Maara directed by Dilip Kumar is, in the director’s own words “ an adaptation” of the 2015 Malayalam blockbuster Charlie starring Dulquer Salmaan and Parvathy. This film was one of the defining points in Dulquer’s career and in Maara, R Madhavan reprises the role for the Tamil version of this whimsical narrative, which is produced by Pramod Films. Paaru (Shraddha Srinath), a passionate woman involved in art restoration, stumbles upon a beautiful and inspiring series of murals in a quaint fishing hamlet in Kerala, which vividly depicts every frame of an unknown fairy tale that she has heard as a young child. Intrigued, she sets off to know more about the maverick artist Maara (R Madhavan). Through his inspiring and imaginative art, she learns about his nomadic life and all the people he influenced and touched over the years of his wanderlust existence. In doing so, she discovers some intrinsic coincidences spanning over many years, that connect them together.
Stunning visuals and set pieces elevate the film
The beauty of God’s own country, Kerala, where the film is set, is the perfect backdrop for this alluring tale of love, loss, and fate. Cinematographers Dinesh Krishnan and Karthik Muthukumar splendidly capture the land’s lush greenery serene backwaters and the hilly magnificence that is quintessential to the region thereby giving the narrative a fantastic visual appeal. In addition, the production and set design are aesthetically pleasing and capture the riot of colors depicted in the artwork very well. In this aspect, Maara is on par with its Malayalam counterpart in bringing out the essence of the narrative through the lens.
The spark of the original is missing
While the core of the story is the same, filmmaker Dhilip Kumar tweaks a few threads to suit the milieu and context of Tamil cinema. In doing so, there are a few areas where these changes fall a little flat. In Charlie, the unexplained enigma of the protagonist right through the film gave him a sense of intrigue and mystery where the audience is left to decipher his motives and leanings towards life. This constituted the film’s X factor. In Maara, the same protagonist is stripped down to give us a peek into his thought processes and intentions behind his actions. While there is authenticity in some situations, a few feel fabricated to lay these explanations out. Madhavan expectedly does a solid job of portraying this character with the necessary emotional depth but loses out slightly to Dulquer probably on age and the unconventionality that the latter brought to the table. At some points, his role seems even secondary in the context of the whole story-an aspect that wasn’t evident in Charlie. Similarly, Shraddha Srinath is competent and pleasant but again, misses Parvathy’s soul from Charlie.
The supporting cast is worth their salt
In its entirety, Maara is an ensemble narrative that traces the life of many people bound by fate and love. We get some endearing portraits of supporting characters who enhance the plotline. Veteran actor Mouli who reprises the role of Nedumudi Venu shows the subtle and dignified depth of emotion. His parallel storyline of a long-lost love is sensitively handled and the actor does ample justice through his portrayal. It is also refreshing to see popular stand-up comedian Alexander Babu make his debut as a kind-hearted thief who befriends Maara. The funnyman does a nice job and seems to be a natural on-screen, sharing good chemistry with Madhavan.
WATCH OR NOT
While Maara may not quite reach the heights of the Malayalam original, there is a lot to like and learn about life and its vagaries from this film. It’s a new year and all of us are looking for hope, fresh starts and to leave 2020 and its challenges behind. Maara is a film that will renew that hope and help us to look at new horizons.
Director: Dhilip Kumar
Cast: R Madhavan, Shraddha Srinath, Mouli, Alexander Babu
Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video