MAHAAN (2022)

  • Release Date: 11/02/2022
  • Platform: Amazon Prime Video
  • Cast: Vikram, Dhruv Vikram, Simha, Sanath, Simran
  • Director: Karthik Subbaraj

A tale of two “Vikrams” that deserved a theatrical run for its stunning visual ballad and scintillating action

— Ambar Chatterjee

Mahaan chronicles the journey of Gandhi Mahaan (Vikram), a commerce teacher who was raised in a Gandhian family and was later married into a Gandhiyan family. He submitted to the strict Gandhian principles and instructions of his parents and then his wife and gave up all his fantasies circling around alcohol, gambling, and living a life of extravagance. On a fateful day, in his wife’s absence, Gandhi decides to live one day giving in to his hidden desires. He drinks and gambles to his heart’s delight and also meets his childhood friend, Sathyavan (Simha), a man who runs a rollicking illegal liquor business. Gandhi returns home the next day to a distraught and raging wife who, after a terrible altercation with her husband, walks out on him with their son. Gandhi tries his best to get them back but he fails. Dejected, frustrated, and alone, Gandhi surrenders himself to his fantasies and joins hands with Sathyavan to create one of the country’s most profitable liquor empires. But as is customary, destiny has a strange way of getting back at people. In his case, destiny comes knocking at Gandhi’s door in the form of his son, Dadabhai Naoroji (Dhruv Vikram).

Mahaan is a magnum opus in every sense of the term. Be it the visuals, the elaborate story, the ensemble cast, or the action sequences, this is the kind of film that should have been released in theaters as it is the kind that can be enjoyed the most in theaters. The only issue I had with the film was not related to the film but my inability to understand Tamil and having to watch the film in Tamil with English subtitles. This is one of the most dialogue-heavy films that I have seen in a while and having to toggle between concentrating on the performances and the English subtitles proved to be quite a chore. With characters often speaking in raging speed and emoting with just as much power, making it difficult to not only grasp the emotions but also what was being said. I had to watch the film twice to sink in all the content that was on offer.

Having said that, there are still innumerable things about the film that make it worth taking the trouble of watching and re-watching it. Here are some of these aspects that I enjoyed thoroughly.

Vikram’s stellar performance:-

Vikram, over the last couple of years, has been going haywire with his choice of films but as Gandhi Mahaan he has once again established himself ferocious uproar and proved that when pushed, he can be better than his best. There are so many different facets to his character here that is hard to point out which facet of it I like the most. His emotional arch changes every ten to fifteen minutes toggling between a position of power, weakness, surrender frustration, and self-adulation. He achieves all this with such ease and realism that it becomes impossible to ignore his feat. I loved his camaraderie with Simha. It is made apparent by his mannerisms when around Simha that the man means a lot to him. This aspect of their relationship is utilized in the end to deliver a few knockout punches in terms of dramatic payoff. I equally loved his dynamics with Sanath who pays Simha’s son.

The relationship that he shares with him is what he would have liked to share with his son. It is also something is utilized by the director to deliver some potent dramatic payoffs in the end. This wouldn’t have been the same had the director not established the relationship between Sanath and Vikram throughout the narrative using subtle exchanges. I loved the craziness that Vikram brought to the character. He does unthinkable things to safeguard his son but then when he is betrayed, he comes to his own and delivers a knockout punch in his trademark “mass” style. While these bits might be a tad bit too much for many to fathom but I felt that it perfectly suited the mood and flow of a film of this nature. Vikram is easily the best thing about Mahaan

Dhruv Vikram’s primal rendition of a man blinded by revenge: –

Dhruv Vikram’ Dadabhai Naoroji should have been the character that most of the audiences should have related with after his return to haunt his father for having abandoned him and his mother to live a life of sufferings. Interestingly, his character in many ways turns out to be the antagonist of the film and will be hated by the masses owing to how Dhruv Vikram renders it. I was in awe of the boy as he was able to match his charismatic father in screen presence. I dare say this, but there were some scenes where he cast a looming shadow over Vikram with his sheer craziness and spontaneous visualization of it through his mannerisms and dialogue delivery. He used these aspects of the character to it from being a cop out for revenge to someone who could practically destroy everything that the protagonist loved or valued and would go to any extent to do it. From the moment he appears on screen, the film turns into a whole new beast. I don’t think there is any better praise that his performance can be showered with than saying that he matched his seasoned father scene for scene.

The supporting cast and their terrific performances:-

Keeping aside the father-son duo, actors like Simha, Sanath, and Simran did a terrific job with their respective characters. It must be noted that if these actors didn’t have the kind of impact that they had with their respective essays, this would have been a much lesser film and it would have also liquidated the impact of the leading men.

The story:-

Mahaan’s story is elaborate and is heaped with subplots, incessant dialogues, politics, drama, and intrigue. No matter how overstuffed the story of the film might feel; it is rolled out in a manner that feels organic, is easy to follow, and keeps the audience hooked. For all those who are complaining about an overstuffed story, they must understand that the story is that of the lifetime of a man who has had a rather animated life. Thus for it to be jam-packed with content is understandable. When executed well, such stories can be intriguing and investing as was the case here.  

The scintillating action:-

Mahaan boasts of atleast two action sequences that felt from a different world altogether. It is evident that Vikram is still doing his own stunts and at this age, that is not a mean feat. It also adds the kind of credibility to the action that no usage of stuntmen and fancy angels can. One of these action sequences is a long take. I was in awe of the action choreography, the cinematography, and the execution of it as the camera kept rolling moving from one angle to another changing shot compositions but never cutting. At one point, the camera made its way through one window of a car to another. In addition, the raw physicality that Vikram brought to it was also something that made these sequences special.

Superb cinematography, editing, production design, and background score:-

Top-notch cinematography and editing are some things that we have come to expect from Karthik Subbaraj films. People have definitely put in a lot of hard work here and created a film that pans multiple decades with a lot of care and attention to detail. They had to incorporate a lot of elements from those eras to make it feel realistic and add credibility to the narrative and the atmosphere. Thus it is not just the cinematography and the editing that takes the cake but also the stupendous production design that not only adds realism and charm to the visuals. The background score, though judiciously used, does its work when required.

Final words:-

Mahaan is Karthik Subbaraj’s magnum opus and it re-invigorates the fledgling careers of Vikram and Dhruv Vikram with a vengeance. It also corrects most of the mistakes that Subbaraj was blamed for committing in his previous film, Jagame Thandhiram, and plays to the strength of its actors. I had a great time with this film and I believe that will be the case with most of the audiences who enjoy long, layered verbose, and violent gangster films.

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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