Maara is a remake of the much-loved 2015 Malayalam film Charlie, but like its director insists, it is more of an “adaptation” in some ways. Before we go into that aspect of this film, here’s what it is about. Parvathy/ Paru (Shraddha Srinath), a young woman, comes across paintings of the very story that she had heard as a child on the walls of a multi-cultural fishing hamlet in Kerala, where she has gone on work. Intrigued, she sets out to track down Maara (Madhavan), the mysterious artist who seems to have touched the lives of many in the place.
The best thing about Maara is that it doesn’t come across as a cash-in on a beloved film, but a lovingly crafted movie that respects its source material but also wants to be its own work. The cinematography, by Dinesh Krishnan and Karthik Muthukumar, is a rich palette of colours with the lighting adding warmth to the visuals. After Dhaarala Prabhu last year, this is yet another film with superb production design. Ghibran’s evocative music only enhances the joie de vivre that is an undercurrent of this tale.
Shraddha Srinath is solid in her role, and the way she conveys Paru’s feelings when she stumbles upon Maara’s paintings is so subtle and so effective. The supporting cast is fine, especially Mouli and Alexander Babu being the standouts.
Dhilip Kumar is so keen on leaving his own stamp, and tries to make this tale seem fresh even for those who might have been won over by Charlie’s charms. While Charlie tried to keep its titular character an enigma, Maara tries to decode why the character is the way he is. And so, Dhilip develops what was merely a feel-good sub-plot in the original — of an older man’s unrequited romance — into an almost parallel track that we are told has actually shaped Maara.
While this is an interesting take (especially the way Dhilip uses a tale of a soldier and a fish to connect the lives of his four principal characters), it takes out the mystery behind Maara, making him a less fascinating character in the process. Instead of a free-spirited gypsy, we get a man weighed down by a regret. Perhaps this was necessitated because the role is played by Madhavan, who is older (though equally charismatic) than Dulquer Salmaan.
That said, it also pushes Maara to the sidelines while resolving this angle, by making Paru play Cupid here. Though, one does appreciate the way how Dhilip throws us a hint at this development very early in the movie with Paru’s profession. She is a restorer of older monuments, and this autumn romance feels like just the right ‘project’ for such a person.
But more importantly, the additional focus on this track results in an increased running time, and also takes the spotlight away from the Paru-Maara romance, leading to an ending that doesn’t leave you on a high that the initial moments promised.