It isn’t an exaggeration to say that my conversations with the outside world are more often than not punctuated with cinema references. And #Maari2 comes at a critical point in my cinema-percolated life. The problem is, I haven’t been enjoying our commercial films or ‘masala entertainers’ lately. And I am someone who grew up on a steady diet of ‘Athiradi Vyazhans’ on Sun TV. So I have been introspecting as to what changed. Is nostalgia the only thing that powers my fondness for older commercial films? But thankfully, Maari 2 took me back to masala-cinema roots. Or in other words, I had fun.
One of the biggest things Maari 2 had working in its favour was the spirited #SaiPallavi, who has now become my official favourite heroine in a commercial film. Araathu Anandhi in #BalajiMohan’s version of the ‘loose ponnu’, only she isn’t that anymore. She is ‘massu ponnu’ as she herself puts it. The exchanges between Maari and Anandhi come as a breath of fresh air, especially when he rebuffs her for wanting to cook for him and take care of his house. “Pombalainga ennanamo sadhikaranga, nee enna na samaikanum nu solitu iruka,” he says which has Anandhi establishing the fact that she is a working woman, who isn’t dependant on #Maari for her living. When was the last time we had such an exchange on screen? Sai Pallavi is a live wire on screen — you will not be able to take your eyes off her, just watch her dance in Rowdy Baby.
Commercial, masala entertainers have several trappings. They need to be hero-centric, considering it will be headlined by a star who has a fan base to satisfy. It needs to have several ‘mass’ moments for this, which if you look at it are outlandish, but done and received with conviction. And the hero has to win — period. With such a strong legacy in commercial cinema, it is tough to surprise anyone within these constructs. To an extent, Balaji rectifies what he missed with Maari 1. He gives us a strong villain (the origin story is a tad weak and also eccentric), who has an actual contest with the hero and a possibility to win until the very last moment. With this, Maari 2 gives a few surprises that we don’t expect.
Just take the sequence where Sanikelamai and Adithangi attempt to write a punch dialogue for Maari. The nonchalant humour shines through and this makes Maari 2, a Balaji Mohan film more than anything. Every mass moment is a joy to watch and the film peaks as they come. As always there are flaws, the second half lacks steam until the climax. But I still managed to have a lot more fun than I did at several other recent commercial outings and that, for me, definitely counts for something.