Mahaan Tamil Movie
Karthik Subbaraj's Mahaan is a sprawling gangster-movie-like film with Vikram as a liquor baron. Vikram's character is named Gandhi Mahaan because his father is a Gandhian who looks to stop the liquor business in Tamil Nadu. As he is in a Gandhian family, Gandhi is forced to live as per the ideologies and principles of the Father of the Nation. A young Gandhi plays cards with his friends for money, but his father admonishes him for it and tells him to live as a mahaan (a great man).
Even a grown-up Gandhi Mahaan makes a living as a school teacher, but soon his life changes when a beggar tells him that he cannot live even one day as per his wishes. Gandhi Mahaan takes the beggar's words to heart as he turns 40 and decides to live that king-sized life for one day. But he pays a big price for it, one that fundamentally changes his life. He becomes a liquor baron and starts a liquor business empire with his childhood friend, Sathyavan (Bobby Sinha), and his Son Rocky (Sananth).
Mahaan is a film that takes place over three generations, but we hardly get a sense of the changes in time except in the costumes. The first half is really engaging, but we constantly get the impression that the film is yet to take off. Whatever we see in the first half with the younger Vikram is not the film but rather is only a set-up for the things to follow.
Gandhi Mahaan's rise to the top of the liquor business is a smooth one. He easily kills his enemies and becomes a force to be reckoned with. Subbaraj never bothers to show us how a school teacher becomes a brutal gangster-like figure. That means the transformation is as easy as an Ambi becoming an Anniyan in a matter of seconds. It just happens, and because Vikram is convincing in playing both shades, we do not mind it too much.
It is only when the Dhruv Vikram character is introduced that the film becomes more interesting. Dhruv Vikram plays Dadabhai Naoroji/Dada, a psycho cop with a plan to avenge everyone who has taken his father away from him while teaching his father a lesson. The movement against private label liquor gives Dada the right excuse to execute his plan.
Mahaan may be a generic film, but it is an upgrade over Vikram's recent star affairs. It does not rank among Subbaraj's best films but is an upgrade over Jagame Thandhiram. The best thing about the movie is the acting. Vikram, Bobby Sinha and Sananth summon up the right emotions wherever the situations require them to do so. Simran may not have a role that seems powerful enough, but she does justice to the part. Vikram gets a meaty part after a long time and he smashes it out of the park. Dhruv Vikram is really cool as a cop with no sense of morality. The father-son face-off is epic too.
I have a slight reservation with how the director shows liquor businesspeople here. He shows them as gangsters, making it convenient enough to encounter them. Still, even as the writing wobbles and the proceedings seem generic, the actors keep the film engaging enough.
The climax is a tad long but is interesting nonetheless. We wonder whether the liquor baron father or the psycho son is the lesser evil of the two. There are also some really good pieces of filmmaking here, like the Dhruv Vikram intro as well as the scene where Vikram saves Rocky and Sathya from a rival. Just do not expect vintage Karthik Subbaraj-level work. I enjoyed it.