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Maha Samudram Movie Review: A joyless, indulgent drama- Cinema express

Maha Samudram Movie Review: A joyless, indulgent drama

Wafer-thin writing and silly conflicts taint a solid premise in this Sharwanand-Siddarth starrer

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Published: 14th October 2021

Do you remember the popular action sequence from Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, where the caped crusader took down the invincible man of steel? The confrontation and the consequential tragedy could have been easily averted had the two mighty superheroes sat down to have a simple conversation, and that completely sounds like something two grown-ups are expected to do before waging a war on one another. The existence of the action sequence at this point feels silly and futile. I had the same excruciating feeling when Sharwanand and Siddarth stood toe-to-toe, pointing a gun at each other in Maha Samudram.

Directed by: Ajay Bhupathi

Starring: Sharwanand, Siddharth, Aditi Rao Hydari, Anu Emmanuel

Akin to the aforementioned superhero battle, the conflict between these two characters in the Ajay Bhupathi-directorial could have been put to rest had the two at least texted each other on WhatsApp about their situations and how they’d like to take their enmity forward. But then, the film would have ended; no bullets fired, no bodies thrashed, and no cars damaged. Where’s the drama in that? The resulting drama, however, is mirthless, and the conflict, groundless. The writing hardly exhibits any effort to substantiate the gravity of the situation, robbing us of an emotional story to invest in, although the background score screams out a stirring drama.

Sharwanand (trying his best to enact a lifeless character) plays Arjun, an aimless youngster who spends his days driving around, fighting bullies, and bloviating with the focused Vijay, played by Siddarth (trying hard to play the adversary without coming across as an outright baddie), who aspires to become a police officer. When Vijay expresses his crooked intentions to misuse his power and authority his posting will potentially bestow him, Arjun simply dismisses him and doesn’t see this as a red flag, although as viewers, we discern the former’s moral skewness. But before getting to the story, we spend long, uninteresting stretches on romantic tracks involving Vijay’s love interest Maha (Aditi Rao Hydari, playing an Aditi Rao Hydari template) and Arjun’s meet-cute romance with Smitha (Anu Emmanuel, who forever delivers puzzling expressions). Finally, when the filmmaker deems it the right time to set things into motion, a series of unfortunate events (propelled by convenient writing), leading to Vijay abandoning his best friend and lover. This moment, where Vijay and Arjun are estranged, is shot in a way to reflect their moral standpoint; the bad one has red colour light shining behind him, while flashes of green appear behind the good one. It sets the stage for a brilliant conflict and equally complex love story, but neither of these subjects sees the peak you expect them to. We also have Dhananjay (Ramachandra Raju pulling off one more iteration of Garuda from KGF), Babji (a forgettable Rao Ramesh), and Chunchu mama (Jagapathi Babu, finally in a role where he is not playing a caricature) in the mix, fuelling the screenplay when it falls short off scenes to meander.

Maha Samudram has a rich, even if largely familiar, premise. The plot allows its characters to experience every troupe that alone could have made for an emotional ride: there’s friendship, love, guilt, betrayal, heartbreak, redemption, and hope. They never come together to give a single memorable moment though. The lackluster writing leaves questions about the very basic fundamental element the film rests on — friendship. Imagine establishing two people who are well into their 20s as life-long friends, and when one of them turns out to be a rotten apple, shouldn’t it crush the other guy, or at the least, leave him curious about the person he thought he knew inside out? The dilemma and the sense of deceit inflicted on Arjun are barely explored. Similarly, Aditi’s Maha comes across as someone with no agency, although she says that she can stand up for herself. Maha is central to the story but she remains in the periphery, while painfully boring plot points such as smuggling and rivalry take over the second half.

This is a movie where the gritty premise is treated with annoying obviousness. Rao Ramesh’s character, for instance, is often called cunning — and he proclaims himself as someone who has watched Mahabharata on Doordarshan, citing it as a testament to his coyness. The most he does is deceive Vijay, who sadly has no minimal ability to recall his actions from the past, and we are expected to believe it is his ploy for a Kurukshetra. Speaking of Mahabharata, Ajay Bhupati plants a direct reference to the mythology in a conversation between Chunchu and Arjun (“it is so obvious that I wouldn’t use the word obvious.”) and it’s made to look like, well, Geetopadesha. This angle is later used to spring a twist, but it makes no difference in a larger context.

One aspect of Maha Samudram I liked is its indifference towards Vijay’s lack of morality. His bitter past might be one of the reasons, but the film is really not interested in knowing why Vijay makes the choices he makes. It does, indeed, feel fresh to see grey protagonists.

Like his debut film, the equally flawed, RX 100, Maha Samudram too banks heavily on its climax, but this time around, the silliness of the conflict mars its potential. Maha Samudram is not tasteless; the sweeping visuals of the ocean accompanied by the persistent sound of waves in the background keep reminding us about the vastness of this story. It’s certainly vast but feels empty.

Rating:
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