Maharaja Movie Review: A Well rounded and Engaging Revenge Drama!

A screenplay tighter than Vijay Sethupathi’s grip in the movie!

Director: Nithilan Swaminathan 
Cast: Vijay Sethupathi, Anurag Kashyap, Abhirami and others

After a novel, satisfying and impressionable film like Kurangu Bommai, followed by a 7 year break, Nithilan Swaminathan delivers a banger of a film which actually has the potential to save Tamil cinema from the hands of the slump it is in.

*Spoilers Ahead*

Maharaja, played by Vijay Sethupathi is an elderly single father to Jyothi, played by Sachana Nemidas. One day he goes to the police station to file a complaint over a theft in his house and the rest of the film is the investigation thereof. Essentially, Maharaja is the story of two fathers – Vijay Sethupathi and Anurag Kashyap; two fathers who’d go to any extent to keep their daughters happy – which becomes their ultimate crime and reason for them to be where they are.

Although Maharaja is a typical revenge drama which could’ve been easily predictable, what makes it memorable and unique is mostly the shock factor and its storytelling. A non-linear screenplay makes it all the more interesting since you don’t really expect the timelines to be different – and when that is revealed, it is done in a very subtle and visual manner using tertiary but memorable characters in the plot instead of resorting to narration or phrases denoting how many days have passed. Nithilan’s vision to portray everything visually is what makes Maharaja a treat – twists aren’t spoonfed; like the scene where the perpetrator fumbles during a confession, and the non-linear screenplay is very organically connected. 

Most directors forget cinema is a visual medium thereby resorting to narration in third person or making the characters themselves dictate their story but Nithilan has very rightly swayed away from it. One might think a film with such varied timelines might require an omniscient narrator but the director manages to make the audience travel with his film even without a voiceover, thanks to the editor and cinematographer. 

Maharaja is a film that’s here to stay mainly for two novel ideas which are explored in the film – the monologue of the victim in the end who, with pride refuses to suffer or let their injury scar them and says they will bounce back from the unfortunate event; which is quite refreshing because in Tamil cinema, we’ve always only seen victims who die or live as dissociated individuals who’ll carry the suffering and pain for the rest of their lives. 

When someone needs to question the humanity of a perpetrator they often ask “would you do this to your mom? your wife? your daughter? your friend?” But are moms, wives, daughters and friends the only people who should be refrained from being harmed? Because it translates to ‘even victims need to be related to the violator for them to identify them as human’ which is very tone-deafening because nobody should violate anybody, even if they’re a stranger. They don’t necessarily need to be your daughter – which is also a discourse dealt with in Maharaja.

Maharaja is a well-rounded film whose origins lie in Anurag Kashyap choosing a saloon to trim his beard – a very nuanced butterfly effect which, although ideologically flawed here and there, has its heart in the right place. Both Sachana and VJS have done their parts really well, especially scenes where the daughter parents the dad – teaching him how to do laundry or maintain hygiene. To be honest, it is quite refreshing to see Vijay Sethupathi do a role where he’s not subtle, “casual” or himself. While Divyabharathi has very little scope as a character, Abhirami plays a memorable role although she’s just another wife and a mother. However, Mamta Mohan Das is a uni-dimensional character who is just an auxiliary to Vijay Sethupathi’s cause.The one major miscast in the film is Anurag Kashyap whose dubbing doesn’t sync which makes him look alien to the film.

Maharaja is ideologically and cinematically better than almost all films that deal with this subject. Nithilan has cooked a perfect recipe with good character arcs, elevation moments, and a great screenplay – overall, a must watch!

Rating – 3.5/ 5

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