Film review: I Directed by Shankar

A Tamil tale of romance and revenge that grips your senses (and has a rather surprising cast...)

Posted: 20.01.15

A film that begins with a kidnap followed by a bodybuilding contest is bound to be a winner. Isn't it?
Thankfully with Director Shankar behind the clapper board anything is possible...and yes that does mean there's a prize worthy formula on the cards.

With its epic scale and positive heart, I is a modern day fairytale inspired by Beauty & The Beast that grips your senses and continues to take Tamil cinema into a league above anything that is currently being created under the Botown banner.

Romance and revenge lay at the roots of the story which focusses on an everyday man who ends up in an extraordinary situation. One day our hero Lingesan (Vikram) is sat at home watching the telly besotted by a supermodel called Diya (Amy Jackson) and next thing, he's starring in an international photography campaign with her. It may sound a bit far-fetched but once you encounter Lingesan, you'll be so taken by his charm, you'll soon be rooting for him and his fantasises.

One of the hardest working actors in Tamil Cinema, Vikram dedicated over two years of his life to the movie which involved him re-shaping his body into that of a body builder. Part of his appeal is his dedication to the discipline of acting, which on screen translates as a fully-fledged character who becomes so familiar, it's reassuring every time he is on the screen, and he's missed when he's not on it.

The anti heroes (of which there are several) include the perfectly cast British actor Upen Patel who excels in his roll as an arrogant (and rather ghastly) male model eager to crush the career of his new rival, and the character of Osma Jasmine, played by Ojas Rajani; a hipster cross-dressing stylist whose unrequited love sends her into an unexpected rage.

Memorable scenes in the movie include all of the songs, and not just because A R Rahman is behind them, but because each one is a sheer delight to watch. There's a particular montage of television advertisements that makes you wonder why real adverts are so cliched; the original costume designs (Amy Jackson dressed as a Nokia mobile and still managing to look sexy is impressive), seeing Amy and Upen on screen together (who could ever have imagined two Brit stars landing such major parts in a foreign film?) and the locations...we are talking a set that is so beautiful, it's other worldly. Even if you've never had a desire to visit China, you are guaranteed to leave the cinema screen with an inkling to go home and look at flight prices.

Story wise, revenge lies at the heart of the plot; revenge so severe that it's not about killing people but 'more than that.' Making someone suffer is the goal and with that comes scenes that are best not seen by a younger audience, (fingers crossed the small child sitting in front of me at my screening didn't get nightmares that evening). Thankfully the darker scenes are balanced out by all the other masala elements that make a trip to the cinema worthwhile - a sizable dose of action, drama, humour and romance make this a a film that's rewarding and satisfying to watch from start to finish. The film also touches on ideals of beauty and does not shy away from its LGBT references - an aspect though some may feel is being mocked is still present, which is more than can be said for many Indian movies.

You'll certainly get your monies worth; coming in at just under four hours it's best to watch I on a full stomach, however as a viewer I never once tired of the performances. At one point I was enjoying the film so much I was sad just thinking about it ending. I could happily have stayed in the world of hunchbacks and heroines for many more hours and since watching the film, every day I get a slight pang of jealousy about those who are about to view it. Speaking of which, when a film releases it's always useful to know whether you should wait for it to be on DVD or watch it on the big screen.
If you take anything away from reading this review may I draw your attention to the latter of those two?

I is an epic masterpiece, a labour of love by Shankar and all those involved in it, it's visionary, artistic, creative, original and deserves to be watched at the movies where you can marvel at the impressive nature of a group of topless body builders fighting and the extreme prosthetics created by the make-up team as well as unleash your inner romantic when your heart softens because of the storyline before being part of the communal applause at the end.

Of course a review of I wouldn't be possible without mentioning the beautiful talented young actress that is Liverpool's very own Amy Jackson. It is a fairytale in itself to think an English beauty pageant winner could become a major player in the South Indian film industry but Amy has proved herself capable of this feat and so much more. She is watchable and likeable on camera and at no point does one question her authenticity. She played Diya with the kind of timeless grace you don't see every day, although still in her early days as a film star, if Amy continues to makes intelligent decisions about her film choices she will go far, so watch her in I while you can, the film that will go down in her history, as well as that of Tamil cinema's.

Rating: 10/10

I is currently showing nationwide in Hindi and Tamil with English Subtitles
Momtaz Begum-Hossain 

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