Maaran on Disney+hotstar is a botched, wannabe investigative thriller

spoilers ahead...

KV Anand in his Ko showed how murky and dangerous the world of investigative journalism can get. Staged as an action thriller, Maaran aspires to be a clever one. But there is no hint of cleverness in the film until we are well into the second half. I was intrigued to watch this film after Baradwaj Rangan's quirky verdict on his blog - in a single headline!

Maaran is a film about, well, Maaran. Sorry, Madhimaaran. And that's as clever as the film gets. It just includes the synonym for intellect in the protagonist's name. There is no clarity as to why he wants to become an investigative journalist (his father dies while being one. Is it some kind of a government post that the son gets once the father dies?). Then we have a series of montage shots that are supposed to establish the bond between the siblings. The brother learns martial arts to protect her sister (the sister doesn't learn it for some reason). There are the customary "aww" scenes of them feeding each other and pulling a blanket over each other. We see the father's photograph along with the pictures of various other gods, but not the mother's.

To prove how Maaran is a hero, we have a "Satyameva Jayate" (literally a truth alone triumphs moment) moment where he proves that gossip doesn't sell. Having dabbled in journalism myself I was facepalming so hard that my brother who was sitting next to me, got worried. The whole first half feels like a hero establishment sequence. There is a hero victory dance sequence, a couple of fight scenes (one of them taking "pen is mightier than the sword" an eye-rollingly insufferable level) and a #pasamalar rehash scene. I kept waiting for Malavika Mohanan's character, Thara, to have a say in something other than just chewing gum and roaming about in a cool cap, speaking English.

She does! She changes her attire in the second half and practically becomes the nurse for Maaran who turns a drunk after the death of his sister. Thara also mouths a dialogue that just like that gets him all revved up. It is only after this that he does something in the screenplay. You would think the plot would thicken and the screenplay would take off. Well... to give you an example, all we get is a contrived, convoluted lesson to the police department that is followed by a sermon on the inefficiency and inefficacy of the force. What's more difficult to digest is that it doesn't affect the central conflict of finding the killer.

It is while watching this film that I had an epiphany... ahem... okay... a few questions. A moment of wisdom if you will? What happens to the characters if the screenplay is poorly done? And what happens to the actors who play these characters? Does their prowess or acting mettle affect the plot in any way? I'm still in the dark. It was like Nishabdham/Silence all over again! Why did Samuthirakani agree to do such a role? Ramji after so long came and went by in what looked like a revival of an 80's fight scene. I had no idea why Amir was roped in to play that role. Then there is the red herring in Bose Venkat's character. Is that what he's reduced to now? Aadukalam Naren played a male version of the Tamil soap mothers who are all good and no evil. Then there is Smruthi Venkat's character... don't even get me started.

What the film lacks in screenplay, story and direction, it tries to salvage some value in the camera work. But with such a dull and generic screenplay these gimmicks register as just that - a desperate attempt to elevate the film. There are some good moments, of course. Like the shot when we see Maaran going to meet minister Pazhani, the way people come out while Maaran enters the house is amazing. But the purpose and the placement doesn't make any sense. There is another sequence in the mall where the police chase a villainous clown. It appears like a single shot. Brilliant. But again, what is the purpose?

Even the music feels uninspired. GV Prakash gave a terrific background score in Theri. That film was an action thriller. I expected something like that in this film too. But other than the fairly middling Pollaatha Ulagam, there is nothing interesting even in the background score. Thankfully, there are no romantic tracks with the leads serenading around trees or going to exotic locations. I am not sure what to thank, the restrictions during when the film was shot or the director's decision to not have them. Either way, it's good that it didn't increase the run time of the already back-numbing 2-hour long film. I really hope that Karthick Naren's Naragasooran releases soon. I remember Baradwaj Rangan saying that it's good in an interview with the director himself. That would get rid of the bad taste of this mishap with Dhanush (and others).

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