Mariyaan - Bringing ''Movie-Making'' Back to Tamil Cinema

Mariyaan - Bringing ''Movie-Making'' Back to Tamil Cinema

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2013 started with various well directed films, starting with Kadal, Vishwaroopam and then Paradesi. But soon after Paradesi in March, Tamil cinema hit a 4 month dry spell. Even though there were multiple movies that could be considered “good” movies, there were none that projected movie making at its best. Not to mention the horror that through this dry spell we were served movies like Singam 2 which was movie making mayhem.
But after 4 months, Bharat Bala brings “movie-making” back to Tamil cinema through Mariyaan. It has been quite long since a perfect blend of casting, story, direction, technical aspect and music came together. Mariyaan is that type of near perfect blend.
Bharat Bala has based Mariyaan on a true incident where three oil workers from Tamil Nadu were kidnapped and taken hostage by Sudan terrorists. Bharat Bala has taken the responsibility of both the story and the screenplay. Mariyaan is a story of human survival and how will power can push a man’s ability to amazing heights. Human survival and the love between Mariyaan and Panimalar is the gist of the story. The screenplay is constructed beautifully around the core of the story.
The screenplay is smooth sailing and the songs are incorporated perfectly that it does not warrant the audiences to go out for toilet breaks or smokes during the songs. While keeping to the story, Bharat Bala indeed throws in some political issues in a sleek manner such as the fishermen shooting incidence near the Sri Lanka coastal area, the economy that had driven terrorist activities in African nations which inflicts even children, and many others. Bharat Bala had lived up to expectations and delivered what both the audiences and critics wanted. Bharat Bala has indeed proven that he is an ace director.
Casting is one of the most formidable aspects of the film. Dhanush, after his recent success with Raanjhanaa pulls an extraordinary performance in Mariyaan. If you thought Dhanush was good in Raanjhanaa, well Mariyaan will blow you away. Mariyaan is unlike any other character that Dhanush has played before. Bharat Bala has given great depth to Mariyaan’s characterization. Mariyaan means immortal; a man that cannot die. And that is the exact way Dhanush has carried this character.
Dhanush is depicted as a fisherman in a village named Neerodi and he is considered the best at what he does earning him the nick name “Kadal Raasa”. Dhanush has to play Mariyaan with a thin line where he cannot seem to arrogant but also show the audience that he is indeed the “Kadal Raasa” and knows it. A little over performance would make him seem arrogant which would not bode well with the audience and underperforming would not live up to Mariyaan’s characterization. Dhanush walked that fine line perfectly.
Though Dhanush already brings an amazing performance in the 1st half of the movie as the “Kadal Raasa” and also in his romantic scenes with Parvathi, Dhanush steps it up a few notches in the 2nd half of the movie where he is held captive in Sudan by terrorist and tries to escape. This is where Dhanush brings the best performance of his career. Mariyaan’s character is totally exposed and diverged once he is out of the comfort of his “kadal”.
Dhanush brings three different stage and emotion to his character which inter-relates to the meaning of his name throughout his captivity and escape. While being detained by the Sudanese terrorist, Mariyaan has already accepted death. He challenges the terrorist leader to kill him and his friends, and put an end to his miseries. He also decides not to call his company to do a negotiation but calls Panimalar played by Parvathi Menon to tell her that he would not be coming back and to listen to her voice for the last time.
This incident and when one of his co-workers is killed right in front him is the moment Mariyaan digests the full extension of death and starts to fear it. The fear of death is what drives Mariyaan to escape. The fear of death is what pushes Mariyaan to walk through the desert without food and water. But he is weak, tired and hallucinating. His mind is unable to break the barrier through his fear of dying. Mariyaan projects his fear as he walks pass a carcass and when he hallucinates of cheetahs ready to pry on him. His fear of death overpowers him and breaks him.
Then comes the moment where his love for Panimalar ignites his will to live. This is when he realizes that he does not want to die; he wants to live and see his Panimalar once again. Mariyaan comes back to his real self, the “Kadal Raasa”, the “Prince of Ocean”, the “man who cannot die”. He moves through the desert not with fear and weakness that was merely pulling him through, but with strength and determination that pushes him through. The core of the movie is highlighted here, which is sheer will power to survive overcomes all. This moment is wonderfully depicted with AR Rahman’s amazing voice singing “Nenjae Ezhu”.
