Bharat Bala, A.R.Rahman, Dhanush, coming together for a Tamil movie produced by Aascar Films – Maryan (or Mariyaan as it ought to be actually spelled) was enough to send raptures among people following Tamil Cinema for a simple reason- this would not be just another run of the mill film. The promos, the posters, the music all gave way to umpteen points of discussion, but I was sure that this was a visual treat in store which would work if the execution was nearly as good as the premise itself. Bharat Bala has always been known for his music videos and in the past had announced a few grand movie projects, none of which have seen the light of the day for various reasons. So here was a chance to prove that he could go beyond music videos and deliver a visual treat through a feature film as well. The Bharat Bala – A.R.Rahman combination always been spectacular and their coming together for Maryan along with the extremely talented Dhanush only made the film a hot prospect.
But there was always the nagging fear of whether the film would turn out to be a landmark film as expected or fizzle down, considering the number of big Tamil films which have failed of late. So does the film deliver? Has Bharat Bala made a smooth transition to feature films? Do the cast & crew live up to expectations? Well these were the things I set out to find out for myself when I went to watch the film over the weekend. What did I find out? Well I’ll come to all of that in a while.
Mariyaan (Dhanush) is a daredevil fisherman living in a coastal village Neerodi. Everything for him revolves around the sea as he proudly calls himself ‘Kadal Raasa’ (Prince of the sea) and hangs around with his friends Sakkarai (Appukutty) and Kuttyundi (Imman Annachi of the popular Kutti Chutties program on Sun T.V). Panimalar (Parvathy Menon) is a sprightly lass who simply adores Mariyaan, only to get rebuffed every time. But as they say true love cannot remain inhibited for long and soon Mariyaan too reciprocates her feelings and life seems to be blissful for the much in love Mariyaan and Panimalar. Just when everything seems to be going good for the couple Mariyaan is forced by a turn of events to accept a contract assignement for 2 years and move to Sudan. Just when he is about to complete his tenure there and return to his beloved, tragedy strikes as he along with couple of his colleagues get kidnapped by Sudanese extremists. What happens from there on is what the rest of the film is all about.
Bharat Bala begins the film on a good note by taking us straight to Sudan where Mariyaan is desperately looking forward to meeting Panimalar, now that his 2 year contract period is getting over. We get a brief, very brief idea of the kind of work he does and the living conditions over there but then doesn’t overdo it because the film is all about the romance between Mariyaan and Panimalar and hence stays true to that. To some of the discerning few there may be questions like why we don’t get to know more about the Sudanese extremists like say in case of Roja. Once again I’d say that Bharat Bala has taken the right course over here by ensuring that the focus on the romance does not get diluted in any such fashion.
Care has been taken at many places to ensure that the film sticks to the core theme of the romance between Mariyaan and Panimalar. Like when Mariyaan discloses to Sakkarai the real reason for not reciprocating Panimalar’s feelings and mentioning the family angle over there. Many filmmakers would tend to get tempted to expand on the backstory but Bharat Bala swiftly moves on and leaves it just as a small segment for us to digest.The first half of the film at times reminds you of films like Neerparavai and Kadal thanks to the mileu and some of the characters but make no mistake, the similarity ends there. The sea remains as a constant motif throughout the film, even when the narrative shifts to the dry and arid parts of Sudan.
The use of the telephone as an element which extends beyond just a prop and almost assumes a character of its own is very well done. After all that’s the only thing which keeps both Mariyaan and Panimalar going for the 2 years that they remain separated. One of the best things about the film has to be its cinematography by Belgian DOP Mark Koninckx, known for his work in films like Johnny Mad Dog (French/Liberian), Rebellion (French), Zabana (Algeria’s official entry to Oscars last year) etc. Not only does he capture the contrast between the coastal village in Tamil Nadu and the desert of Sudan wonderfully, all the underwater shots (and there are plenty of them) are a visual treat indeed.
