Maharaja Review | A Rooted Action Thriller With a Smartly Tweaked Screenplay

Maharaja is a good example of how a generic template can be tweaked to create a compelling story if you are willing to experiment with the screenplay. Nithilan Saminathan’s movie starring Vijay Sethupathi as the titular character is an extremely engaging thriller that presents the predictable and used-out elements differently to narrate a simplistic revenge story. With things going over the top very rarely, Vijay Sethupathi’s John Wick-ish 50th film is consistently keeping you curious.

Maharaja, our main character, is a saloon owner, and he has a daughter who is very active in sports events. His wife passed away in an unfortunate accident, and the iron dustbin that saved his daughter from that accident has a very important space in the life of the father and the daughter. At one point, when the daughter went out of the city for a sports meet, Maharaja got attacked at his house by a few masked men, and they took the dustbin. Maharaja took the issue to the police, and what we see in the movie is his resilient efforts to find the people who harmed him and took his Lakshmi (dustbin).

SPOILERS AHEAD! Maharaja feels so engaging because of the way Nithilan has constructed a screenplay that shares information in a very smart way. In the very first flashback scene itself, he is misleading us, and at the same time, he is giving the audience enough elements to confidently believe that their prediction is correct. And when we eventually get to know what really happened, the additional information that comes with that twist makes even the things we predicted look better on screen. The shift the movie takes from looking like a funny film about an adamant and sensitive guy’s dustbin missing complaint to the tale of a protective father is pretty smooth. And when you backtrack every character and subplot in the movie, the focus given to them and the details we get from them are all pretty precise.

The movie is pretty much a one-man show of Vijay Sethupathi as he is the one who is mostly there on screen. It is the role of a man who lost everything at one point and has invested everything in his daughter. The introverted body language is maintained throughout the movie, and it never feels gimmicky. Even in that scene where he demands an apology from the principal who wrongly accused his daughter, the way he pulls off the demanding nature of the father has a sense of realness. Anurag Kashyap plays one of the bad guys in the film, and the good thing was that the antagonist had a solid backstory which made the climax even more impactful. Mamta Mohandas and Abhirami have relatively very little screen time. Singampuli got to play a pretty unconventional character and he was really good at it. Natarajan Subramaniam played the role of a corrupt cop in the film and was fine doing his part.

Nithilan is pretty aware of the fact that he is not narrating a story that nobody has narrated before. The revenge element in the story is something very familiar, and a lot of mass masala movies have tried that stuff in the past. The beauty of the screenplay is the way it reveals its smartness to the audience. It makes us believe that two events are happening simultaneously, and just when you think you cracked the plot, it reveals the timeline difference, making the audience do another interpretation. By the way, the movie’s climax has an emotional similarity with the recent Malayalam thriller Iratta. But it felt more like creative usage of a similar trope, which enhanced the drama in the story. Nithilan has an eye for staging the scenes according to the power dynamics. In maintaining the suspense, the editing has an integral role in the film, and Philomin Raj did that very beautifully. The only area that felt a bit bumpy because of its quick pace was that patch where Natty’s character and other police officers decided to support Maharaja in settling the scores.

Maharaja is an action thriller that has rooted characters and emotions. Even though it has the design elements of a commercial film that backs the hero, Nithilan is not interested in making a hero who defies gravity. With an unpretentious Vijay Sethupathi breathing life into a script that genuinely takes an effort to repackage an existing formula, Maharaja deserves to be appreciated.

Final Thoughts

With an unpretentious Vijay Sethupathi breathing life into a script that genuinely takes an effort to repackage an existing formula, Maharaja deserves to be appreciated.


Green: Recommended Content

Orange: The In-Between Ones

Red: Not Recommended


By Aswin Bharadwaj

Founder and editor of Lensmen Reviews.