layout, pretty wall paint and luxurious furniture does not count as a quality dwelling unless the foundation is sturdy though. And it turns out that the producers of Irul forgot to check the foundation of the film they invested in. 

It took five people to write this film – five people whose screenplay looks promising in the beginning and dissipates into a damp squib, no, make that a drenched squib, by the end. 

Soubin Shahir plays Alex Parayil in debutant director Naseef Yusuf Izuddin’s Irul. Alex is a businessman and author of a murder mystery who heads off for a weekend break with a lawyer named Archana Pillai (Darshana Rajendran). From the opening shot in which we see Alex wake up from a nightmare and the couple’s somewhat circuitous talk until they hit the road, it is clear that this will be no ordinary holiday. 

On a pitch black, rainy night, Alex and Archana chance upon a stranger (Fahadh Faasil) in an eerie house, the insides of which are bathed in yellow light and a green sheen. As the three converse, the audience is led through a game of whodunnit, willitbedoneagain and whoelsewilldoit.  

At first, this is an entertaining sport. Fahadh and Soubin play off each other well, and make it impossible for us to trust either of them. Darshana is saddled with some decidedly run-of-the-mill lines, yet manages to embody Archana’s confusion and fear, even if the psychology of the script makes her a suspect too. When the climax comes around, however, it is not half as impressive as the effort the actors put into their performances or the reasonably attractive premise – not earth-shatteringly original, but with potential all the same – on which Irul is based. 

In vino veritas,” the weirdest character of the three says in one scene, as they share a drink. This Latin phrase literally translates to “in wine, there is truth”, a reference to the shedding of inhibitions under the influence of alcohol. The truth ultimately revealed in Irul might still have been interesting if it had added any layers to what we already know by then, but it does not. Irul then is less than the sum of some of its better parts. 

This is a disappointing contrast to Fahadh and Darshana’s earlier team-up in Mahesh Narayanan’s C U Soon, a pandemic-time release that became a national sensation with its thoroughly original story and storytelling style. 

Fahadh, who is Darshana’s senior in the profession, has built a reputation as an artist with a remarkable instinct for scripts and a keenness for roles that would not conventionally be viewed as the protagonist in most Indian cinema. He chose to play the thief rather than the heroine’s husband in Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum. In C U Soon too, while many male Mollywood stars in their 50s and 60s would have swooped down on the part of a desperate young woman’s boyfriend, he chose to play her boyfriend’s mature older cousin. When he zeroes in on a particular character, it immediately evokes curiosity over why. His experimentation has generated some incredible cinema in the past decade. In Irul, sadly, the risk does not pay off. 

Fahadh does have his moments in this film – my favourite is a scene in which his character is crawling on the floor, we can see only his legs, and something about the specific way he moves them and then freezes made me laugh. 

Soubin in recent years has successfully transitioned from being a supporting actor to a lead or co-lead with his displays of brilliance in the likes of Sudani from Nigeria, Kumbalangi Nights, Android Kunjappan Version 5.25 and Vikruthi. He pours his heart into Irul, but like Fahadh and Darshana, is ultimately left high and dry by the insubstantial script. 

The best thing that can be said about Irul is that it made me curious enough to watch till the last minute. Great psychological thrillers linger long after the credits have rolled off the screen though. It does not help at all that hours before Irul, I watched the Icelandic horror flick I Remember You (2017) that just dropped on BookMyShow Stream, and I cannot stop thinking about its heartrending drama or the way every single shot and spoken word are stitched together in the profound – and profoundly sad – finale. Irul is already slipping out of my mind. 

Irul is streaming on Netflix India.

Rating: **

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