“Neither can you hide; nor can you run” is the popular slogan of the Tamil reality show- Bigg Boss, spinoffs of the Hindi and English version. IrumbuThirai (literally translating to iron curtain) is a film that accurately juxtaposes this slogan with the digital world.
By amalgamating contemporary conceptions and controversies around Cambridge Analytica, UIDAI’s Aadhar, digital privacy, NaMO’s Digital India, cybersurveillance, dark web, cyber stalking and cyber theft, the film aptly encapsulates the myriad methodologies of cyber-crime and succinctly presents it to the Tamil audience.
While the film is not free of hyperbolism, it does leave the viewer uneasy and uncomfortable with the modern growth of digital technology. It restrains and cautions the viewer against a callous and careless use of social networking and the internet.
By not indulging into too much unnecessary plot divergences, the film tries to stick to a principal argument- digitalization may not be all too safe and sound. As a matter of fact, the film goes on to fittingly showcase the nightmares that it can entail. By highlighting the extent of finesse in the organizational network of cyber-crime, it leaves the uninitiated to explore the concepts further.
With conceptual clarity and simplicity of portrayal, a viewer engages with the complex network of the cyber world and its nexus to real-world crime. In a welcome move, it does not hesitate to break the development and ‘vikas’ clichés surrounding Digital India and cashless economy for its hoaxes.
We live in a time and age where we are entirely surrounded, and coerced, into engaging with the digital space. Vide various platforms of social media, we share and actively stalk personal information, current location, travel plans and updates; pretty much living simultaneously online from minute to minute. IrumbuThirai shows the viewer the ramifications of this social-media obsession and the naïve mistakes committed by the social media user, unbeknownst to them.
However, the story is not limited to this domain. From larger rackets of how information is sold in bulk at Photocopy shops to seemingly innocent customer-care calls and messages, the films attempts to strip bare an incredibly tremendous network, well organized and even well insulated with anonymity.
This is not the first time the Tamil industry is engaging with cyber-crime. Since the last few years, with splendid cinematography, Tamil cinema has vividly captured the perils of the digital world through films such as ThiruthuPayale 2 and Kanithan have touched upon the subject thematically. However, what makesIrumbuThirai stand out is the conceptual clarity of the film and how such complex concepts is reduced and broken down in the presentation of the film. Save for the unnecessary climax trajectories and violence, IrumbuThirai successfully shows us the Orwellian digital world we live in, engage in and deeply depend upon.
Sabarish Suresh is a Masters Student of Legal Philosophy at the Benjamin N Cardozo School of Law, New York.