While evaluating Maryan it’s hard not to talk about A.R.Rahman’s music. Coming close on the heels of his previous Tamil film Kadal which also had a coastal background it’s interesting as always to see Rahman remain uninfluenced all the way here. The film’s sound track does have variety, starting at the very beginning with the energetic ‘I love my Africa’ (lyrics by Brian Kabwe and Blaaze, vocals by Blaaze, A.R.Rahman and the Madras Youth Choir’. ‘Kadal Raasa Naan’ (lyrics by Dhanush, vocals by Yuvan Shankar Raja) is not just Mariyaan’s intro song but also a song which symbolizes the character. This is immediately in contrast with ‘Enga Pona Raasa’ (lyrics by Kutti Revathi and A.R.Rahman, vocals by Shakthishree Gopalan) a melancholic call of the beloved and ‘Innum Konjam’ (lyrics by Kabilan, A.R.Rahman, vocals by Vijay Prakash, Shweta Mohan), a soft romantic ballad. ‘Sonapareeya’ (lyrics by late Vaali & Sofia Ashraf, vocals by Javed Ali, Haricharan, Nakash Aziz) is a funky number and again in contrast we have ‘Naetru Aval’ (lyrics by late Vaali, vocals by Vijay Prakash and Chinmayi), a soft playful romantic number. Fittingly we have the finale in the form of the soul stirring ‘Nenje Ezhu’ (lyrics by Kutti Revathi and A.R.Rahman, vocals by A.R.Rahman) which is a sort of call to action. Maryan may not be vintage A.R.Rahman exactly but the songs blend in with the narrative and connect to you easily enough. For a more detailed take on the music, check here.
The casting choices are spot on and the characters chosen have a definite role to play in the narrative except maybe the Sudanese extremists. Appukutty and Imman Annachi make unusual but perfect companions for Dhanush in the 1st half just and so does Jagan in the Sudan segment. Uma Riyaz Khan as Seeli, the mother of Mariyaan is a surprise choice but does well enough. Hindi actor Ankur Vikal as one of the 3 Indian workers who get kidnapped by the Sudanese extremists is ok.The film has 3 actors from the Malayalam industry- Salim Kumar, Vinayakan and of course Parvathy Menon. Salim Kumar as Thomayya, the father of Panimalar, is earnest while Vinayakan is menacing as the local baddie- Theekkurisi. Dhanush is known to be a scene stealer and flexible in the right kind of environment and here he fits the character of Mariyaan perfectly. Be it as the free spirited ‘Kadal Raasa’ in his coastal village, or the kidnapped worker at Sudan, he conveys a lot with his expressions. This may not be his best performance but it lends credence to the fact that he is a great prospect for filmmakers willing to experiment. But the real show stopper of the film is indeed Parvathy Menon, someone who had made a great impact with her last Tamil film (Poo) as well. Her eyes speak more than anything else and make you just gaze at her when she’s on screen. Here’s hoping that she gets seen in a lot more movies from here on.
So is this a masterpiece? Are we talking about an unforgettable film here? Is the film beyond any flaws? Not really, as to start with you can actually predict the course of the film fairly early on. There are no major ‘surprise elements’ in store, if you are looking for them. But credit to Bharat Bala for ensuring that the narrative manages to hook the audience right till the end, though the 2nd half gets a little stretched at places. Here’s hoping that unlike his first feature film Hari Om (2004, which never really reached the audience at large), Mariyaan would do the needful and ensure Bharat Bala continues making more and more feature films. As the film ends there’s a good use of silence to convey the culmination, rather than resorting to lengthy melodrama, something that will linger on with you a lot after the film is over.
Go watch this tale of the Kadal Raasa and Sonaparee.
Note- Wherever the reference is to the movie I’ve used ‘Maryan’ in line with the official title and wherever the reference is to Dhanush’s character in the film I’ve used ‘Mariyaan’ as the rightful spelling.