Mahaan, the new Karthik Subbaraj movie starring Vikram in the title role, has a turbulent phase in the middle portions. But towards the end, Karthik manages to somehow place the drama in an exciting scenario making the landing a smooth one. Compared to Karthik’s last debacle Jagame Thanthiram, Mahaan is a far superior product. But the vastness of the canvas isn’t captured entirely in an absorbing way.
The film is about Gandhi Mahaan. He was the son of an ardent Gandhi follower, and thus he was made to promise that he would live a life that would obey Gandhian principles. Till the age of 40, Gandhi Mahaan didn’t touch alcohol, and he had to secretly watch movies. But the advice he got on his 40th birthday made him try something new. It disrupted his mundane life and resulted in a new lifestyle. The movie’s primary focus is on this new life of Gandhi Mahaan and what all happens in that new life.
It is that commercial movie that wants to put the hero in a difficult emotional space. A large part of the movie’s drama is based on the dilemma through which Mahaan is going through. He doesn’t know which side to take. The movie’s first half is that hurried coming-of-age drama where we see Mahaan as a kid rise to become this 50-year-old liquor mafia kingpin. In the second half, the movie is in a stable space after the arrival of the antagonist. The tone shift in that area is pretty jarring, and that’s the part where you would feel the movie losing its grip.
Karthik Subbaraj gives a lighter and peppy treatment to the first half, where we see the growth of the title character. The slowing down that happens in the second half would have worked immensely if the audience got the depth of the friendship and affection he has towards Sathya and Rocky. At the very end of the film, we see this emphasis on the friendship between Sathya and Mahaan. But I don’t think the movie could communicate the energy of that affection effectively. The Mahaan versus Dada aspect of the story adds juice to the content and eventually helps the film get a catchy shape.
The cinematography by Shreyaas Krishna uses various color palettes to mark the era. The dilemma through which Mahaan was going through was shown in almost all static frames featuring him. The single-shot fight sequences didn’t really create much of an impact. Vivek Harshan uses a lot of match cuts in the first half to keep the narrative on a speedier track. When it comes to the second half, he brings down the pace considerably to match with the mindset of Mahaan. As always, Santhosh Narayanan comes up with a quirky soundtrack.
For Vikram, even though the multiple getup factor is there in the film, Mahaan offers him a space to be a less eccentric version. Gandhi Mahaan’s frustrations and confusions are more in a humane space. The shift in attitude is also pretty smooth, which I liked a lot, especially in the climax. Dhruv Vikram as Dadabhai Naoroji plays this unempathetic character. His performance was fine as this guy who was obsessed with restoring the family name. But the things that molded Dada into a Gandhian beast sounded a little silly. Bobby Simha as Sathya was excellent. Sananth as Rocky also performed really well.
Mahaan is roughly 160 minutes long, and it covers almost the entire life of a gangster. It is not a consistent film. The engaging feel is lost occasionally due to how the drama is placed in the story. But in totality, the need for that drama is justified, and like I already said, Karthik Subbaraj manages to land the movie safely with some interesting Jigarthanda style mind games.
Compared to Karthik's last debacle Jagame Thanthiram, Mahaan is a far superior product. But the vastness of the canvas isn't captured entirely in an absorbing way.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended