Onto the last release of the weekend and I just had to fit in this Malayalam film that I just finished watching. The movie in question is Mahaveeryar which is streaming on Sun Nxt. The film had its theatrical release in July last year, and so it did take a long while for it to premiere on an OTT platform. Initially, the film had me thinking. Why did the film take such a long time to premiere on an OTT platform? Secondly, why did the major OTT platforms not purchase this film. All my doubts were cleared when I was witness to the film that can be termed as one of the most absurd and unique dramas of recent times that provides a sharp commentary on the state of affairs of our society in today’s times. To give you a perspective, I needed some time to sit with the film after it was over in order to decipher what it is trying to communicate through its zany storytelling. And now that I am ready with my thoughts, here are my two cents on Mahaveeryar.
Story & Screenplay
Mahaveeryar follows the story of a court case that takes place in the 18th century in a modern day courtroom setup. Yes, this is a time travel story but the story is so much more than any regular movie which you may have seen, ever! It is a sharp commentary on the social issues and authorities through whimsical portions of absurdity. The film would have polarizing opinions by the end of it with little to no middle ground here! So either you will end up liking the film or absolutely hating it. The screenplay standing at a shade above 2 hours does make for a compelling watch but the drama packs in so many layers that it would take you a while to settle into the drama. This section will contain mild spoilers.
The drama does open in the 18th century wherein a King suffering from hiccups happens to visit the washroom often, meaning he cannot fall asleep. As a remedy, he does advise his minister to get him the most beautiful woman in his kingdom with her soul as pure as a Tulsi plant. Cut to the modern day setup wherein a Hermit is accused of stealing idols from a local temple. And thus a hilarious court case begins(before a couple of hilarious cases featuring a husband and a wife in an alimony tussle). The arguments provided are sharp and witty which will make you chuckle. But in its second layer, it is also a commentary on the nature of individuals, raising fingers on others when they themselves aren’t free of any crime. The instance here being, the temple authorities themselves have been extracting funds illegally only to point fingers on the Hermit, whom we aren’t sure is the real culprit.
One thing that you need to approach this drama with is with an open mind. This is because there are many unanswered questions here. For instance, the interval block that includes a time-travel to the 18th century with the same set of characters in the courtroom(and a few joining in from the bygone era for a court case). But the proceedings are thoroughly interesting and almost switches paths each time you feel comfortable in a genre. The real deal begins after the half-way mark.
The second half is a strong commentary on the authorities and the rulers of the kingdom that almost entirely unfolds through a set of allegories. For example, the king of the 18th century sitting bang opposite the justice statue was a beautiful oxymoron. As the case unfolds against the king unruly inviting the kidnap of a young woman, each witness appears only to be shot down by the court authorities, one by one. Lastly, even the argument of the victim is ruled against her. The sentiment that the writers wish to show is that when patriarchy and autocracy are in discussion, woman and justice do take a back seat. Also, a sharp commentary on the importance of consent is thrown in momentarily.
The events leading up to the final act are shocking and a sharp commentary on how justice might be served even today. This does include the victim being stripped off her clothes literally and her pride metaphorically while all the ‘men’ at the authoritative post look on. The climax also throws in a reason on whether the unfolding act could be one of the solutions to the problem that really forces you to think. In between, we hear words of wisdom from the Hermit throughout the drama culminating into the fact that the concerned person wasn’t a hermit afterall. According to the drama, he was someone going on a journey from ‘incomplete’ to ‘complete’ but as per me, he was the definition of time(remember he did invoke a time-travel feature at the halfway mark) and while he did wish that humanity would learn from their past mistakes throughout ‘his’ journey, nothing has changed. Overall, the screenplay here is an absolute winner that sums up a sharp commentary in modern times.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are sharp, witty, absurd and brilliantly penned. The fact that the drama ends up being zany and absurd does attribute to some of the most crazy lines which might seem out of context but if you dig deeper, they hold relevance like no other. The Music and BGM blend well with the drama. The cinematography and editing are good as well. Director Abrid Shine does manage to put out an extremely absurd drama in the most perfect way possible. He does play up the important aspects of the drama in the second layer while keeping the top layer playful and zany. The direction deserves distinction marks here.
The performances are brilliant by the ensemble cast. Lal as the King is outstanding. Lalu Alex as PP and Siddique as the Judge are wonderfully restrained. Asif Ali as Veerabhadran emotes brilliantly through his eyes and does an incredible job. It was so easy for Nivin Pauly to go overboard with his character here. But as the Hermit, he is wonderfully restrained and does a great job. But my pick of the actors was Shanvi Shrivastava who shines as Devayani. It was a character which had to be muted yet showcase her displeasure their her expressions and she does that brilliantly. Even towards the dying moments when she character is stripped naked, she has her expressions on point. It was a bold portrayal in a beautifully subdued part.
Mahaveeryar is one of the most unique, zany and absurd courtroom dramas that does provide a sharp commentary on some very relevant issues. Available on Sun Nxt and Highly Recommended!