The one amusing thing about “Idhaya Thamarai” is how transparent the intent behind it is. It seems that the director was trying his hardest to turn the famous Karthik-Revathy subplot from Mouna Raagam into a full-fledged film in its own right with a proper extension and conclusion beyond the college setting, which is where the film begins. Now, such an idea isn’t bad at all, but the execution, in terms of the actual storytelling, feels rather artificial. The movie really lacks an overarching sense of cohesion and moves somewhat clumsily from scene to scene, trying to make a dramatic impact but never quite feeling genuine. What makes it interesting is that it is coated in production values that are very good for its time and feels very sleek on a strictly technical level. The cinematography and visual quality in particular is a treat.
Take the above image as an example – a nicely composed, melancholic image – I can practically feel the raindrops around just by staring at it. The music also seems to want to elevate the film to higher realms, with the angelic song “Oru Kadhal Devathai” echoing in my head as I write this. Plus, you have Karthik and Revathy, who have a natural chemistry that has been exploited well by other directors. Yet, at the end of the day, Idhaya Thamarai just doesn’t work. At all. There is a stilted pace and a choppy quality to the proceedings that robs it of any natural flow, the characters aren’t given time to simply breathe and build personality, and their dialogues never feel like more than words from a script. Karthik’s character in particular, with his mood swings and bursts of anger, doesn’t really convince as a believably flawed person and the way he’s written feels more like a caricature.
If I had to boil it down to one phrase, the film simply seems like it’s “trying too hard”. It uses a whole host of flourishes and editing techniques to feel more cinematic (particularly in comparison to other films of the time), and the camerawork is superb, yet somehow the fundamental component of any film – the story – never manages to shake off a certain artificial quality. It’s truly an odd little film.