Maharaja movie review: Vijay Sethupathi is stellar in this thrilling tale of a desperate father - Hindustan Times

Maharaja movie review: Vijay Sethupathi is stellar in this thrilling tale of a desperate father

Jun 13, 2024 10:25 AM IST

Maharaja review: Vijay Sethupathi shines in a realistic portrayal of Maharaja, while Anurag Kashyap surprises with a strong performance.

Director Nithilan Swaminathan made his directorial debut in 2017 with Korangu Bommai, a well woven crime thriller that had critics raving. He comes back to the screen after seven years with Maharaja, another thriller, which is also incidentally Tamil star Vijay Sethupathi’s 50th film. (Also read: HT Interview | Vijay Sethupathi: ‘Producers didn't promote my recent film well despite my repeated requests')

Maharaja movie review: Vijay Sethupathi delivers a stellar, brooding performance once again.
Maharaja movie review: Vijay Sethupathi delivers a stellar, brooding performance once again.

The intriguing plot

Maharaja revolves around the titular barber (Vijay Sethupathi) who is a simpleton. His life revolves only around two aspects: his duty to do his job every single day and to look after his daughter (Jothi), come what may. His life doesn’t veer from these two aspects and it runs like clockwork. Jothi is a budding sports champ at high school and she looks up to her PT teacher (Mamta Mohandas) who’s a great source of encouragement. The father and daughter share a relationship where it's Jothi who parents her father. One thing the two share though is their love for a dustbin that they fondly call ‘Lakshmi’.

But despite living this simple life in his happy bubble, Maharaja finds himself in a police station one day. He wants to file an FIR because ‘Lakshmi’ has been stolen from his home. The cops refuse to take him seriously believing it’s a silly request but Maharaja doesn’t budge from the police station. He wants his Lakshmi back. What is actually going on and where does this story lead?

Nithilan Swaminathan has presented us a slow-burning thriller. In the first half, we see numerous characters come into play and they seem irrelevant but as you get to the intermission, you realise there are bigger things at play. It’s in the second half that you begin to connect the dots and figure out why Maharaja is a determined man on a relentless mission to find Lakshmi.

Not flawless but worth your time

Maharaja, as a story, is very engaging but it’s not without its flaws. The non-linear narrative can confuse viewers if they don’t closely follow the story. It’s not a straightforward crime thriller and that’s one of the reasons why it works to a great extent. With red herrings thrown in and intricate sub-plots that unfold, Maharaja keeps you engaged and eager to know what's next. Interestingly, while the women in the film may have had smaller roles, they are quite important to the story. Having said this, at the heart of this story is a father-daughter relationship that will connect to the audience emotionally and perhaps even have them reflect on their own relationship with their daughters.

As for the performances, talented Vijay Sethupathi undoubtedly stands out with his performance. His portrayal of Maharaja is very realistic and one connects to him emotionally as well. The nuanced changes his character undergoes through the film is well brought out by Vijay Sethupathi and one must appreciate the writing by the director here. A surprise in this film was Anurag Kashyap who delivered a strong performance as a common man with different shades. It was refreshing to see Anurag not play a cop. Natty, Mamta Mohandas and Abhirami were also good.

The regular tropes of a film (no song and dance, no romance) and an investigative thriller are not followed here and this is why Maharaja is refreshing. Writing about the film without trying to give away too much away is a difficult task since the various pieces of the puzzle that seem disconnected are vital to the plot of the story. Director Nithilan Swaminathan and Vijay Sethupathi have delivered a film that’s definitely worthy of your time.

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