Director: Balaji Mohan
Cast: Dhanush, Sai Pallavi, Tovino Thomas, Varalaxmi Sarathkumar
Composer: Yuvan Shankar Raja
What is up with Balaji Mohan? His debut film was a sweet little romantic comedy that hit the right notes despite suffering from the flab of a short film expanded into a feature film. His sophomore effort was even more commendable. He robbed the lines off most of his characters for an interesting mainstream experiment called Vaayai Moodi Pesavum. It was one of those rare satires in Tamil cinema that stood for something, not the empty meme generator kind like Tamil Padam 2.
In these two films, Balaji Mohan stuck to familiar territory – his characters came from a certain milieu, they spoke, acted and reacted like people from that milieu. For his third film, he wanted to go thara local – something the film and everyone associated with it announced on loudspeakers – and his unfamiliarity with the genre began to show. Why did Balaji Mohan, competent in delineating quasi-urban relationships, jump into the crowded mass film section, where his presence felt as foreign as the characters of women in these films. As Dhanush’s Maari says multiple times in these films – set aagala! If that was boggling, he has now gone ahead and filmed a sequel.
One might suggest that Balaji Mohan is attempting a spoof but both Maari and this sequel have enough serious undertones that cannot be dismissed. Like the women characters in this genre, Maari 2 has Sai Pallavi playing Arathu Anandhi, a woman whose overflowing spunk is at odds with her unlimited affection for Maari. Through her, Balaji Mohan takes a dig at “loosu ponnus“, the popular title given to the one-dimensional women leads (and the very fact that calling them a lead is a bit of a stretch) of every other mass hero vehicle.
Sai Pallavi is suitably cheerful, playing Anandhi with the kind of vigour and enthusiasm that makes even tiring scenes in Maari 2 seem convivial. Apparently, Anandhi fell in love with Maari when he stood up as a feminist, but the truth is Maari only did what is expected of any decent human being. In many such instances, there is a whiff of pretentious self-awareness in Maari 2 as if that excuses the makers of all the excesses. It is 2018. Self-awareness is of little help. Do better.
There are more call-backs. A reference to Thalapathy, Maari declares himself as Surya. A bloody assassination attempt on a gangster happens behind closed doors of a church. An anachronistic one takes place at what looks like the first day screening of Baasha, with the characters holding smartphones in their hands. What is Balaji Mohan driving at?
The second half, which jumps a whole lot of hoops to get to the finish line, is informed by this reference but the package is already stale by this point. We’ve watched Dhanush do these things a thousand times before and he is almost sleepwalking through this film. Not that others behind and in front of the camera are trying hard. The unluckiest one is Varalaxmi Sarathkumar. Sadly, the industry has branded a confident performer a supporting actress in thankless roles. Sandakozhi 2 did not give her a great run and she was almost disposable in Sarkar. The less said about Mr. Chandramouli the better. She even made a quip about it in the press meet of Maari 2, mentioning how yet again she shares no scenes with the main actress of the film. Hope she finds the roles she deserves sooner rather than later.
It’s both funny and disconcerting to watch Maari 2 a day after Balaji Tharaneetharan’s Seethakaathi. They’ve released together but everything that is critiqued and shown up for the farce that it is in Seethakaathi, appears in Maari 2. Right from the hero introduction shot, the utter disregard for the audience and their intelligence, the business of mass movie making. Maari 2 stands as a testimony to the events in Seethakaathi and why the Tamil film industry has a toxicity in the way it is run even as quality films are churned out at regular intervals.
The Maari 2 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.