Tamil Reviews

Mahaan Review: Karthik Subbaraj Gives Us an Incoherent, Indulgent Mess of a Film

Karthik Subbaraj’s new film, Mahaan, begins promisingly enough. We get an arresting, moody scene of a distraught Vikram stumbling out of a yellow vintage car, screaming in anguish and then bashing the car in, before setting it on fire. The film then flashes back from 2016 to 1968 with a nice match cut of flames. This flashback is shot with some flair but the dialogues already start rubbing us wrong – they just sound off, stilted.


Soon, the film loses its sheen and we realise the bad writing is not limited to the dialogues. It extends to the screenplay as well. To the point where I seriously wonder if there was a complete screenplay at all. It really feels like Subbaraj and team just decided to wing it. Like they just went, okay, we have a core idea and a couple of cool scenes, let’s just figure out the rest as we go. And then proceeded to stuff the movie with all manner of boring, predictable and downright tedious scenes.

I use the word ‘stuff’ because Mahaan really is overstuffed. A cool third of the film could have easily been left at the edit table and no harm done. Did we really need such long montages of Vikram drinking, partying and rolling in money? It’s not just unnecessary but also done to death. Did we really need that minor villain in the middle just for a ‘mass’ fight scene? Okay, you could argue that the scene is meant to set up the change of heart of Bobby Simha’s character. But why then is that aspect not fully fleshed out? The film only barely sketches that out – with some more montages and one scene – before moving on to the father-son conflict. So when Simha’s Sathyan brings it up again near the end, in one of the only scenes that has any emotional heft, it doesn’t hit as hard as it should.

The father-son conflict, or ‘game’ as Dhruv Vikram’s Dada puts it, takes up the entirety of the film’s second half – to the decided detriment of the film. Dhruv, who has previously only starred in the Tamil remake(s) of Arjun Reddy, plays a version of that character here. Or tries to. His sociopathic Dada just comes off looking ridiculous and unintentionally funny at best and annoying at worst. Subbaraj’s writing doesn’t fare any better in this part of the film either. He seems desperate to surprise us with the most formulaic scenes. Take the one where a hitherto callous character seemingly has a sudden change of heart. Everyone and their mother know he’s faking it and will soon turn around and go ha-ha. We’ve seen this same thing played out numerous times before. And yet, Subbaraj holds the scene way longer than he should have. Is it meant to be an acting showcase? That would work if the acting was any good, which it most certainly isn’t here.

The poor acting extends to the film’s only female actor of note, Simran (Vani Bhojan having been cut out). Her scenes are downright painful to watch and make us wonder what happened to the actor. Fortunately, Mahaan doesn’t really care about the women and we see little of her. Small mercies. Simha and Sananth (as his son) give us the only characters we feel any sympathy for. But the film doesn’t want to focus on them and sidetracks them to prop Dhruv instead. Incidentally, it’s interesting that Tamil cinema is back to portraying Christians as the immoral people. I thought we were done with the days when the ‘bad woman’ was invariably one with a Christian name.


Vikram, unsurprisingly, is good and it’s admittedly nice to see the actor perform again without feeling the need to show off with physical transformations. He tries hard to make us care for his titular protagonist. But it’s difficult to do so when the film is unsure whether to make us relate to him or hold him out as an example. Mahaan’s thesis, spelled out by Vikram’s character at the end, is that his indulgence in excess makes him as much an ‘extremist’ as the morally upright, self-righteous people who force others to follow their path. Subbaraj advocates moderation instead. One only wishes the filmmaker had taken his own advice when making Mahaan.


This Mahaan review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.