Updating after a really long time to wish a happy birthday and wonderful year ahead to Karthik Subbaraj–one of my favorite directors, whom I discovered through wanting to watch more Vijay Sethupathi movies after 96 and Vikram Vedha.

He’s inspired by the Coen brothers and Tarantino, but without their annoying self-referential cynicism. My favorite of his movies is Iraivi (Goddess), which is on Amazon Prime with subtitles. Iraivi reminds me very much of Jane Campion’s work, especially In the Cut and Top of the Lake. So, not an easy movie to watch in parts, but ultimately a satisfying story.

The trailer for Iraivi really doesn’t convey the movie well–it was clearly more to get people into the theater than to give an idea of the tone or themes of the movie. Instead, here is a song which neatly illustrates all of the main characters of the movie.

Vijay Sethupathi is Michael, a really not nice guy who is marrying lovely and naive Ponni, played wonderfully by Anjali, mostly out of revenge to the woman he actually loves. Surya is Arul, a deeply unhappy man who drinks to dull the pain and just wants everyone to be happy–especially his wife Yazhini, played by Kamalinee Mukherji. He’s the one who grabs a mike and starts singing and dancing to lift the mood of the reception. Finally, Bobby Simha plays Jagan, Arun’s younger brother, seemingly trying to restrain Arul’s excesses, but with deep motivations of his own. The abrupt shift at the end of the song is very Karthik Subbaraj and has a trademark twist. It shifts to the garlanded bed of the newlyweds and you think, oh, how sweet. But then you abruptly see that poor Ponni will not have the romantic first night she’s been dreaming of. It’s quite a brave performance by Vijay Sethupathi, because there is very little redeeming about his character. Loyalty to his friends, that’s about it, and it causes mostly destruction in the film.

Here’s a more analytical take on why Karthik is a good, maybe great, director. The substance and subtitles start at 1.26. Warning, there’s a fair amount of violence in the clips shown.

Finally, a sweet video with Vijay and Anjali from an entirely different, non-Karthik movie, Sindhuubadh, just to show what nice chemistry they have together, whether in an antagonistic or affectionate relationship.

Happy birthday, Karthik sir! 🙂

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