Iruvar and is considered as one of the seminal epics of Mani Ratnam and after sitting through it, I know exactly why. I have always had a special place in my heart for political thrillers and this is one political thriller which is par excellence. Iruvar is rumored to be based on the rivalry and friendship between DMK supremo Karunanidhi and the legendary MG Ramachandran, who started their careers as script writer and actor respectively. The duo successfully used their popularity and oratory skills to mold public opinion for their political party which made them men of legend. The film successfully dissects the different ups and downs in their friendship culminating in the death of the legendary MGR but not before they had sealed their places in the hall of fame of Indian politics.
The film starts off my introducing us to a struggling actor Anandan (Mohanlal) who after toiling much as is depicted in the initial sequences, lands up with the lead role in a major motion picture. As Anandan sets forth on the dreamy journey of his life, he crosses path with the fiery script writer, Tamil Selvam (Prakash Raj). The duo sense a connect almost instantaneously and decide to help each other with their endeavors. In the meantime, both Anandan and Selvam are married off and Anandan lands up in a soup as his maiden film gets shelved and he is forced to do second fiddle roles. But soon he finds his footing back and Selvam’s writing for him in a sequence which involves rescuing a damsel in distress makes him an instantaneous hit with the masses.
Anandan’s popularity and Selvam’s politics take their party to new heights as the duo stay close to each other and within years, Anandan single-handedly drives Selvam into becoming the Chief Minister. But then things take a turn for the bad as the denial of a cabinet post for Anandan not only infuriates him but the various levels of existing corruption in the party starts getting the better of their friendship. The matter worsens after the death of the leader of the party Anna Durai (Nasser). Soon Selvam throws Anandan out of the party and leads to Anandan establishing his own party which does a whitewash in the next election and makes Anandan the Chief Minister of the state. What happens next forms the crux of the narrative for the film.
Like all Mani Ratnam films, Iruvar is brimming with wit and spontaneity. The film boasts of some interesting and gripping subplots which really add something to the plot. The plot involving the extramarital affair between Raj and Tabu and the warmly romantic angle between Aishwariya and Mohanlal which is obviously taking a cue from the MGR-Jayalalitha story is riveting to watch. The film maintains a consistent look and feel and even though there are plenty of long and animated song and dance routines, they are wonderfully interwoven into the story and help in taking the narrative forward. You never feel bored or restless during those routines. AR Rahman’s music does help the cause quite a bit.
Mohanlal and Raj deliver knockout performances. Mohanlal looks like MGR in so many sequences and the fact that he is able to shed his own skin completely gives you the right feel. His interactions between Raj are easily the high points of the film. .on the other hand, Prakash Raj as the fiery and oratory Selvam was the best choice for the role. His intensity and vigor for the role makes him more than the character. There are many scenes where he speaks not a single word but his eyes speak a thousand. Revathy as Raj’s wife is apt. Aishwariya Rai who plays a la Jayalalitha is wonderful. She not only looks pretty but also acts her heart out. Look out for her sequences with Mohanlal. Tabu delivers yet again as Selvam’s lover.
Overall, Iruvar is one of those rare political thrillers to have come out in India which stays true to its cause. Eliminating all jingoism and reducing the stars to their characters domain, the film presents a pretty entertaining picture which is bound to withstand the test of time. This is one of the Indian classics.