There are some things that never change when it comes to films, Tamil Cinema being no exception. Every actor worth his salt and of course every rupee invested on him, and every single whistle devoted to him, would love to feature in an out an out masala, playing a larger than life character in his or her own way. This is part of the whole “I feel I have it in me to become the next superstar” drive in which a lot of actors get involved in, some are open about it while some do it a little clandestinely. Which is why even actors like Vikram, Suriya, Dhanush who are all known for their acting prowess, keep attempting mass movies, time after time, not succeeding every time of course. We also have directors who otherwise do films of a slightly different kind also attempting to make the transition with more ‘formulaic’ films. Mysskin tried it with Mugamoodi, Ameer tried it with Aadhi Bhagavan, Suseenthiran tried it with Rajapattai, none of these worked and they have gone back to making their kind of films again. But the quest for commercial success doesn’t stop, the yearning to be the darling of the masses never ends.
That’s why we have someone like Balaji Mohan who did well with back to back bilingual films, Kadhalil Sodhappuvadhu Yeppadi (2012) also called Love Failure in Telugu and Vaayai Moodi Pesavum (2014) also called Samsaaram Aarogyathinu Haanikaram in Malayalam now trying to change tracks with an out and out commercial venture, Maari. And with the success of VIP (after a slightly lean period at the box office with 3, Maryan and Naiyaandi) it was all the more certain that Dhanush would perhaps want to cash in on his popular appeal and hence we got to see him earlier this year in Anegan and now we have him in Maari. Maari produced by Listin Stephen, Sarathkumar and Radhika Sarathkumar has been going about with a rather colourful campaign and proudly proclaiming the lead man Maari (Dhanush) as a “Thara Local” guy very clearly. Now while a positioning like this could backfire at times, it looked like Balaji Mohan and Dhanush were pitching it actually as strength.
Make no bones about it, Maari is an out an out commercial film. Here’s a look at what the film has, what works and what doesn’t.
- Maari is a protagonist who is happy being the bad guy, but he has a past which explains his reason to be like this (which is mentioned in a jiffy).
- He is a local rowdy with two interesting sidekicks, Sanikilamai (Robo Shankar) and Adithangi (Kalloori Vinoth), needless to say they go around leading a merry life, and create enough nuisance in the neighbourhood.
- So if Maari is a local rowdy he has to have someone senior, whom he respects a lot right? That’s why we have Velu (Shanmugharaja) who has a lot of political clout and who trusts Maari a lot.
- Life can’t be all that simple for the hero, so he should have an opponent right? So in comes‘Bird’ Ravi (Mime Gopi), who wants to usurp Maari’s popularity in pigeon racing and he is jealous of Velu’s support to Maari.
- So isn’t there a romantic angle in the film? Doesn’t the film have a female lead? Of course that’s why we have Sridevi (Kajal Aggarwal) who enters Maari’s locality to set up a boutique.
- The film takes a slightly different albeit predictable turn with the entry of Arjun Kumar (Vijay Yesudas), the local Sub Inspector.
- Being a mass film with the hero playing to the gallery you of course have songs which cater to the audience which wants to dance to the same in the aisles. So Anirudh Ravichander comes up with compositions like ‘Bagalu Odayum Dagulu Maari’ (lyrics by Rokesh and sung by Dhanush and ‘Maari Thara Local’ (lyrics by Dhanush and sung by Dhanush and Anirudh), but the best song of the lot is actually ‘Donu Donu Donu’ (lyrics by Dhanush and sung by Anirudh, Alisha Thomas and Durga).
- The hero has to use a catchword/punch dialogue which keeps recurring right? And that is seen here as Maari keeps saying “Senjuruven” with a particular twirl of his fingers.
- It’s not enough to keep saying Senjuruven alone to make an impact, so we have Maari curling his moustache, putting up his glares and doing a slow-motion walk all through the film. So you know very clearly whether to clap or feel irritated, depending on how you see this.
10. The film had some real potential to try something exciting within the commercial domain, like the whole angle of pigeon racing (apparently there’s a whole new film in development on the same), or on exploring the love-hate relationship between Maari and the people in the locality in a more interesting fashion, but Balaji Mohan doesn’t do all that.
11. Vijay Yesudas might be a surprise package as he is adequate with his looks in terms of the transformation that his character Arjun carries out, but can we say the same thing about his performance? Well not really, though he has tried to do what he could.
12. Maari is a film which on the one hand is uni-dimensional, a hero who is a bad guy or sorts, but with a heart of gold, there’s some comedy, songs, fights etc. But look deeper and you wonder why there isn’t anything more.
13. Robo Shankar is fantastic and his chemistry with Dhanush is impressive, one of the main reasons why the film still works to an extent.
14. While you keep wondering if the love angle is going to be the standard kind, Balaji Mohan surprises here. There is no “falling in love” and dreaming about it portions, Maari proposes to Sridevi and isn’t really too bothered when she hesitates. And the way the angle is maintained right till the end of the movie is another thing which stands out.
15. And yes the film gets all done in a run time of around 140 minutes; just enough not to make you yawn or stretch yourself, so being a crisp narrative also is of help here.
Maari is a commercial vehicle alright; the promos and songs definitely screamed the message aloud from the rooftops. Keeping that in mind it’s pertinent to point out that the film never mislead the audience at least, right from the start. Dhanush who at one point was clearly looking uncomfortable doing larger than life roles in films like Sullan (2004) and Parattai Engira Azhagu Sundaram (2005), now seems to have come a long way in his journey. He has a lot of charisma and has gained the trust of his fans and audiences in general to still be able too look convincing as Maari. Ultimately Maari isn’t anywhere close to being as entertaining as Velaiyilla Patthathari aka VIP (2014), which is a benchmark movie when it comes to how an entertainer should be in recent times. Nevertheless Maari is watchable, it has its fun moments, a leading man who definitely seems to have had a blast here and it isn’t a film which promised you something but ending up as something else. Balaji Mohan in his own capacity has tried to go out of his comfort zone,stepping into shoes a tad too big for his feet, luckily he manages to end up not falling, but just about.