Sivakarthikeyan Shines as the Director’s Tool in Madonne Ashwin’s Brilliantly-Written and Executed Action-Comedy/Political Drama/Superhero Film
It’s not often that a Friday delivers the gratification of experiencing a thoroughly entertaining film that, a) leaves you with reflective thoughts after captivating you for over two hours, b) ventures into the realm of political-superhero storytelling while remaining grounded in its setting, and c) achieves all of this by subtly subverting conventional tropes while still catering to the mainstream cinema audience. “Maaveeran” successfully ticks all these boxes.
Director: Madonne Ashwin
Cast: Sivakarthikeyan, Yogi Babu, Mysskin, Sunil, Saritha, Adithi Shankar, and more
Runtime: 166 minutes
Storyline: A comic book artist is forced to take on a corrupt politician when a voice he hears in his mind foretells events and puts him in precarious situations
Every now and then, a Friday offers the gratification of stepping out of a thoroughly entertaining film that not only engages you for over two hours but also leaves you with lingering thoughts. Maaveeran, directed by Madonne Ashwin, accomplishes this feat by seamlessly blending elements of a political-superhero narrative rooted in its authentic milieu, while skillfully subverting conventional tropes to cater to the commercial cinema audience.
In Maaveeran, Sivakarthikeyan takes center stage, showcasing his remarkable ability to portray a likeable character even within an imperfect storyline, as seen in some of his previous films. Under Ashwin’s direction, Sivakarthikeyan becomes a versatile tool, effortlessly merging his own personality with the director’s vision. Their collaboration results in a harmonious synergy, elevating the film into a director’s masterpiece.
The screenplay is nothing short of brilliant. From the opening scenes, where we witness Sathya (Sivakarthikeyan), a comic-book artist, crafting a tale of a valiant hero rescuing a damsel in distress, only to have it appropriated by a deceitful newspaper cartoonist who claims it as his own, there is a plethora of layers to unpack and retrospect upon.
Sathya, hailing from a humble background, holds a belief in turning a blind eye to injustice, even if it means enduring abuse from the system. His primary concern lies solely with his mother (Saritha) and sister (Monisha Blessy), prioritizing their well-being above all else. However, when the government forcibly relocates their entire slum community to a poorly constructed 10-storey apartment complex named Makkal Maligai (a symbolic reference to the Hindu God of Death, ‘Yeman’), Sathya’s world is turned upside down. Unlike the individual houses in the slum, this towering structure unifies its residents under one roof, becoming a shared entity that binds them together.
As the story unfolds, the stakes escalate, pushing Sathya to the edge and subjecting him to a significant setback. However, in his moment of despair, he starts hearing a voice—portrayed by Vijay Sethupathi, drawing parallels to his role in “Tughlaq Durbar”—which narrates the “Maaveeran” story through Sathya. This voice possesses the ability to foresee events mere seconds before they occur, and at times, it even influences Sathya’s emotions, serving as an auditory reflection of his consciousness.
Sathya grapples with the responsibility of embracing the role of a hero, with his reluctance stemming from a deeply rooted reason that lies at the core of the narrative. He becomes his own kryptonite, and like many superheroes, it is the well-being of his loved ones that ultimately compels him to take the leap of faith and fight for the greater good.
The presence of precognition as a power naturally lends itself to captivating action sequences, and Madonne Ashwin’s execution of these segments is nothing short of remarkable. Each scene is crafted organically, infused with clever twists that transform the ordinary into something extraordinary. Furthermore, the inclusion of sparkling comedy from Yogi Babu and Sivakarthikeyan in most of these scenes adds an extra layer of enjoyment to the overall experience.
Maaveeran appears to be the creation of a self-assured writer who enhances a straightforward narrative with precisely the elements it demands, ensuring that each thread finds its closure before progressing further. Notably, the dynamics between Sunil and Mysskin (both delivering outstanding performances) exemplify this approach, as their character arcs are given proper resolutions. Similarly, the audience is not always privy to the voice that speaks to Sathya, and Madonne Ashwin skillfully plays with this aspect to craft a parallel storyline that adds depth and intrigue to the overall narrative.
The subversion of the comic tale of Maaveeran and Ilavarasi is undeniably praiseworthy. The writing cleverly presents an engaging storyline that keeps you intrigued, even during the somewhat predictable third act. It provides ample food for thought, allowing you to ponder over various aspects. However, within this well-crafted political drama, one can’t help but desire a more transparent exploration of Ashwin’s take on immigrant workers. Although the topic is touched upon through Yogi Babu’s character and his employers opting for immigrant workers, a clearer depiction and deeper exploration of this theme would have been appreciated.
Similar to Mandela, in Maaveeran, the female lead, Adithi Shankar, portrays the role of Nila, a journalist who aids the vulnerable hero and eventually joins his cause. However, the portrayal of Nila thankfully avoids falling into the “fixer heroine” trope. Instead, she becomes the voice of the audience, helping Sathya gain perspective in a scene set on a flyover.
Music composer Bharath Sankar lays a strong foundation that supports Ashwin’s creative ideas. Together with Vidhu Ayyanna’s visuals, Bharath contributes to the creation of an ingenious urban superhero. The music seamlessly blends into the narrative, and even the song “Scene Ah Scene Ah,” featuring vocals by Anirudh Ravichander, doesn’t feel like a typical hero entry song but rather adds to the world-building of the film.
Maaveeran tells a story about the inner voice that urges individuals to do the right thing, emphasizing its message to those who turn a blind eye until the consequences affect them personally. Sivakarthikeyan excels in this high-concept action film that manages to honor the sensibilities of commercial cinema.