Maheshum Maruthiyum Movie Review: More suited for Maruti lovers than movie lovers
Asif Ali's earnest performance can't save this dated Sethu directorial
It seems like one fine day, writer-director Sethu came across a newspaper article about India's first-ever Maruti Suzuki 800 car being restored by the company, and decided to churn out a script based on it. The result? Some basic and outdated writing that's older than the 80s model car. Aptly titled Maheshum Maruthiyum, the story is primarily about Mahesh Padmanabhan, a car mechanic, and his bond with a Maruti 800 car bought by his late father. First things first, even if the film fails to impress many, a section of the vintage Maruti lovers would definitely be pleased.
Cast: Asif Ali, Mamta Mohandas, Maniyanpilla Raju, Prem Kumar
Sethu wastes no time in employing his old-school storytelling techniques as he begins the film with Mahesh, a successful businessman now, narrating his life story to a television show's anchor. So that takes away the unpredictability factory. You already know the hero is going to end up as a big shot, but how? It is only in the last 20 minutes or so that the film gets to this somewhat interesting part. It takes forever to reach there as everything preceding that is a series of generic moments. Mahesh's father is among India's first owners of the newly-launched Maruti 800 car, and the fact that it was presented to him by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi makes it a matter of pride for his entire village. After the father passes away, Mahesh becomes extremely attached to the car, and despite the family's financial crisis, he keeps refusing lucrative offers to sell it.
This bond between the protagonist and his late father's archaic vehicle reminded me of Parakkum Thalika, in which Dileep's character has a similar attachment to a bus named after his dad. While the bus and the happenings around it led to several hilarious moments in Parakkum Thalika, similar efforts to spawn fun sequences in Maheshum Maruthiyum fall dismally flat. It includes a distastefully done stretch where a few men and a sex worker woman—dressed up as a bride—try to smuggle spirit illegally. When a cop intercepts them and recognises the woman's real identity, she gives him a seductive wink. Come on, aren't we past these 'jokes'?
Accompanying Sethu's dated writing is his old-fashioned filmmaking. The scenes are staged like in a play where characters enter dramatically, deliver their lines, wait for the co-actors' reactions and leave. Take, for example, this scene after Mahesh's dear car goes missing. He feels extremely low and doesn't want to eat. Enters the mother and says, "korach kanji vellam enkilum kudikku mone". He refuses... she leaves. In the next scene, Mahesh is seen sitting alone on the verandah. Re-enters the mother and says, "vaathil adach kedak mone". He refuses... she leaves. This is how most scenes in the film unfolds—in a theatrical fashion. To give credit where it's due, Kedar's heartwarming music does a lot of saving acts in between all the mundaneness.
Though Mahesh isn't a visibly challenging character, it wouldn't have been easy to showcase his inseparable bond with an inanimate object. But Asif Ali, despite the weak writing, manages to convince us with his earnest performance. One of the film's very few memorable scenes is when he silently breaks down as he lets go of his car. Similarly memorable, albeit for the wrong reasons, is Mamta Mohandas' strange character arc in the film. Her Gauri initially comes across as the hero's guiding force—like a Sathyan Anthikad/Imitiaz Ali heroine— before we learn about her true self and the purpose of her visit. There's some clear deception involved here, but strangely, the makers opt to brush it aside and drive forward. How would Mahesh have reacted when he learnt the truth about Gauri's visit? How would Gauri have convinced him? How would they reconcile? Leaving the audience to ponder over the characters and their future is a striking aspect of any good film. But not in such a strange manner.