This film that contains within it several smaller stories, like it were a book of fairytales, is an appeal to recognise the magicality of our world and its people
If you didn’t know that Maara is the remake of the Malayalam film, Charlie, the opening shot of fireflies fluttering about is a strong hint of the magic contained within the universe of this film. Shortly, you see little Paaru in rapt attention, as a nun narrates to her the story of a soldier who’s travelling across seas and jungles in a quest to find his soul. This is pretty much the story of this film as well, as Paaru (Shraddha Srinath) grows up to find herself in a similar quest for her soul, well, soulmate, in Maara (Madhavan). There’s another quest for a soulmate in this film, one undertaken by Vellaiyan (a wonderful Mouli), one that is later taken over by Maara. The film is a reinforcement of the power of stories, of the stories each of our lives are. This is why there are multiple characters with their own short stories, including those of Selvi (Abhirami), the sex worker, and Kani (Sshivada), the guilt-ridden doctor. The implication is that no one story is necessarily more important than another. I got the sense that Maara doesn’t think of himself as a hero or a saviour, even if those around him seem to believe that. He’s merely a tool, a person who breezes through life hoping to repay the extraordinary help that Vellaiyan has done to him. I loved this touch because shorn of it, Maara, the character, could have felt idealistic and unrelatable—which would have gone against the point of the film itself. This way, there’s a reason for why Maara is the way he is, why he can’t afford to stay at one place for too long. I quite enjoyed that Madhavan plays this character without a sanctimonious flavour—and more importantly, in a way that shows that Maara isn’t above vulnerability. There’s no moral superiority in that ascetic laughter of his—which probably can be thought of as even the desperate attempt of an unhappy man to be happy, chained as he is to his lifelong quest.
Director: Dhilip Kumar
Cast: Madhavan, Shraddha Srinath, Mouli
The film is almost a homage to art—and the dreaminess inherent in it. This can be spotted throughout the film: In the pretty wall murals, in the art plastered across and drawn all over the walls of Maara’s home, in the designer kites, in the sketchbook and its pencil illustrations, in the sculptures… hell, even in the blotches of Maara’s acid-wash hoodies. There’s a call through this film, through its characters, to refuse to fall into the trap of mundanity and indifference, into routine and repetition. Maara is pretty much the film equivalent of ‘Follow the white rabbit’. That’s perhaps why during a conversation between Maara and a thief (Alexander Babu), you can see a neon sign in the background that reads ‘White Rabbit’. The usual response to such a call is to cite a lack of financial security, and while that is a reason to be empathetic about—especially given the enviably cushy work-free existence Paaru seems to be leading in this film—we could also note how Maara, who’s hardly a wealthy man (as a thief realises), makes the choice to get by, winning and returning favours in his small community. Maara, the film, suggests that perhaps, just perhaps, his way of life could also come down to the courage to choose to step away from the norm. Realise the magic of life in you, it seems to be saying… notice the almost mystical beauty of existence. It’s also likely that this is why the film’s many shots are lit as they are, with many faces often aglow, as though in the presence of a halo.
For the remainder of this review (and there’s a lot more left, I assure you), visit Maara Movie Review: A grounded remake of Charlie with quite a bit of heart- Cinema express