Mari Selvaraj’s Maamannan was released on Netflix last week after its successful run in the theatres. The film explores the caste and power dynamics between a Dalit MLA, Maamannan (Vadivelu) and an upper-caste politician Rathnavelu (Fahadh Faasil), who is the district secretary of the same party. While the political drama itself focuses on Maamannan’s inner battles and his eventual transformation, audiences have been decoding Faasil’s character and his performance ever since its release on Netflix.
Speaking to Film Companion, Mari Selvaraj reminisces how AR Rahman sir advised Faasil to act in lighter films. “After watching Maamannan, Rahman sir noted how Faasil’s performance was so daunting, and one of his darkest roles to date. He said he was scared and shocked to see him as Rathnavelu in the film.” Rathnavelu shows his power and authority with every single action and is indifferent to the plight of humans and animals alike. “Rahman sir also advised him to take a break from these demanding roles and do some romantic or comedy films so that the audience do not hate him. He further added that Faasil would do a wonderful job in romantic films with the kind of eyes he has.”
The director is also quick to acknowledge how such characters might take a physical and mental toll on the actors. He says, “Since all my films deal with challenging scenarios, actors are required to explore some dark spaces within their own selves to understand the predicament of the characters. They are obviously being inserted into an environment that is foreign, so it surely affects the way they view things in their personal life too.” But Selvaraj explains that the film’s success would be the best gift he could give them for putting in so much effort.
In the film, despite the troubles that come their way, Maamannan and his son Athiveeran (Udhaynidhi Stalin) manage to not just survive but also win against Rathnavelu in the elections. A similar pattern can be found in Selvaraj’s previous outings, Pariyerum Perumal (2018) and Karnan (2021), as well. While the hero doesn’t win in the former, he still manages to survive. But Selvaraj assures us that he doesn’t follow a pattern. “To be honest, if you look at the first or second draft, the hero in Karnan dies. But when Dhanush sir was roped in and the film became mainstream, we decided to not kill the hero. We discussed if it was really required for the hero to die in the end and changed plans accordingly. So, the ending is based on what the story demands.”