Director: CV Kumar
Cast: Sundeep Kishan, Lavanya Tripathi, Jackie Shroff
The year is 2037. The song on the radio — or whatever people are listening to then — is Keladi kanmani. This is the opening stretch of producer-turned-director CV Kumar’s Maayavan (Sorcerer), whose theme is immortality — and how fitting to begin with the notion that Ilayaraja’s music is ageless.
In another sense, too, the song is suggestive. It was originally sung by a man being slowly eroded in a corrosive relationship — and we move to a film about a man who’s decided he doesn’t need any relationships. He’s wedded to the idea of himself across time. Who is this man? That’s the movie, which is equally dismissive of conventional couplehood. No dream duets for Kumaran (the cop played by Sundeep Kishan) and Ramya (the psychiatrist played by Lavanya Tripathi). Why dream when the brain can be used much more interestingly?
If that sounds cryptic, that’s because the answers take a while to crystallise — and for a long time, we follow Kumaran (in the present day) as he tracks down a series of ghastly murders. The reveal of the first crime is a beauty. Kumaran is chasing a small-time thief, accompanied by Ghibran’s fun, funky score. Midway, Kumaran stops. What he sees sets him off on a different chase — only now, the music turns ominous. Among the nicer aspects of Maayavan is its refusal to make its hero a hero. Kumaran suffers from PTSD. He needs psychiatric evaluation. He needs therapy that includes popping soap bubbles and being tossed in the sea. I don’t know if this is what therapists are doing these days, but it sure beats lying down on a couch.
The central conceit is superb — a sci-fi update on a practice we associate with rishis from Amar Chitra Katha comics. But the film plods along unimaginatively, content to rely on its screenplay (Nalan Kumarasamy) rather than doing, say, what a David Fincher would have done with this premise. If you’ve seen the final episode of Mindhunter, you’ll know what I mean. The use of sound and light, space and props is so precise that you’re chilled to the bone. Maayavan needed that creepiness, that air of constant dread and danger.
CV Kumar has terrific instincts as a producer — he single-handedly created a parallel economy from sensible, stylish, low-budget cinema. But as a filmmaker, he’s functional at best. We are left with an investigation that grows increasingly silly, the low point being the reason behind the murders of two women. The what-next factor keeps us watching, at least till Jackie Shroff makes a laughably bad appearance, and sci-fi tips over into (unintentional) comedy. Maybe CV Kumar should have passed this on to one of his numerous protégés.
Watch the trailer of Maayavan here: