The storyline of Maya converges around an abandoned, haunted forest named Mayavanam. Located on the outskirts of the city, Mayavanam is a labyrinth. And as the name suggests, Maya takes us on an illusory journey through this forest. The spirit of a mother arrives from a quarter of a century ago. In search of her child. A crew shoots a film inside the haunted forest and finds themselves ensnared. A struggling actress (Nayanthara) participates in a bizarre competition to win the prize money and make ends meet.
The concept of Mayavanam might remind you of the ghost town in Chernobyl Diaries, and the director has carefully placed the poster of the film on a wall in the lead character’s house. And just as I begin to find similarities between Maya and the Spanish film Mama, I see a poster of the latter too, on the wall. The film begins like a movie inside a movie. At a later point, the movies converge. The director handles his meta-movie pretty neatly. The partial use of monochrome had been tried and tested before in the Kannada film Lucia, about a man’s journey between dream and reality. And it works well here.
Maya employs almost all the clichéd techniques traditionally used in Indian and foreign horror movies. Shapeless figures and shadows hidden behind curtains, doors and windows. Doors banging for no particular reason. Lights flickering. Babies crying. At times the film is reduced to a circus of spookiness. In a long, tedious first half, the film meanders, clueless and pointless. But the second half picks up with punchy portions. Also, thankfully, Maya doesn’t use any religious symbols. No vermilion coated idols of gods and goddesses, blood-soaked crosses, or holy books falling off the table. The film doesn’t attempt to solve the ghost crisis with exorcism or similar religious rituals.And a scene towards the end, where the good spirit’s pursuit of her child culminates, is pure gold.
Nayanthara’s impressive screen presence does wonders for the film. Her kajal laden eyes welling up with gloom or happiness. Her pretty figure wandering into the oblivion of a dark, creepy forest. Her bewitching smile in the ancient photograph. Someone in the audience nailed it with a shout. In the movie, Nayanthara is, indeed, Kollywod’s ‘Lady Superstar’.
The best part of watching a horror film in a packed cinema hall is the audience’ response to the ‘horror tricks’. Maya is a not-so-bad entertainer. The audience enjoyed the amateurish horror techniques. So what if a lot of it looked like a low-cost imitation of Hollywood horror thrillers like Conjuring. Maya might have been a better movie, if the director had not stressed so much on the ‘horror’ part, and more on the drama part.
The Maya 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 an advertising relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.