Jiivi (2019) Tamil movie – A character study of Saravanan

How often have we met a character like Saravanan from the Tamil movie ‘Jiivi’ in our daily life? Here is a character study of Saravanan and his thirst for feeding his curiosity. His curiosity drives him to perform things which get him into trouble. Will he satisfy his wants and at the same time get out of his trouble? Let’s delve into a beautifully structured character in detail.

Jiivi – A character called ‘Saravanan’

‘Jiivi’, in Tamil, means intelligent. In Tamil, the word ‘Arivu Jiivi’ is often used to denote a person who is over intelligent or tends to act intelligently in typical situations. As per the meaning of the title, the protagonist in the movie is a highly intelligent person. In fact, his over-curiosity lands him in trouble. That forms the important thread of the film.

Saravanan, like most other youngsters, has come to Chennai from his village in search of a job that could pay him and his family well. The director projects the uniqueness of the character from the very first shot. The character’s gaze seems to be searching for something. He is one of those frustrated youngsters struggling to make his ends meet with a petty job in the city. As he observes his surroundings sitting inside a share auto, he speaks to us through his mind.

Jiivi tamil movie - The library's psychology
Jiivi tamil movie – The library’s psychology

He sees an empty water bottle thrown out of a car. The bottle, in the middle of the road, gets rolled over by numerous vehicles. His mind relates the similarity of the state of the water bottle with every youngster coming to a big city like Chennai in search of a better life. This intro sets the character into motion. He is projected as a philosophically insightful person. And Saravanan remains throughout the movie as the person who keeps thinking.

Act – 1

The first part of the movie moves annoyingly, similar to many uninspiring commercial potboilers. The hero gets into the usual flashback mode imagining how gethu (read ‘great’) he was in his village. Thankfully, he doesn’t get an intro song. 


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His peculiar characteristic is imminent in his early life too. He helps in school students’ projects in spite of failing to go beyond the 8th standard. His belief that the education system should focus on providing practical knowledge rather than the exam-oriented theoretical garbage made him drop out of school. He spends the remaining time roaming around with his friends.

Even as he continues to be this irresponsible youngster, he is curious to find out about things. Since he believes in the attainment of knowledge and his Curiosity to explore unknown things, he is a regular visitor (in fact, the only one) to his village library.

The Librarian’s Psychology

He even tests his librarian for the verification of the ‘Psychology of the librarian‘ – No matter wherever you keep a book and ask the librarian to search for it. He’ll search in places where the book is related to. On hearing this, The librarian says to Saravanan that he has a strong curiosity. When Saravanan asks him if that means he is arrogant, he replies that it means he is searching for something with deep interest and warns him that Curiosity is much more dangerous than arrogance.

Saravanan and the librarian - Jiivi tamil movie
Saravanan and the librarian – Jiivi tamil movie

His Curiosity even leads him to try the tactic that a person teaches in YouTube to open any car without its key. He is now in Chennai due to his parents’ emotional request. After trying his hands at many petty jobs, he is frustrated to wear the same blue shirt while working as a watchman for hotels, ATM, and other big shops. He even describes the blue dress he wears as ‘a sky without clouds’. Currently, he works in a small juice shop. His Curiosity has now led him to know the knacks of making fruit juices, and he is happy with this work.

At this point, the title card rolls in. Just when we settle down for an interesting movie, we are fed with a few scenes that question our initial opinion on the film. 

The transition to Act 2

Till this point, the film focuses on the character Saravanan, and despite being boring and repetitive in places, we get an extraordinary clarity on what and who Saravanan is. Sadly, as many hero-centric films in Tamil cinema, he too falls in love after this. He follows a woman who works in the shop opposite regularly. In a couple of minutes, we are even asked to see a romantic song between the two as she begins to love him back too. 

With this ‘cliche’ Tamil cinema technique, we are left to wonder as to why the character Saravanan even needs this plot in his life. Thankfully, the unrealistic love breaks up in a time much lesser than the song’s actual duration. She prefers a well-salaried person to Saravanan, who doesn’t even have enough money to do 50 rupee recharge. And this forces Saravanan to get into action, and he now begins to get to the point of his character’s need. 

Most of the good film handles the first part pretty well—the ‘Act one’ where we get to know the character, motive, and problems. Sadly, the transition to Act Two is what takes an immense effort, both from the audience and the film. In the case of ‘Jiivi’, the film opens on a promising note of defining the character’s viewpoint before distracting us with a boring love story. However, with the breakup of that love, the character now has space to open up and get back into form.

 He now has to feed his Curiosity. That drives him and us into the ‘Act Two’.  

Act – 2

From here, the character of Saravanan goes on to satisfy his Curiosity. After his breakup, he talks his heart out to his friend at a bar. He describes the multifaceted tendency of the rich and compares them with the poor. His desire for money spikes up. As a matter of fact, he feels that the worst disease a man can get is frustration. And now he decides to leave back to his village because he is getting affected by that disease. He feels it unwise to live with that disease here.

Jiivi tamil movie - Saravanan watches the history TV to know about things he doesn't know
Saravanan watches the history TV to know about things he doesn’t know

The conversation reflects the inner thoughts of his disturbed mind. He thinks about wealth at this stage. He imagines a situation where he is powerful and rich. His eyes see himself surrounded by those glittering money. Most importantly, he sees his lover. He sees love in the eyes of his lover. His thirst for becoming rich is now at its peak.

