What kind of a film can be made from a heist? An investigative thriller? A satire (remember Soodhu Kavvum), a gangster drama/dark comedy? A tragedy? We all have seen at least one film in each of these genres. How about an existential thriller? Sounds confusing?
The film as said, is about a heist. It has all the necessary elements to become a cliched, run-of-the-mill, plain-vanilla masala film. A poor hero with the intent to go rich quick, a friend, a lover, a police officer, the hero's family in poverty and a love failure. It even has a soon-to-be-bride blind girl and her paralyzed father! Despite all of this, Jiivi surprises with the taut writing and sharp dialogues. The most interesting part of the film is the story. It does feel like a drab masala for the first 20 minutes or so, but after that it picks up.
The film is about an existential crisis, a heist and the law of Karma. The concept that is introduced in the film is Karma beautifully decorated in a fancy jargon. However, the treatment of the law of Karma is what makes this film special.
Jiivi has a limited cast - Vetri (of 8 Thottakkal fame), Karunakaran, Rohini, Rama, Monica Chinnakotla and others. Saravanan (Vetri) is stuck in a land of dream-actualization (Chennai) to earn money for his poor family. Turns out he has been forced to do this because of this family situation. He isn't a graduate but has a curiosity (the factor that motivates his deeds and prods the narrative forward) that is insatiable and about anything. After a torrid (even for the audience) love affair, he decides to get rich quickly. How he achieves this and how his decision and actions affect him and others around him form the rest of the narrative.
The plot summary is quite bland, I admit. It is only so because that is all there is to it! After all, what is Ramayana - A man loses his wife and goes in search of her, right? But what makes this plotline epic is the narrative and the narration. That is exactly the case with Jiivi. This is where the writing and direction stand out. There are only 2 songs in this film. The fight scenes are to establish the character arc of the protagonist and minimal. The whole film travels solely on the shoulders of a strong script and a tight screenplay. There is some amount of predictability once we get a hang of the sequence of events, yet the director surprises us just when we think we know what would happen next.
Each of the characters' motive and presence fit perfectly well to take the narrative ahead. Kudos to the dialogues that are sharp and only prod the curiosity of the audience further. The twist in the end is cinematic nevertheless satisfying for everyone. Hint: Law of Karma.
The strong script somehow falters on the translation a little bit. Some scenes are quite apparent that they are staged and almost feel like they are written just to show that Saravanan is the "hero". Except for that flaw and the drab love angle at the start, this film is a thriller that you would never have seen before and therefore a must-watch. As Baradwaj Rangan said in his review, "This may not be good cinema, but it's a decent watch." I would go on to add, a thought-provoking and a moral compassesque film. It is streaming on Amazon Prime Video, catch this beauty for this weekend and let us know what you feel!