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'Maaya' Review: An Effort At Being Different

Movie: Maaya
Rating: 2.5/5
Banner:
Shirdi Sai Combines
Cast: Harshavardhan Rane, Avantika, Sushma Raj, Nandini Rai and Others
Editor: Naveen Nooli
Music Director: Sekhar Chandra
Cinematography: Bal Reddy
Producer: Madhura Sreedhar, M.V.K. Reddy
Director: Neelkanta
Release Date: Aug 1st, 2014

Supernatural, paranormal, parapsychology… all evoke a sense of awe and intrigue the viewers no end. Film-makers try to cash in on this innate fear of the unknown by making films based on these themes from time to time. Of course, times have changed and with Internet boom, audiences have access to a huge array of national and international films. So, they are hungry for new themes and are pushing the film-makers to explore new methods of story-telling. Neelakanta has been one director who has tried to do something different with each of his films. Irrespective of how they fared at the box-office, he is counted among the few directors in Telugu film industry who comes up with something different every time he decides to make a film. Let’s check out how his latest film Maaya has shaped up…

Story:
The film begins in 1996 when the film’s female protagonist Meghna (Avanthika) first sees the death of her mother coming. Unfortunately, what the little girl sees actually happens and her mother is killed in an accident at a construction site. Eventually the girl grows up to be a successful television anchor. As a part of her job, she meets Siddharth Varma (Harshvardhan Rane), a hot-shot fashion designer from Delhi who comes to Hyderabad to research the textiles of Andhra and Telangana to put them on the fashion map. Well, like in all movies, cupid strikes and they start dating each other.

Meanwhile, Meghna has another episode of seeing a crime happening in a mall. Only this time, she intervenes and manages to stop the death of a watchman.

Since no love story progresses without a twist, our film has one in the form of Pooja (Sushma Raj). Pooja turns out to be the childhood friend of Meghna and the current fiancé of Siddharth. In the name of friendship, Meghna decides to distance herself from Siddharth. But as fate would have it, she has another episode of ESP or extra sensory perception, this time involving Siddharth and Pooja. Well, by this time in the movie, Meghna consults a specialist played by Jhansi and gets some gyan on ESP and is cajoled into waiting for the ‘right’ time to take action.

We surely don’t want to play spoilsport by revealing the rest of the plot and who kills who in this thriller-of-sorts.

Artistes’ Performances:
Both the girls, Avanthika and Sushma get author-backed roles, which they have performed rather well. In keeping with the tradition of different films, they are not what one can label as glamourous heroines, but they do manage to pull off their roles with ease. One cannot but have a sense of déjà vu watching Avanthika as she reminds one of veteran actress Bhanu Priya in close-up scenes.

Sushma pulls off her role rather comfortably and manages to show the variations in her character without strain. She is sincere and plays her part naturally.

Coming to Harshvardhan Rane, who plays the man caught between two ladies, he pulls off the opening scenes rather well. His body language as the Delhi-based fashion designer is perfect, especially during his introduction scenes. However, towards the end, the drama becomes too complicated for him and the pressure of getting his expressions right is quite obvious.

Naga Babu as Meghna’s father puts in a decent performance. Nandini Roy as Harshvardhan Rane’s dead activist-cum-model girlfriend from an orthodox Benarasi Brahmin household is a good choice.

But it is anchor Jhansi who also moonlights from time to time as a supporting actress who is really disappointing. There was a time when her characters such as Kokapeta aunty and aunty’s role to Swati in Ashta Chemma got her lots of appreciation. In Maaya, she looks tired and her characterization is rather weak. She tries a little too hard to look and sound convincing as the expert on ESP and fails miserably.

Technical Excellence:
Since it is a Neelakanta film, he has taken care to ensure that all technicians give optimum inputs. So, the music and background score is good. Cinematography is good too. But that’s where the good news ends.

Highlights:

  • Concept
  • Narration

Drawbacks:

  • Lengthy scenes
  • First Half
  • Extra songs

Analysis:
Neelakanta who is known for his experimental films, tries his hand at making a film based on extra sensory perception or ESP. For this, he uses the thriller genre to put across his theory.

Also, there is a triangular or rather a rectangular love story weaved in. Though the effort is laudable, one cannot help feeling that the director chose a wrong time to make his film. It would have made for an interesting watch had he made the same film during the ’90s.

Today, an average Telugu viewer is quite aware of various genres of cinema and has unlimited access to films in different languages on the Internet. Despite loving their commercial entertainers, they are also looking for that special something that would set a film apart. Maaya does have something different, but is late by nearly two decades.

Also, Neelakanta appears to be stuck in the ’90s, where the story begins. Though the story moves forward in the film, the mannerisms of the characters and their characterizations are typical of the ’90s era. A special mention has to be made of the heroine here, who dresses and behaves like the anchors of yore and is unlike the chirpy, bubbly girls of today.

Another problem with Maaya is its snail pace. If one remembers one’s knowledge of sayings right, then it goes as old wine in a new bottle. But Neelakanta’s Maaya is old wine in old bottle.

Had he repackaged it into a slick flick that was a spine-chilling thriller with modern-day characters speaking and behaving like youngsters of the new millennium, it would have surely raked in loads of moolah for the makers.

Surprisingly, though the film is shorter than a regular commercial Telugu film, it leaves you feeling that you have been watching it forever.

Now, it’s a tricky situation where the audience has to decide if they will accept this different effort or reject its old-school feel.

Bottomline: One for good old times

(Venkat can be reached at venkat@greatandhra.com or https://twitter.com/greatandhranews)

Click here for Telugu review

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Tags: Harshavardhan Rane Maaya Neelakanta