I’ve often wondered what makes one change his/her dynamics when you are in an alien land. How does that make you forget your roots and change your mental makeup? How easy or difficult is it to accept a different culture, and is it really all that possible to remain rooted despite all odds? No I have never lived abroad and nor am I planning to leave my homeland anytime soon. But with many friends and relatives having moved abroad I do tend to think on these lines once in a while. Malayalam filmmaker Shyamaprasad is probably someone who also thinks about all these like me. He even made a film recently titled interestingly as English: An Autumn in England (2013), revolving around the lives of a few Malayalees living in London. Probably his most audience friendly film, unfortunately it did not have his usual touch in the bargain. But he quickly bounced back with the wonderful Artist (2013) within a span of few months itself. And now he has come back with his latest outing, Ivide (here), a film that is completely based in U.S.A.
Set in Atlanta, U.S.A the film revolves around 3 individuals, Varun Blake (Prithviraj Sukumaran), a cop of Indian origin, Roshni Mathew (Bhavana), an IT professional and Krish Hebbar (Nivin Pauly), the CIO of an Indian I.T firm which is now spreading its wings in the U.S. Varun and Roshni were married before but now legally separated due to irreconcilable differences, their only connection now in existence being their daughter Trisha (Jia Patel). Roshni goes on to join the same firm where Krish works and that’s when they realize that they know each other from their school days. Against this background we see a few murders happening in the city baffling Varun who feels there is something strange behind the sudden deaths, all of them being people of Indian origin. Varun feels there is something in common with these murders and that they are not isolated events related to Atlanta and that there is something bigger than that.
No one else in the Police force really buys Varun’s theory but he is determined to follow his intuition and pursue the case. Around the same time we see Roshni and Krish slowly getting close. What happens further in the lives of Varun, Roshni and Krish? Was Varun right about the murders, if yes then who was behind it and why are the questions Ivide tries to answer. Ivide is written by Ajayan Venugopalan who was incidentally the writer of English: An Autumn in England as well. All the 3 main characters have an interesting arc remarkably. Varun is a cop with a slightly chequered past, he is someone who has been battling his inner demons for a long time. Adopted by the Blakes from an orphanage back in Kerala at the age of 7, he went on to see his adopted father leave his mother behind, in the process he also found out how he was ‘different’ from the other kids around him.
With such an emotional baggage on his head it isn’t surprising that his marriage doesn’t work, he is now trying to rebuild his present which includes caring for his daughter, though it isn’t going easy for him. Roshni on the other hand represents the modern educated Indian woman who falls in love with Varun but also moves out when she finds herself stifled in their relationship. She also comes across as a practical person, willing to relook at life as she warms up to Krish’s affection. Krish is an interesting character and not quite easy to slot unlike Varun and Blake. A hard working techie, he has fought hard for his professional success and looks capable of going to any extent to get what he wants. He has a vulnerable side as well, which we get to see in course of time. Though in case of English the typical Shyamaprasad effect was missing somehow, he more than makes up for the same with Ivide.
Though not a lengthy film it chugs along at a merry pace and the tale takes time to unfold, not something you expect from a thriller right? But that’s exactly what’s wrong; the film isn’t actually a conventional whodunit/thriller, where you expect the proceedings to be taut and moving at breakneck speed. Ivide is a tale that is actually more a human drama, it is a peep into 3 characters, how their lives converge against the backdrop of something sinister. In this process the film ends up touching upon various issues, outsourcing jobs to developing countries like India and the impact it has on Americans, corporate politics, a look at understanding dynamics of I.T business, identity issues migrants (here Indians) face in the U.S, unemployment etc. While it doesn’t try to evaluate or analyse any of these issues in their entirety, it does provide the spark and tell us that there is probably one or more film waiting to be made on these points.
Eric Dickinson’s cinematography captures the city of Atlanta effectively, giving the frames the right kind of feel to go with the mood of the film. Gopi Sunder‘s background score suits the nature and mood of the film, also some really good work has gone into the songs as well, just 2 of them in fact both written by Rafeeq Ahammed. ‘Etho Theerangal’ (sung by Gopi Sunder) is a haunting melody and the title track, ‘Aazhangalil Dinaravukal’ (sung admirably by Prithviraj) is also quite effective. Ajayan Venugopalan seems to have picked up some lessons from English, here he projects the characters and milieu a lot more realistically in his writing and Shyamaprasad brings them alive on screen quite remarkably. It’s also a gamble of sorts by Shayamaprasad and Ajayan as most of the dialogues are in English (yes you read that right) and there is very little of Malayalam in the film actually. This is probably also the reason why the film hasn’t been released outside Kerala with English subtitles.
Also there’s something significant that the film achieves, this is probably as close as we have got to making a global film and I am not saying this because there’s a lot of English in the film. There’s a lot more too, like the premise, the presence of some good American actors who for a change have an integral role to play in the film and do it well (the actors portraying the police chief and Varun’s mother in particular are very good) and with the Indian characters and their portrayal looking true as well. Considering it’s a gamble Ivide is certainly a risky film and it’s admirable to see the producers Dr. S. Sajikumar and Krishnan Sethukumar backing such a film and allowing Shyamaprasad the luxury of retaining his vision. Thankfully the producers did not cave in to ‘market sentiments’ getting in Malayalam voice-overs during the English dialogues and spoil the narrative in the bargain. And releasing the film along with a more crowd friendly ‘Premam’ and a big Tamil release ‘Massu Engira Masilamani’ also required guts.
The film also has some good performances to talk of, an added positive aspect in its favour. Prakash Bare as Mahesh Murthy, the founder of Krish Hebbar’s company has a blast and his character keeps reminding us of Narayana Murthy and Azim Premji (references to a son as successor and starting his business in edible oils being reminders). Bhavana is quite good in playing Roshni, an Indian woman whose marriage didn’t work and is open to discovering love once again. Nivin Pauly plays the complex role of Krish Hebbar very effectively; it is good to see him balance films like Oru Vadakkan Selfie and Premam on one hand with a Mili and an Ivide on the other. Though his English accent feels a little awkward initially, it fits in later as you understand the character a lot more. But eventually Ivide is a Prithviraj show all the way. While he has played a cop many a times he manages to portray Varun with a lot of sincerity. He gets the accent right and easily switches between vulnerability and control. Watch him in the scene where he has an outburst at home in front of his shocked mother or when he tries convincing his senior official, you realize how genuine he comes across.
If you are expecting a dark, racy thriller then Ivide may not work; but if you are willing to look beyond it then you may just get surprised. Not the best of Shyamaprasad, but certainly Ivide is something that he can still look back with pride in the future.