Any person at this state is bound to do things unintended and totally contrasting to his nature. Saravanan becomes a slave to his frustration. When he finds a lost purse on the street on his way home, he decides to keep it with him and spend the money inside. Of course, the fate of the things that gets altered by his act is unknown to him at that time.

That night he comes to know that his house owner has lost her purse sometime back. She had a spare key to their bureau, which holds the jewels for her daughter’s marriage. She plans to shift them to the bank in a couple of days.

Saravanan’s dangerous curiosity lands him in trouble

Saravanan has no means to confirm if the purse he has belongs to the house owner. But, the character that he is, he deduces the probability of the events and decides that the wallet should be hers. He knows that the jewels would be in that bureau only for the next couple of days. He decides to act. 

Jiivi tamil movie
Saravanan – A slave to over-curiosity

In spite of the news of his father being serious, he decides to steal the jewels. His calculative mind relates to the illness of his father to a decreased probability of getting caught. He steals the jewels when the house owner goes to the temple. Just as he gets ready to start to his village, he hears the news of his father’s demise. 

His Curiosity has already made him study how the policemen work. He designs a perfect plan to make one of the tenants a scapegoat and divert the police’s complete attention to him. He describes that –

When you provide the questions that the police are trying to ask yourself and then give them the answers to those questions, you have a very high probability of beating them.

He provides the clues that the police might anticipate on a case in advance. He takes each step preplanned and makes sure to see it work. He designs a plan that’ll make the police convince that their mobile was indeed lost. He makes random calls and then drains the battery before throwing the phone in drainage. He does all this while traveling to his village, after hearing his father’s demise.

His Curiosity drives the police in the direction he wanted them to move on. Gradually, they lose interest in the case and investigate him. The shreds of evidence seem to point in a direction away from them, and the police had their work (created by Saravanan) to do.

Jiivi tamil movie
Saravanan explains to Mani about how he could make the police feel like they’re going in the right path

He successfully accomplishes in feeding his mind. Just as he was getting close to his successful evasion, he lands in a new twist of tales. The need for his Curiosity to survive grounds him further into the twist. ‘The concept of triangular theory’, in spite of sounding so scientific, is pure fantasy.

However, Saravanan makes it to look like a real-life theory and puts it out to practical implementation. When the house owner says her life history to him, he is surprised to find similarities between the events of hers and his sister’s lives. He doubts the probability (again) and begins to read about this.

The concept of Triangular theory

And then to confirm his doubts, the house owner’s brother comes knocking their door and accuses them of stealing the jewels. He complains to the police, and they try to re-investigate. But Saravanan’s Curiosity is now exhausted on the crime and its investigation. He now has a new theory to contemplate and find a solution. 

The house owner’s father’s death and his father’s death, his sister running away from their house to the house owner running away from her home, him convincing his mother to allow his sister to see his father’s last rites to house owner’s brother doing the same to her – he is now confident that the past and his presence are interconnected somehow. The theft has triggered the re-happening of the past in the present.

This turn of events turns into a big obsession for Saravanan. The quote ‘ Curiosity kills the cat’ now follows him everywhere. As he begins to trace back the relationship between the house owner’s brother and himself, he finds starking similarities between them. As he unravels the mystery that binds him to the house owner, his search gets complete. 

His nature of solving the problem now comes into play. We have seen how Saravanan loves solving the riddles that trouble him big time. He reaches the fruits that are out of his reach just to taste them, say that they are sour and uneatable, and throw them away. He now has a complex puzzle. All he needs to do now is to find a solution that he thinks is right. 

The concept of Triangular theory follows two lines of different generations with the same pattern of events. Saravanan’s theft is now linked to triggering this. With that perspective, he found the why and how of the problem. As he tries to find a solution, he understands that he needs a center point that will unify the triangle and complete the event similarity. With that done, the pattern is now bound redirect. 

Act – 3

The question? What is that point of contact? How can he perform an act that will stop the events from repeating? He decides to marry the house owner’s daughter – In that, the theft is actually not a theft. The jewels will return to its owner. The point of initiation will now become the point of conclusion.

Jiivi tamil movie
The fictional theory that binds the movie’s plot

Of course, the story has many more plots twists that will lead to this decision. Those will be covered in the in-depth analysis of the film. For now, the character sketch of Saravanan is complete. The character creates a problem for itself to solve and finally finds a solution that’ll feed its Curiosity. 

Jiivi – Saravanan’s attempt to conquer his want

Jiivi, in many ways, is an attempt at linking science fiction and thriller. The director has worked in defining the character of Saravanan as deep as describing the plot. At the end of the movie, the character Saravanan gets hooked in our memory. The way he becomes the hero of the film is interesting and convincing. 

Saravanan is a simple, relatable human being in many ways. His activities could easily put him in a place of one in three next door personalities. But the character grows in the movie. And that growth differentiates him from those in the next doors. He acts as the operator who serves the purpose of defining a path for the story to move on. His Curiosity creates an unconventional means of telling a story. 

The brilliance of the character-making is that in spite of moving along with the plot, the character stays true to its nature. At the end of the movie, the character curve of Saravanan remains a strong S. He is getting deep into his groove and gaining much more out of it. The patching of Saravanan is one of the best things about this movie. He turns into an admirable, if not inspiring character to look out for.  


Jiivi Trailer

Jiivi poster
Jiivi
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