Film: Maari | Director: Balaji Mohan | Cast: Dhanush, Kajal Agarwal, Vijay Yesudas, Robot Shanker, Kali Venkat
A trendsetter of sorts who paved the way for his contemporaries from the ‘Nalaya Iyakunar’ TV reality show, Balaji Mohan’s debut ‘Kadhalil Sodhappuvadhu Yeppadi’ was a refreshing rom-com. His second, the amusing satirical ‘Vaayai Moodi Pesavum’, had a novel theme. And naturally one waited with some anticipation for his third ‘Maari’, hoping that the Dhanush-Balaji pairing would spring a surprise. That the director would showcase the actor in a different dimension. But it does not happen. The director’s attempt to go ‘commercial’ this time, concentrating more on his hero than the script, backfires. The film gives a sense of Deja vu throughout, the real interesting moments very few and far between.
It opens with an old murder case being investigated by cop Arjun (Yesudas). Maari, the local hooligan, being the key suspect, Arjun learns from his junior (Kali) the activities of the rowdy, his clout in the area under his control and his antagonism towards rival thug Ravi. Maari was a lover of pigeons and conducted pigeon races, which he invariably won. The narration here moves back and forth in time giving us a picture of Maari as he lords over his area. Dhanush plays Maari with style and flair, but it’s nothing that we haven’t seen before. Also, his mannerisms and demeanour here often reminds one of Rajinikanth’s.
The director has made a futile attempt to portray his hero as this macho invincible man. There are the innumerable slow-motion shots as Maari with his two side-kicks strides across his fiefdom. Ravi, his hefty rival, despite being backed by the presence of some strong and armed henchmen as compared to Maari’s comic sidekicks, however cuts a pathetic picture in each of his physical encounters with Maari. Encounters, which after a time you stop taking seriously.
There is an interesting moment where Maari keeps some money on a table, props his legs up near it and dares Ravi and his goons to pick it up. But such moments are few, the screenplay otherwise listless, the characters superficially etched and the narration flat. And through all this failed scenario and performances, its Robot Shanker who benefits and scores as the wise cracking sidekick of Maari. There is the romantic angle where Sridevi (Kajal) who sets up her boutique in the area, is taunted, harassed and publicly humiliated by Maari, who forces himself into a partnership in her store. All of which only makes the girl fall for the uncouth unkempt rowdy. Singer Vijay Yesudas after acting in a couple of Malayalam films, debuts on Tamil screen. He underplays Arjun to such an extent that we are barely aware of his presence in a scene!
The screenplay diverges into various sub plots. Apart from pigeon racing, there is the red sanders smuggling and the cop-rowdy nexus. Maari at a point remarks, ‘pigeons can be trusted, not humans.’ And despite his extreme love and passion for the birds he’s hardly shown in any interaction with them. So when Maari’s pigeon cages are torched, it should have been an emotional moment, but we hardly relate to it. Just like we don’t relate to any of the character’s predicament and emotional upheaval.
There is no dream-duets forced in, for which one should appreciate the director. Maari’s sidekick tells Sridevi the sad story of Maari’s deprived childhood. Thankfully the director has avoided the usual mandatory flashback here. ‘Maari’ is a painful tedious experience, meant for hardcore Dhanush fans!