Maaran has a script so wobbly even Dhanush can’t save it

TOAt the end of the 130-minute Tamil film, I am still wondering what compelled director Karthick Naren to make this ‘thriller’. Dhanush, in the titular role, plays an investigative journalist who, for the most part, is the only decent flavor in this hotchpotch of a script.

The film, streaming on Disney+Hotstar, is a classic example of what all could go wrong when you attempt a script with no central theme. Not to say that you need to have a specific theme. You could have plenty but at least commit to something.

In the first 15 minutes or so, Mathimaaran aka Maaran loses his parents and is left alone with his new-born sister. His father of him was a journalist who was killed after he uncovered a scam involving a politician. Much like the heroes from the 80s, Maaran, a child himself, declares that he will raise his sister by himself (with some help from his maternal uncle). He also grows up to become a journalist. After an eccentric job interview wherein he is tasked to make a viral tweet, he is hired in a news organization called… wait for it… TheNews. So much for creativity.

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Maaran is a confident, borderline cocky shown as a star journalist. If front page magazine covers do not make it clear, he also reminds the audience time and again about his ‘stardom’ about him.

In a predictable narrative — don’t come at me for spoiling the film, there are none — Maaran is attacked on multiple occasions by a bunch of goons in response to his investigative reports. However, one sequence wherein Maaran thrashes the hooligans using just his ink pen from him is fun to watch and deserves an applause. And that is business as usual for this journalist.

After two failed attempts, his sister is kidnapped and burnt to death (or does she?!). From an investigative journalist, Maaran transforms into a mourning drunkard, only to perform scenes later that he must avenge his sister’s murder of her. See where I am going with this?

Naren, who has also written the film, introduces an Abbas-Mustan-esque plot hoping to inject some suspense. No points for guessing how that turns out.

With no premise or agenda, the film wanders around like a jelly in a jar. Even Dhanush, a marquee performer, can do only so much to save a film that he has committed to freefall with no safety backup.

The best scenes in this over two-hour-long film are some of the interactions between Maaran’s sister Shwetha (Smruthi Venkat) and Dhanush. Even Malavika Mohanan, who plays Maaran’s colleague-cum-girlfriend, does well in whatever little she is assigned to.

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Maaran tries to engage with a bunch of themes but ends up falling flat. It tries to showcase the power of pen and investigative journalism but its poor understanding of the profession and industry does little to salvage the screenplay. Later, as it attempts to tap into the corruption in politics, we are left with a bunch of stereotypes and caricatures. Then, there is an ‘elder brother protects baby sister’ trope that can only work so much in today’s day and age. If only makers would have tried to commit to something and fleshed out that on screen, although, I wonder if even that could have done anything to save the wobbly script.

Maaran does not deserve a star rating, rather it calls for an introspection on the makers’ part.

Convenience is a tool that is used, misused and abused in Maaran. If you, like me, managed to make it till the end of the film, treat yourself with a compilation of ‘best performances of Dhanush’ on YouTube because, to be frank, that’s all you would want to remember the Raanjhana actor for.

(Edited by Anurag Chaubey)

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