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What Parthiban, Arthur Wilson and their team achieved – even if it took 23 takes – is nothing short of phenomenal. You’re sure to wow the National Awards Committee

What Parthiban, Arthur Wilson and their team achieved – even if it took 23 takes – is nothing short of phenomenal. You’re sure to wow the National Awards Committee

A single-shot film creates an illusion of continuity of time and space, just like in real life. This “illusion,” or rather the technique used to make the film look seamless, is often dismissed as a gimmick – be it Hitchcock’s Rope or Sam Mendes’ 1917. In most cases, single-shot is a myth that filmmakers create to distract audiences from noticing the cuts, unlike Don Palathara, for example Santhoshathinte Onnam Rahayasam which was actually shot like a continuous film. In some cases, you can’t even guess at these invisible cuts. For a single-shot film to work, the filmmaker must maintain this illusion of continuity.

And it’s no coincidence that Parthibans Iravin Nizhal begins with a mirage: distorted images of light and shadow tumble out as Rahman’s haunting “Kaayam” plays in the background. But unlike the famously made one-take films, there are no editing tricks Iravin Nizhal. A 30-minute video is shown before the film begins to illustrate this point.

Single-shot films are so complex to execute that we have to ask ourselves: Is it justified that this story be told in this format – as a single, uninterrupted shot? But that’s the filmmaker’s choice and we only have to judge what we see on screen and whether it works or not. One of the earliest and classic examples of a single-shot film is Ropewhat Hitchcock once said was “an experiment that didn’t work”. Hitchcock was so excited about the play that he decided to do it Rope perhaps as a single-shot film to keep the audience engaged.

Rope is a good example to understand Iravin Nizhal. The latter also unfolds like an elaborate Broadway theater production. But the main difference is that in a play things unfold in real time for an audience. In the film format, however, the camera’s gaze becomes the gaze of the audience. In this sense, Iravin Nizhal is a film that downloads like a play right before our eyes, and audience engagement remains crucial. But there’s a catch to. We miss the most important part of the camera when taking the audience’s perspective: focusing.

Only a handful of filmmakers have dared to make a film look like one continuous take, given the number of logistical nightmares involved. But these films, too, revolved around wide spaces or at least had freedom of movement for the cameraman. Every shot clean Iravin Nizhal brings with it a new set of challenges – for the cinematographer, set operator, assistant director and actor. About the composition of birdmanhis cameraman Emmanuel Lubezki was quoted as saying The Hollywood Reporter as said. “We created the transitions through rehearsals; for the more difficult ones we had to have visual effects.”

A still from Iravin Nizhal

A still from ‘Iravin Nizhal’ | Photo credit: special agreement

Iravin Nizhal does not use visual effects but follows a similar approach. movies like Rope, birdman and 1917 are shot like one continuous film with a series of long takes that are stitched together at the editing table. These “invisible” cuts cannot be seen with the naked eye. But Parthiban uses a new technique for these cut transitions, where the camera stays on frame for a few seconds to give the actors and set operators breathing space to prepare for the next scene, the next set piece – everything in a matter of a few seconds. Sound crazy? Ridiculous? There is a catch to.

In the same interview, Lubezki talks about the lighting complication they faced. “If we light Michael at his vanity mirror, a minute later a shadow will appear as we move around the room. So we had to time all the lighting changes to make sure you didn’t see shadows.” Iravin Nizhal‘s set consists of 59 small blocks like a maze. His images are crammed with people, props and set pieces, which further complicates Arthur Wilson’s work. Because he has to carry the Sony Venice camera on his shoulder for 100 minutes with so many landmines. Even if an actor gets out of focus, or if the camera flips, or if they don’t get the right lighting, it’s back to square one. In short, what Parthiban, Wilson and their team have achieved – even if it took 23 takes – is nothing short of phenomenal. You’re sure to wow the National Awards Committee.

The idea for Iravin Nizhal is this: A hurt man in his fifties digs into past memories while on his way to sort things out with an old acquaintance. We get a glimpse of his life through the memories unfolding in a disorderly fashion. For a movie that has a high level of difficulty, it requires a lot of patience and faith. Not only Parthiban, but his actors too must maintain a positive attitude, even if they take the blame for losing an attitude.

Parthiban is also a human. He loses his composure when someone messes up something in the 90 minute by not pressing a button properly. That means they have to start all over again – from the beginning. We see Parthiban blow it up. But because the director is clever, he turns this mistake into a natural moment in the film.

A scene from ‘Iravin Nizhal’ | Photo credit: special agreement

There are basic Parthiban things that really stand out. A character is on a mission to kill the ghost of the past. He enters the graveyard through a hole he punctures in a wall while we hear a baby whimpering in the background – as if it were a metaphor for his return to the womb. A man whose life has seen only downsides that have forced him to stop believing in God or hope has a daughter named Arputham. She calls him “thappa” instead of “appa” as if to remind who he is: someone who has strayed onto the wrong side.

Pose like Orson Welles with a hat The third manthe protagonist of Iravin Nizhal is afraid of his own reflection, his own shadow. There’s that characteristic pun in between amman (goddess) and ammanam (naked), Mangalam undagattum (May you prosper) and undagirukken (I’m pregnant). Six o’clock is pronounced sex-o’clock to emphasize post-evening rituals. There’s a joke that combines motherhood and spousal rape that doesn’t sit well. But that’s the thing, the women we meet are treated as either goddesses or vampires. There is a shot of a baby lying on its dead mother’s chest, crying from hunger. The product of an extramarital affair, he begins to wonder if he was breastfeeding milk or poison [fortunately, Parthiban arranged a special screening. We saw the uncensored version].

Iravin Nizhal

Cast: R Parthiban, Priyanka Ruth, Brigida Saga, Anandha Krishnan, Varalaxmi Sarathkumar and Robo Shankar

Director: R. Parthiban

Technical Team: Arthur A Wilson (Camera), R Parthiban (Editing), AR Rahman (Music), Vijai Murugan (Art Direction), Kunal Rajan and Craig Mann (Sound Design)

A film’s merit cannot, should not, be limited to being the “first” of many. When Hitchcock did Ropewas not the merit of the film only it will be shot as a continuous film. Also the focus of Iravin Nizhal should not only be the single-shot aspect; What the filmmaker does within the format is also crucial.

Here’s the thing: within the constraints of time and space, you can either make a great single-shot film or make a single-shot film look great. Unfortunately, Parthiban goes the latter way. Do not get me wrong. Iravin Nizhal, without a shadow of a doubt, is a remarkable technical feat in which Parthiban showcases his directorial talent. But besides the stamp of “the world’s first non-linear single-shot film”, does it leave you with the healthy feeling that you’ve seen something special? Yes, for his ambition; no, what is it cut out for [Parthiban says this is a film edited during the writing stage].

The writing isn’t lean – but the production is, so everything has to be considered with set design in mind. As a result of that onslaught, some moments – like a character’s affair, or when someone dies by burns, or when Parthiban uses voiceover as a means to fill in narrative gaps – required elaborate staging and better emotional payoff. Sometimes there is so much packed into the frame that one wishes for a little more speed [Rahman’s gentle music does this for the most part] and coherence between scenes. For an average viewer, this might not be a problem. But for us film authors it sometimes comes across as too easy, too comfortable. Nevertheless, Parthiban dares to dream big. He seems to enjoy taking risks and surpassing himself. Be brave, Parthiban.

Iravin Nizhal hits theaters this Friday

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