Cast: Sibiraj, Tanya Ravichandran, Radha Ravi, KS Ravikumar
Director: Kishore N
Writer: Arun Mozhi Manickam (screenplay)
Kishore N’s archeological drama Maayon begins with an interesting acknowledgment – to that of God, Science and Positive Energy. A sort of intrigue is instantly created, as the screen then cuts to a bald eagle that wanders across the mysterious Krishna temple in Maayon Hills. The intrigue, unfortunately, ends as quickly as it begins with the prologue, for the film, too, wanders, peppering its premise with melodramatic treatment.
Maayon is the story of Arjun Manimaran (Sibiraj), a Tamil archeologist working with the ASI (Archeological Survey of India), who also has quite a few tricks up his sleeve. As he gives sermons about the need to preserve Tamil culture and antiquities during the day, he swindles the very own idols he pretends to excavate, by night. Arjun is aided by an underground idol smuggling mafia led by Devaraj (Malayalam actor Hareesh Peradi), who also doubles up as a senior excavator.
The ensuing premise is simple and sleek–the duo hatches a plan to break into the ancient temple of the Maayon Hills in Pudukkottai, a structure that holds 5,000 years’ worth of secrets and treasure troves. The temple also has a sequestered room with archeological artifacts that can easily fetch them a “villa in Switzerland”, as fellow excavator DK (Bagavathi Perumal) points out. The plan is set, and a poor man’s A team is assembled– Anjana (Tanya Ravichandran), an epigraphist, Bagavathi’s DK, who is unfortunately reduced to a leering trope, and a mole in the group, who is ironically scared of snakes.
But there is just one problem. The temple, which is strictly run by the village patriarch (Radha Ravi), is closed post-sunset, with good reason and ancient belief – anyone who sets foot into the shrine in the dark, will lose their minds to a reverberating high frequency, emanating from tunes sung by Gandharvas for a sleeping Lord Krishna. The film has all the ingredients of a mythology thriller– hunt for treasures, a menacing King Cobra, the temptation of the unknown, and Ilaiyaraaja’s gorgeous score. Its writing, however, lacks the aesthetic and imagination to take on the script’s “treasure” trove of opportunities.
Dated metaphors and imagery are crammed into the film to dumb down its ideas to its audiences–if a screeching clown is frequently lensed to depict the idea of evil, shots of chameleons and vultures are used to portray betrayal. The writing treats its characters as unidimensional caricatures, who follow exhaustive tropes – a straight-faced foreigner for a villain, who only appears to show off his muscles, and a brewing romance that blooms out of nowhere when the power goes off!
The issue with the film, which actually has a lineup of impressive actors (including KS Ravikumar in a small role), is that neither does it take its cheesiness seriously nor does it take its archeology seriously. This is clear when Arjun, a few minutes into the film, flips an ancient Chola-period coin and puts on his sunglasses to evoke “style points”, only for everyone to break into applause.