‘Ispade Rajavum’… ‘July Kaatril’… and the modern-day Tamil-film romance

Posted on March 18, 2019

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Read the full article on Film Companion, here: https://www.filmcompanion.in/ispade-rajavum-idhaya-raniyum-july-kaatril-baradwaj-rangan-southern-lights/

Two movies go beyond the clichés in our love stories, but only one of them has real heart.

Which was the first ‘can’t live with you, can’t live without you’ romance in Tamil cinema, the kind whose path was strewn as much with razors as roses? The Madhavan-Meera Jasmine track in Aaydha Ezhuthu? But even if there have been predecessors, the “genre” has never quite caught on. Even when Gautham Vasudev Menon came out with jagged-edge romances like Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya and the woefully underrated Neethane En Ponvasantham, they seemed like one-offs in a cinema culture that views relationship problems largely through a simple (and single) cause/effect prism. Usually, something major happens and that results in a (usually temporary) split, but these films said that no second hero (or heroine) was needed, and even if the parents objected (as in Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya), the couple was more to blame. Internal factors (indecisiveness, insecurity) were as major as the external ones (say, the boy or girl being engaged to someone else). But despite the success of Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya, the failure of Neethane En Ponvasantham and Kaatru Veliyidai (from a few years later) perhaps kept this “genre” of romance away from our screens.

Two releases, last week, attempt to remedy this situation. Ranjit Jeyakodi’s Ispade Rajavum Idhaya Raniyum is the less successful film. Its intentions are in the right place. It wants to harness the negative energies of Kaatru Veliyidai and Tamasha — the two most high-profile “feel-bad” romances of recent times. But instead of the positive endings of those films, Ispade Rajavum imagines what such toxicity in a relationship would really result in. After everything that’s happened, are we to believe that VC and Leela (from Kaatru Veliyidai), Ved and Tara (from Tamasha) are destined for a happily-ever-after? That’s the question on which Ispade Rajavum is built, but this fascinating foundation is severely undermined by the numerous cracks in the writing. In his search for Big Moments (that will explode impressively on screen), the writer-director forgets to clue us in on the small shifts that couples negotiate over the course of a relationship. Not a single scene is convincing, and all you can give the film is an A for effort.

Continued at the link above.

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