Maara – Slow but a romantic’s pleasure watch
A young girl hears a story about a soldier losing her soul in one stormy night and he embarks on a lifelong search for his lost soul. He traverses countries, crosses oceans, and climbs over peaks to search for his lost soul but will he ever find it back?
The girl falls asleep before the stranger old woman finishes her story. Years later, the grown-up girl encounters a visual story painted on the outer walls of a shantytown in the picturesque coastal town of Kerala in course of her work trip. Intrigued, the girl embarks on the search of her own to find the truth about the story and the mysterious painter behind the paintings. What has fate in store for the girl, the story, the painter, and the viewers!
‘Maara’, a remake of the Malayalam movie “Charlie” (2015) is directed by Dhilip Kumar who was roped in to direct the movie after the original choice of director Martin Prakkat could not commit to a schedule. I have watched only trailers of the original Malayali movie but enough is captured to convey that Maara is more soulful and aesthetically more pleasing with Madhavan’s charm aging like fine red wine. The opening scene with energetic young ‘Paaru’ demands to hear a story in a bus cruising at night across small towns of Tamilnadu is shot with such intrigue that you get assured of the pleasing camera work in the rest of the movie.
The Camera moves at a leisurely pace with a long stare at the character’s faces and eyes in an effort to peep into their inner shelf. When it has dipped enough, it moves around the government bus and then out of it to capture the dark, stormy night with heavy rainfall as a signal of the epic significance of this night in the life of both ‘Paaru’ and the stranger ‘Mary’ auntie who is telling the story of the soldier and his lost soul.
The visual appeal of the movie grows as the movie progresses as Dinesh Krishnan and Karthik Muthukumar handle the camera with aplomb and captures the sedate, leisurely pace of the movie with stunning snippets of coastal Kerala and lush green tea plantations around Munnar. The colors of Murals, mosaic and colorful t-shirts and jackets worn by Madhavan as if to visually present his character in absence of much dialogues from him and understated aesthetics of Shradhha Srinath’s everyday Kerala Salwar suits and Kurtis are details which are a treat to thirsty eyes.
The camera often pans towards narrow bylanes of the shantytown and is not shy of showing broken concrete, undergrowth with moisture seeping in, and sewage water leaking from the pipes. It surprisingly grounds the story which in spirit is a fairy tale. This is the maturity of two cinematographers of the movie who have not indulged in the selective beauty with the camera focusing on colorful boats in the Coromandel coast but soaking in the life of a coastal town with its people, moist and often dirty streets, and pastel blue hues of small houses. In one of the scenes, Paaru is shown enjoying a beer in one of the shacks along the coast with fish fry in an attempt to capture a slice of life in a South Indian coastal town
Music is another highlight of the movie as talented Ghibran blends Scottish carousel to nostalgic evocative male vocals to conjures the background music which keeps this fairy tale floating. It keeps viewers’ minds humming softly and subconsciously to keep doubts away and hearts spellbound. This new genre of young Indian music directors is exciting and I will keep a close eye (or ears) to upcoming music from Ghibran.
Direction of the movie is more of an indulgence as young director Dhilip soaks in the character and places through long frames which would require patience and only believer could be expected to invest. Dialogues are like camera work, they flow easily but blend in the backdrop and the visual splendor. Madhavan did not have much to do in the movie except filling the atmosphere with heartfelt laughters and the charm works on the audience. His presence lingers in the movie despite absence largely. Shradhha Srinath restrains her performance and it lends depth to her character of Paarul. There is genuine gleam in her eyes and unforced smile thinking about Maara and the relationship is grounded. The love story which simmers does not have any over the top chemistry but will please the audience.
The supporting cast is led well by Mouli who portrays the protagonist Velayya of the soldier story and he is effective in his role of a devoted lover waiting for his soul (aka love interest Meenaxi played by Padmavati Rao, who despite proposing and being accepted is lost). Alexander Babu who is a known stand-up comedian plays the role of a thief and leaves an impression.
Overall, if you fancy a visual and musical pleasure with artistic leisure, Maara is a great Sunday afternoon watch. If you prefer action over slow cooked stew, Maara will appear a drag on your time.