Maaveeran(Tamil,Streaming on Prime Video)
Starring Sivakarthikeyan, Aditi Shankar, Mysskin
Directed by Madonne Ashwin
Rating: ** ½ (two and a half)
Maaveeran has some strong writing going into the goofy satire on corruption in high(rise) places.Even when the leading man Sivakarthikeyan acquires superhero powers in a freak accident(a sort of Minnal Murali with selfesteem issues) and he starts hearing voice commanding him to do all kinds of heroic things,we are never sure if this a case of sloppy satire or undetected schizophrenia.
The amusing irony is that no character in Maaveeran would know what ‘schizoprenia’ is or to how to spell it. The sheer proletarianism of the plot ,its disarming naivete, will get the audience rooting for the unassuming characters.
Sivakarthikeyan is not a great actor by any yardstick. Here, he doesn’t aspire to the heroics of his colleagues in Tamil cinema like Vijay and Suriya routinely attempt. If we look for a Bollywood equivalent to Sivakarthikeyan it would have to be Ayushmann Khurrana. They both fill a slot for the workingclass hero who will never be a superhero even for his loved ones.
As a talented but struggling cartoonist Sivakarthikeyan’s Sathya is exploited or humiliated by everyone including his bullish mother who at one point wishes she had no son rather than coward like Sathya. Sathya’s emotional thrashing continues right till the end as he battles governmental corruption with a superhero voice egging him on to stand up for the downtrodden,a task Sathya is grossly unequal to.
The writing is remarkably self-mocking, as if to tell us that all the larger-than-life Jawaans, Pathans and Tara Singhs we cheer for are mere illusions. Sathya represents the common man’s agonizing helplessness. There is a sequence where a goon walks in, peeps into Sathya’s sister in the bathroom and saunters out of the house. Sathya rages at the humiliation. But returns beaten and heckled after confronting the goon.
A large part of the ongoing drama seeks out the dormant valour in Sathya as he is pitched against a monstrously corrupt politician Jeyakodi(Mysskin).A superhero’s voice , a rousing aural performance by Vijay Sethupathi, guides Sathya to take on Jeyakodi and his goons.
The best chunks in the innovative though over-cocky screenplay are when the ‘voice’ guides Sathya during physical fights.These, and not the theatrical drama on corruption, are the central attraction in this potentially explosive film on corruption and the common man.
Maaveeran sets up a promising theme: a government sponsored highrise for the poor constructed so poorly it can collapse any moment. But the treatment of the theme is stamped with theatrical antics and characters , like the one played by that annoying omnipresent comic relief Yogi who plays a patchworker going around filling holes in the highrise.
Finally it all seems more commendable for what it attempts than what it achieves.At least the fight against corruption doesn’t seem like a mockery of the middleclass.At least the hero is one of us.