SCAM 1992: THE HARSHAD MEHTA STORY (SonyLIV): De Taali! Applause Entertainment deserves a standing ovation for putting the Indian OTT on the global platform. Hansal Mehta’s narrative, based on the infamous Harshad Mehta Dalal Street scam, is not afraid to get its feet wet in the mud. He looks at his Gujarati characters with a certain respect and admiration without excessively edifying them. The journey from the cramped two-room apartment to the sprawling glass-encased affluence of Harshad Mehta and his family is delineated with vigorous authenticity.
That the director is a Gujarati and his leading man too is a Gujarati goes a long way into constructing an energetic yet calm edifice of middle class ambitions and how far an individual is willing to stray from him home territory in pursuit of big bucks.
The sense of a moral bankruptcy is never put up for scrutiny in Hansal Mehta’s interpretation of a life that was iconized by the whole nation until he was exposed. As Harshad Mehta, actor Pratik Gandhi remains rigidly in character. There is no attempt to make the scamster heroic. Nor does the performance wag its finger at the character’s wrongdoings.
While remaining true to journalist Sucheta Dalal and her co-writer Debashish Basu’s book, Hansal’s deeply authentic series explores Harshad’s family, his relationship with chief players of the stock exchange in more depth and detail. What Hansal has done is to open up the Harshad Mehta saga , denuding it of any admirable aura but nonetheless retaining the basic dignity of a saga that changed the way the Indian middle class looked at money.
MAARA (Tamil, Amazon Prime Video): It’s not easy to love somebody unconditionally. It is even more difficult to make a film about unconditional love in a day and age when every relationship is need-based. Maara is the work of what we call a hopeless romantic… At least that’s how it feels when Vellaiya (the wonderful veteran Mouli) lives for 50 years with the idea of love. How hopeful can you be in your twilight years about finding your true love when she has eluded you all your life?
Maara, God bless its optimistic idealistic heart, says it’s never too late or far-fetched to find true love. And it says it with the gently persuasive warm-heartedness of a diehard romantic. This is a rare film that isn’t cynical about romance and love even in these jaded decadent times. It’s a film brimming over with affection and compassion that invites you into its wonderful Utopian embrace unconditionally.
It took me a while, about 20 minutes,to get into the film’s rhythm. Once in, I was completely hooked, almost mesmerised by the graceful yet completely unpredictable movement of the plot. Though this is an official remake of the Malayalam superhit Charlie it is Charlie only at the basic plot-level.
Debutant director Dhilip Kumar introduces notable new characters and subplots. They all merge finally into a beautifully designed pastiche of unalloyed love.
The film begins with an animated fairytale about a warrior and his quest for a fish whom he holds responsible for all his success in life. Finding one fish in the ocean is like finding true love in the universe. This idea is built into a narrative that risks several leaps of faith and lands safely and gracefully on its feet.
Maara is constructed into an episodic excursion, the traveler being Paru (played by the lovely and talented Shraddha Srinath), a serious-minded romantic restorationist who keeps running into experiences about a mysterious pureheart named Maara(spoiler alert: actual name Manimaran, revealed only at the end). Maara is the sort of idealistic nobleman that exists only in fairytales. He befriends a mischievous thief (delightfully played by Alexander Babu), rescues a suicidal pediatrician (SShivada), protects a prostitute Selvi's (Abhirami) daughter from being pushed into the flesh trade, and wins over a hill resort filled with elder citizens who resemble the cackling Irish-Italian octogenarians in the film Return To Me.
All this overload of goodness would be too much for any actor to bear. Madhavan carries off the title role effortlessly. His face and his attitude suggest a restorative urgency in the moral fabric of contemporary society. The debutante director tells Paru’s story of her search for ‘Maara’ in bouts of temperamental storytelling. Episodes come in no particular order and yet reveal their relevance at the end much in the same way as in the Orson Welles classic Citizen Kane.
Oh yes, there is a mysterious symbolical ‘rosebud’ reference in Maara too. It is ‘Meenakshi’. For more on this mysterious woman, please refer to the film. It provides an unlimited source of joyful revelations. It is no coincidence that the film is about restoration of heritage homes and faded undecipherable letters. Maara restores our faith in the power of love to heal the world. And that is a tall order indeed.
Image source: IMDb, Prime Video, Youtube/SonyLIV/AmazonPrimeVideoIndia