July 15, 2023
by Carla Hay
Directed by Madonne Ashwin
Tamil with subtitles
Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed city in India, the fantasy action film “Maaveeran” features an all-Indian cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.
Culture Clash: A financially struggling comic-strip artist finds out that he can hear the voice of his created superhero in his head, and he battles with a corrupt politician who is the landlord owner of the unsafe building where the artist and his family live.
Culture Audience: “Maaveeran” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching superhero action movies that have a good balance of drama and comedy.
“Maaveeran” is an entertaining and often-amusing spin on the superhero genre. The movie’s occasionally substandard visual effects are transcended by the engaging story and watchable performances. Sivakarthikeyan carries the movie with winning charm.
Directed by Madonne Ashwin (who co-wrote the “Maaveeran” screenplay with Chandru A.), “Maaveeran” has moments of being very hokey and sentimental, but they are balanced out by some of life’s harsh realities that are depicted in the movie. (“Maaveeran” means “legend” in Tamil.) The movie has a refreshing take on being a superhero: In this superhero movie, the hero does not have a superhero costume or disguise. He also didn’t get his superpower in a particularly heroic way, by birth, or through accidental genius.
In “Maaveeran,” the protagonist’s name is Sathya (played by Sivakarthikeyan), a graphic artist in his 30s whose passion is drawing superhero stories. In the beginning of the movie, Sathya is the writer/illustrator of a superhero comic strip called “The Great Warrior,” which is published in a local newspaper. The problem is that it’s a low-paying job. And the newspaper’s editor/publisher Dhanraj (played by Madhan Dhakshinamoorthy) says that “The Great Warrior” might be cancelled and replaced with advertising.
Sathya lives with his sassy widow mother Easwari (played by Saritha) and his younger sister Raji (played by Monca Blessy) because he can’t afford to have his own place. Easwari often nags Sathya for not having a better-paying job. She thinks his fascination with superheroes is childish. The slogan for “The Great Warrior” is “Bravery triumphs.”
Sathya, Easwari and Raji live in an apartment building that’s condemned and will soon be torn down and replaced by a more upscale building. The apartment dwellers are relocated to another building, but the conditions in this location are even worse: Plaster falls from ceilings and walls. The plumbing often doesn’t work. And other parts of the building are deteriorating. In addition, there are many creepy and criminal-like people who are living in this building.
Easwari is appalled and feels unsafe. She does what she can to complain to the landlord: a corrupt and ambitious politician named Jeyakodi (played by Mysskin), who is campaigning for an upcoming re-election. Jeyakodi is very dismissive of the building residents’ complaints. He completely denies that the building has any problems. Jeykodi has a subordinate named Paramu (played by Sunil), who is the epitome of a “yes man” enabler.
With these problems at home and at work, Sathya is feeling enormous pressure to keep his job. He has a co-worker ally named Nila (played by Aditi Shankar), who pleads with Dhanraj not to cancel Sathya’s comic strip. Dhanraj gives Sathya one last chance, by saying that the newspaper will keep the comic strip if Sathya can come up with a story that he hasn’t done before for “The Great Warrior.”
The slum-like conditions of the apartment building where Sathya lives become the inspiration for him to do a story about his superhero living in a crumbling palace. When the comic strip is published, Jeyakodi becomes enraged because he correctly assumes that the comic strip is a thinly veiled criticism of the Jeyakodi-owned building where Sathya lives. Jeyakodi uses his clout to get Sathya’s comic strip cancelled.
And to make matters worse for Sathya, he comes home one day to find his mother Easwari has been assaulted when she tried to protect Raji from a sleazy neighbor who intruded in their apartment for sexually voyeuristic reasons. Easwari berates Sathya for being fearful and wimpy. She also says that if Sathya’s father were still alive, he would’ve beaten up the intruder in brave self-defense.
A despondent Sathya feels like his life is falling apart. He makes a half-hearted attempt to commit suicide by falling out of the building. He lands on some scaffolding and becomes unconscious. When he regains consciousness, he finds out that he can hear the voice of the Great Warrior in his head telling him what will happen next and how he can be a better fighter. Sathya is going to need all the help he can get, because a vengeful Jeyakodi makes Sathya a target for bullying.
The rest of “Maaveeran” shows what happens as Sathya is initially frightened and confused by hearing this inner superhero voice, but he eventually uses it to become courageous and harness his own powerful fight skills. He tells a few people about hearing the voice of the Great Warrior in his head. Nila is the only person who doesn’t believe that Sathya is mentally ill after she finds out this information.
One of the movie’s main sources of comic relief is a handyman named Kumar (played by Yogi Babu), who is at the apartment building to do repairs. Sathya and Kumar have some hilarious dialogue because Kumar thinks Sathya is weird, while Sathya thinks Kumar is incompetent. The comedic chemistry between Sivakarthikeyan and Babu is very amusing to watch.
On a more serious level, Sathya clashes with his very opinionated mother Easwari. He craves her respect. And so, he decides he’s going to try to get her respect by going after Jeyakodi. Sathya isn’t seeking justice just for his mother. He’s doing it for all the residents in the building and for anyone else who’s affected by Jeyakodi’s greed and corruption.
Without being too preachy, “Maaveeran” has some pointed observations about gentrification and how low-income people are often forced out or displaced from their homes that become gentrified. Mysskin gives a somewhat stereotypical villain performance as the menacing Jeyakodi, but the performance is always watchable. And although “Maaveeran” has some artistically filmed action scenes that are worth admiring on a technical level, Sivakarthikeyan’s multifaceted performance is the main reason to watch “Maaveeran,” which is the type of engaging movie that seems made for sequels.
Red Giant Movies released “Maaveeran” in select U.S. cinemas and in India on July 14, 2023.