Director: Asif Kuraishi
Cast: Udhaya, Prabhu, Priyanka, Kovai Sarala, Sriman
Tamil cinema has always had a fondness for fancy-sounding psychological disorders. Starting from the all-time favourite retrograde amnesia (Moondram Pirai) to bipolar disorder (3), our filmmakers have hardly left any disorder untouched. Utharavu Maharaja is the newest entry to this ever-growing list, and its lead Ravi (Udhaya) is a Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) patient having multiple personalities named Vasu and Mark Antony. There’s more — a major portion of the film revolves around the efforts of an obsessive-compulsive-disorder person to push the DID patient into a dangerous schizophrenic state.
While this storyline sounds intriguing and ought to make for an edge-of-the-seat psychological thriller, Utharavu Maharaja turns out to be a huge disappointment thanks to the hyperbolic performances, unrealistic staging and poorly-written dialogues.
For instance, Sadhana Subramaniam (Priyanka), an astronaut, who is about to go on a Martian mission is portrayed as a deadly combo of all the loosu ponnus of Tamil cinema. When a reporter questions her about the secret of her success, she brightly says, “All I did was thinking thinking, pointing pointing and striking striking,” with matching actions. She even hopes to find her dead father in Mars, all because her mother once tells her, “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.”
For any psychological thriller to be successful, the filmmaker should place the audience in the shoes of either the victim or the observers, but instead, most of the first half features Ravi running around the city, giving us flashbacks of The Road Runner Show. Though the high-quality VFX and the bold voice of Prabhu as Ukkiramkondan Irandam Raja Raja Chozhan kindle a little bit of interest, the mood of the film is completely ruined by the uneven screenplay.
The film finally picks up some momentum after Prabhu’s entry as Doctor Arun Bose in the second half. He elevates the weakly-written scenes with his subtle emotions and screen presence. Getting to see him perform stunt sequences and stylish slo-mo walks in a comparatively young role is indeed a delight.
Though Sriman, who plays a cop, keeps asking Ravi, “Who are you man?” like Padayappa Neelambari, I’m pretty sure most of the audience know who he is, even before the end of the first half. And when the final reveal happens, we are left with no choice but to echo MS Bhaskar’s dialogue in the film, “Yema padam parthu irupen, idhu kudava theriyama irupanga?”
Just when we think the film is over, Udhaya stares at the camera and begins a never-ending monologue, followed by a song that goes “Enna vena enna vena enna vena pannu da.” Maybe the director Asif Kuraishi mistook this as motivation and came up with Utharavu Mahraja’s script.