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Mafia Review: An Indulgent Thriller Whose Sequel Will Perhaps Be More Engaging

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Director: Karthick Naren

Cast: Arun Vijay, Prasanna, Priya Bhavani Shankar

Karthick Naren recently said, “Mafia is an engaging film, nothing-out-of-the-world”. When I heard it, I thought, ‘Why would anyone say this a few days ahead of the release of their work’? Especially considering all the trouble his previous stalled film (Naragasuran) has gone through. After watching Mafia I realise he’d made a fairly decent assessment of his work. He’s a pretty self-aware artiste, and that’s a rare gift he must strive to protect.

Mafia – Chapter 1 is a slow narrative filled with long shots, nods, searching eyes, silences and reaction shots. It works in many places to create a sense of tension, to help us really see the actors but at other times, it feels a bit too indulgent and in those scenes, you wonder what’s behind these vacant faces? They don’t seem to know what is going in (but maybe that is by design, we don’t know yet).

Aaryan (Arun Vijay) is a narcotics cop and wants to clean the city of drugs because he’s lost a brother to drugs. It’s easy to nab college students using drugs, or their small-time suppliers but the kingpin remains elusive. Arun Vijay is superb in action shots and is great to look at in these ‘thinking shots’ where he clenches his face and unclenches, moving muscles at will, to convey minor reactions. He’s also good at these vacant stares, that make him look baffled and where he doesn’t know what is going on. But in between these great shots, the rest of the film feels somewhat emotionally vacant, we feel disconnected from whatever is at stake. Aaryan and the film lack a stronger core and any hint of emotion. (Not like where’s a background sob story, but more like, we always see him reeling off instructions, even to his batchmates. When is he vulnerable? When is he taking instructions?)

Prasanna breezes through the frames without breaking a sweat as DK. It’s a credit to his skills that most roles that come his way make one think, ‘What a criminally underused actor. I wonder when someone will write a role that does him justice’. Here Prasanna has a lot of screen time, to slowly make his way through but again,  we don’t really know him. Though we see a lot of him. Priya Bhavani Shankar’s role is woven into the plot  which in itself feels like a leap for our action cinema, and she carries on admirably, non-fussy, with her work.

If Dhuruvangal 16 was remarkably restrained, Mafia Chapter 1 is over-the-top and not always in a good way. While  the music is almost a part of the film, in a few places it too goes overboard.

Arun Vijay’s Aaryan makes some progress by the end of the film, when a baffling revelation is made, sending him back to square one. That sets the stage for what looks like a promising second chapter.

The Mafia review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

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