Flops Of Glory: Poetry Over Prose In Bharat Bala’s Dhanush-Starrer Maryan

Just how delicious is the idea to make a film about the God of the Seas himself being taken away from water to be put right in the middle of an endless desert?
Flops Of Glory: Poetry Over Prose In Bharat Bala’s Dhanush-Starrer Maryan

For a film culture obsessed with conveying almost everything through dialogues, Maryan is that Tamil rare film that believed more in images than words. In other 'words', it's what you'd call a storyboard film rather than a screenplay film (discounting what Prabhas calls a screenplay film here). You can probably add up all the pages of dialogue in this film and it would come up a few pages lighter than the climax speeches of most AR MurugadossVijay films. But that doesn't mean the film's dialogues, however far and in between, lack in quality.

When Maryan (Dhanush) decides to take up a rigorous job in Sudan to pay-off a loan his future father-in-law had taken, his lover Panimalar (Parvathy) blames herself for his plight. It's a dramatic scene that involves sunset, a cliff, the sea and her tears, but Maryan's response is minimal. All he really says, looking at Pani is, "Unnale illa, unakaaga" (I'm not doing this because of you, I'm doing this for you). The film has room for just two more scenes that are written around dialogues, and both involve phone calls. In the first one, the mood is that of happiness. It's Maryan's last phone call to Pani before he leaves Sudan to come home to her. She's counting days, he's making plans and it ends with a kiss. Much later, we get another phone-call and this one too ends with kisses, but the mood is very different.

Here Maryan, after being held in captivity, gets to make that one call asking his company to pay up his ransom for them to release him. But instead of clinging onto this one chance to escape, he decides to call up Pani (who is already waiting at the nearby school for the phone to ring). There's not much he can really say because his kidnappers are listening. He uses English words like 'Money saar, help saar,' using the breaks in between to tell Pani that it's all over and that she shouldn't wait for him. But she refuses to give up. "Nothing will happen to you", she says, adding, "You're my husband and you will be the father of my children," as she kisses the receiver. Maryan probably knows that his company wouldn't have helped. He also knows that Pani is waiting for his call, and when she tells him this, that's all the motivation he needs to fight. He falls off the chair and starts laughing at his captors with renewed fire; he plans his escape in the very next scene.

He's being held in the dessert for days together without food or water. For a thirsty man, the word Pani (meaning dew drops) takes new meaning, the most important of which is hope. His name Maryan too is equally meaningful. According to Google, it could mean Star of the Sea or the name of a person who has no death, both of which are relevant here. These are titles that fit perfectly in an allegorical film like this one; because Maryan isn't just a love story between two mere mortals…we could be dealing with gods here.

Take a look at this image at the end of the 'Sonapareeya' song. Maryan may prefer a harpoon to a trident but there's no shaking away the image of Poseidon (the God Of The Seas) here. The famously temperamental Greek God (Maryan isn't any lesser) apparently had a love too, and her name was Amphitrite, a sea nymph who later becomes the Queen of the Seas. He is, of course, the Kadal Rasa as we're told multiple times in the film. Just how delicious is the idea to make a film about the God of the Seas himself being taken away from water to be put right in the middle of an endless desert?

The aforementioned phone call takes up new meaning now because, according to mythology, Amphitrite's voice is the only thing that can calm her husband, and this, in turn, keeps the seas calm as well, much like the effect Pani (shots of her feet are a recurring motif) has on Maryan.

These are just a few of the many things that make this film more about poetry than prose. Pani can just sense it all the way from across the ocean when Maryan climbs under a truck to freedom. And, at the desert, powered by AR Rahman's 'Nenje Ezhu', Maryan sees Pani (dressed in purple) as she takes him along through a series of challenges.

The cinematography, by Mark Konickx, is splendid. The images are as much about the tight close-ups (taking us into the minds of Pani and Maryan) as they are about extreme wide shots that cover the skies, the seas and the land, because again, we're dealing with a God and a Goddess.

So you don't mind the dullness of the second half when it feels like nothing really is happening…just a man crossing the desert to be with his lover. If GVM had made this film, he may have named it 'Kadal Thaandi Varuvaaya'. You can draw parallels with other films as well. Call it cheeky but I can argue that Maryan is the lovechild of Kaatru Veliyidai and Kadal. It may have many problems, but it's certainly not a lazy film, and has its own fable-like quality. May be, I'm being a bit biased or optimistic, but I don't think Maryan is a film that's going to remain forgotten for too long.

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