With so many different moments in the movie where Dhanush has to bring out a different Mariyaan each time, he excels perfectly. Despite the emotionally tasking character that Dhanush has to portray, Dhanush is also burdened by the physically tasking scenes that he has to endure. Deep sea filming takes a lot out of an actor and also the deserts scenes with scorching heat. Playing Mariyaan was not only emotionally draining for Dhanush but also physically draining. All this said and done, Dhanush does not steal the show all for himself; an equal opponent for his performance was the lead actress Parvathi Menon.
Parvathi brings out the best in her playing the village girl who is madly in love with Mariyaan. She is emotionally strong and perhaps stronger than Mariyaan too. She is a woman who is not vulnerable at any point except for her love for Mariyaan. The love that she shows for Mariyaan while trying to court him is immense. It’s not the type of love you see in everyday Tamil movies. It’s the type of love that is so intense; it will stay in your heart for years to come. There is a slight violence mixed into it which brings out the realism in their relationship.
Parvathi is on par with Dhanush in all the love scenes especially when they are faced with the possibility that Mariyaan will be heading off to Sudan. Parvathi pours out her feelings well to touch the audiences. She is also steps up her performance in the 2nd half to match Dhanush’s performance. The pain and agony that she goes through not knowing what’s happening to Mariyaan, the moment that she talks to Mariyaan when she faces the reality that she might not see him again, the way she gains confidence and belief that Mariyaan would definitely come back to her; all these scenes brings out a top notch performance in Parvathi.
It is good to know that among stereotype actresses who solely depend on glamour, we have talents like Parvathi Menon who definitely shines with great promise and the ability to go to greater heights. If Dhanush proves to be the only contender against Kamal Hassan’s Viswaroopam for best actor, than Parvathi Menon remains unchallenged for best actress this year. Both of their performances are supported with an equally good performing supporting casts such as Appukutty, Uma Riyaz Khan, Salim Kumar, Vinayakan and Jagan. Bringing the movie a different perspective and some politics into it are the Sudanese terrorists who put up a good performance as well.
Casting proves to be a strong point in Mariyaan. But besides casting Mariyaan is enriched with great technical aspects. The locations in the movie are mesmerizing such as the deep sea shoot, Kanyakumari and the deserts of Africa to name a few. The art direction of the movie was also equally good, the fisherman village, the design of each house and the different places where Dhanush is held captive; everything is set in such realism.
Out of all the technical aspects, special mention definitely has to go to Mark Koninckx, the cinematographer. Mark has captured the movie so beautifully that all the essence and the emotions remain intact. Close up shots can be seen frequently throughout the movie especially during the heightened emotional scenes making the audiences feel more attached with the characters. Scenes throughout the fishermen village give a beautiful perspective of their everyday life.
The most outstanding scenes captured by Mark are of course the deep sea scenes and the desert scenes. Tamil movies are only use to short deep sea images which would last a few seconds on the screen. Mark captures prolonged scenes in the deep sea coupled with its extraordinary beauty; something that Tamil cinema goers are yet to see. Similarly the scenes in the desert are something that is not usually seen in Tamil cinema where only few minutes of a song would be usually shot in a desert. Mark films the desert in such precision that you can literally feel the heat, the dryness and the hardship Mariyaan is going through.
The gel that glues together the story, screenplay, acting and the technical aspects is of course the music. AR Rahman brings us one of his best in Mariyaan. Background score hits the mark in every scene and the songs are literally mind blowing. Listening to the audio alone was mesmerizing, and when it is coupled with the amazingly beautiful scenes on screen, it makes the audiences feel ecstatic. The songs brings the love between Mariyaan and Panimalar to the next level and by the time “Nenjae Ezhu” hits the screen you are cheering for Mariyaan to cross through the desert and reach Panimalar.
As I said, Mariyaan brings together a near perfect blend of many aspects. Be it the story, screenplay, casting, technicality, music and many others; Mariyaan hits the mark with each scene. One small setback is that at moments the story might feel a bit dragged but the prolongation does add strength to the scenes.
Bharat Bala, Dhanush, Parvathi Menon, Mark Koninckx and AR Rahman, all deserve a nomination as Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Cinematographer and Best Music Director respectively for their extraordinary work. Whether they win or not depends on the jury.
All in all, Mariyaan is a must watch for both the movie and the “movie making” experience.
Venoo Bee

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