CAST: Nayanthara, Aari, Lakshmi Priya, Mime Gopi
DIRECTION: Ashwin Saravanan
RATING: 3 Stars
Given the large list of horror movies at our disposal, are there avenues that this genre can explore that could satisfy some small part of the human condition? Maya tries to do just that: an horror movie whose suspense encourages dialogue (as your theatrical experience would soon prove); whose scares turn into funnies due to the way in which the characters react to terrifying events; and amidst which is an heroine driven plot where the lead (Nayanthara) is given a prominent and rather innocent screen presence, but yet is pushed along by events and is largely dialogue free.
Directed by newcomer Ashwin Saravanan, the movie is premised upon the rather murky life of Apsara (Nayanthara) – a divorced mother and aspiring actress who struggles to make ends meet. Her husband, Arjun (Aari), had ditched her and the kid to pursue his own acting career. Then there is a filmmaker named RK (Mime Gopi) who has been capturing mysterious murders and disappearances for his upcoming reality based flic named Irul. He is unable to sell his film and resorts to a marketing strategy. He promises to pay Rs 5 lakhs to anyone who can see the film alone at a theater. And Apsara in need of the money accepts the challenge.
The piece tying all these together is a haunted asylum located in a rather dubious forest named Mayavanam. This forest is home to a bygone mental asylum, one of whose inmates – Maya, had been tortured to no end that her spirit remained behind after her death. Maya’s torturers have long been dead, but her restlessness leads her to acts of retribution against those who explore her gravesite for a valuable ring. As with other horror movies involving spirits or ghosts, Maya has a tale to tell, and her tale is intimately tied up with that of Apsara. Through a simultaneous use of flashback, Maya is a movie that will amuse and thrill while some logical loopholes might also leave you a bit confused.
In making Maya, director Ashwin Saravanan has used all the tricks in the bag to convey atmosphere: low-key lighting with strategic highlights; black and white scenes that create a sense of distance; inexplicable movement of objects and loss of electricity to enhance mystery; and plenty of other similar tropes to create the basic ambiance of the film. Nayanthara as Apsara meanders along innocently. Her emotions remain genuine and her pain real. These more than cover for the lack of dialogue, as her distress delivers a lot of content. Besides her role, the rest of the film’s participants have been given equal importance. Lakshmi Priya as her trusted friend remains trustworthy in her actions and intentions. And Aari as Nayanthara’s husband is featured in scenes of confusion, as he seems to have been involved heavily whenever the spirit appeared.
Sathyan Sooryan’s cinematography must have had a lot of angles to decide as large portions of the movie is in the night with only a few key focal points. This aspect has been done well and the film remained attractive regardless of the time or the type: day, night, colour, and black & white. Editing by Suresh and background by Ron didn’t try to over-achieve and hence were adequate.
Given the slow pace of the film, the first half can be taxing on your patience. But the incidents and amusements pick up gradually, and oddly enough, the overwhelming feeling at the end of show is one of curiosity: watch Maya to feed your brain with minuscule puzzles that satisfy.