Maradona Review: An emotionally rewarding tale of redemption
Director Vishnu Narayan makes a strong impression with his debut
There is a scene where Tovino Thomas' character Maradona engages in a staring contest with a little girl. The girl, who until that point was basking in the glory of defeating her parents in the same contest, fails after Maradona stares at her unblinkingly. The girl becomes upset and her parents chide him for making her cry. But he doesn't mean to do it. The truth of the matter is, a TV news announcement -- something to do with a messy incident he was involved in -- makes him froze. As in last year's Mayanadhi, Tovino plays a character who is on the run. But this time the pursuers don't work for the law. The hunters work for an influential politician whose son is lying in coma after an ugly tiff with two local thugs, Maradona and his childhood friend Sudhi (Angamaly Diaries' Tito Wilson).
Director: Vishnu Narayan
Cast: Tovino Thomas, Sharanya R, Chemban Vinod Jose, Tito Wilson
The manhunt is led with dogged determination by Martin (Chemban Vinod Jose), the politician's coolly menacing henchman, who thinks managing his wife and children is more challenging than catching two thugs. Martin is calm, composed and relentless; and he'll use any means necessary to find what he is looking for. And he has promised his wife that he won't kill anyone. But Maradona and Sudhi are testing his limits, and you get the feeling that Martin might break the promise he made to his wife.
The injured Maradona hides in a Bangalore flat belonging to the little girl's parents (played by Jins Baskar and Leona Lishoy), while Sudhi hides elsewhere. When the little girl's parents go on a tour, they forget to leave the front door keys with Maradona. He is home alone, with a dog and a dove to give him company, and he manages to fall in love with Asha (Sharanya R), a young and lonely home nurse staying in the next flat. But she isn't aware of his past, and, needless to say, this complicates things a bit. And there is the possibility of Martin crashing their party and bursting their heart-shaped bubble any minute.
Director Vishnu Narayan, who worked as an associate of directors Dileesh Pothan and Aashiq Abu, makes a strong impression with his debut. Though Dileesh's and Aashiq's influence is obviously visible in the film, Vishnu brings a style of his own. Vishnu's talented team -- Saiju Sreedharan (editor), Deepak D Menon (cinematographer) and Sushin Shyam (music) -- help him maintain the same tone and tempo that was established in the film's opening scenes despite occasionally taking small, but welcome, detours to flesh out the delicate romance between Maradona and Asha.
When we first see Maradona, he is not exactly a saint. He is cocky, arrogant and doesn't seem like a 'one woman' sort of guy. Before the aforementioned staring contest scene, he makes another little girl cry, this time intentionally. And he has no qualms about breaking her father's leg in front of her. Oh, and he doesn't really care for dogs. But, no need to worry: there is ample scope for redemption, and Tovino is very convincing in a pivotal scene where his character undergoes an unexpected transformation, an after-effect no doubt of an emotionally-shattering event. This moment is the film's high point.
Also, it's nice to see for once a female character who can be bubbly (not annoyingly) and strong at the same time. She is not a damsel in distress; she knows how to take care of herself. In a key scene, when she asks Maradona to handle a particularly nasty situation, he steps back and lets her handle it by herself. And she gives him a few lessons on 'real' manliness -- a wake-up call for a guy who makes a living out of beating up defenceless people. The reaction that results from their encounter is so potent that both are changed for the better. Isn't that what good lovers are supposed to do?