Reviews

Mayuri: Aesthetics over the scares

Nayantara in the film

Nayantara in the film  

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The compelling technique of a film unfolding within a film, i.e. the ‘meta’ dimension to a story, is something that the younger crop of directors has liberally used as a tool to bring about parallels. The hints of it commencing from the likes of A Film By Aravind did catch good steam, especially post Jigarthanda to the very recent Demonte Colony. Mayuri is a reluctant addition to the same, especially in its apparent non-cinematic composure, breaking shackles in the subtle brand of horror that it promotes. Interestingly, Nayantara has a line in the film, ‘horror films are all the same’. This one contradicts that line with the abstraction in which it goes about its ways, slowly yet slyly arresting your attention.

The frames initially shift between the lives of two - an artist Vasanth and a struggling actor and mother to an infant, Mayuri. The colour tone, shifting between day and night across both the characters keeps you guessing and suggests there’s more to this than the frame. Amidst all this, there’s talk surrounding a haunted forest Mayavanam, which Vasanth doesn’t give two hoots for, until the death of a major character that twists equations.

There’s no surprise about the treatment it chooses, you see enough indications with the posters of Mani Ratnam, Gautham Menon and Mira Nair, films like Eeram, Omen and Guru lurking on the walls of an assistant director’s house. The connections take time to digest but the first hour plays around with the layering and the ambiguity supremely. The classical horror elements embrace the exterior well. The scary shadows of a woman with long hair in the background, the skeletons in a graveyard, the flickering of bulbs, the sound scares and multiple versions of a chilling flashback is quite effective.

The director Ashwin is very measured and understated in making this a blend of standard and novel elements. He goes a little overboard with the detailing; the convolution of the sub-plots and his focus on attaining visual finesse all too visible. There’s still too much leisure to build the atmosphere and shape a story. The screenplay is reasonably taut, the plot’s setting is very ideal, especially with the emotional context, but the brief phases of nothingness between these over time does get prickly. He overdoes the haunted aura and plays with too many characters.

The background score is a mini homage to both the Hollywood styling and RGV as well. That’s a point it’s trying to prove by rallying around Nayantara in tandem with an impressive Aari too, the generally workable case of using the familiar in an unfamiliar path. It’s easy to guess, how much of the reach the film would have missed without its leading lady.

Mayuri, although overstretching its limits at a 143 minute length, still makes a stronger point with the freshness in the total exercise.

It’s fascinating to see what goes into the making of a horror film, the inspirations that go into a script and the publicity gimmicks the makers adopt. The attempt is surely aesthetic, ends quite well and is promising as a newcomer’s showcase but falls short of that unexplainable ‘something’ to stand special.



Mayuri

Cast: Nayantara, Aari

Director: Ashwin Saravanan

Music: Ron Ethan Yohaan

Genre: Horror-thriller

Plot: An aspirant actor, mother takes up a challenge to overcome her financial struggles

Bottomline: Novelty almost at its best

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2020 7:40:53 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/cinema-reviews/mayuri-aesthetics-over-the-scares/article7664980.ece

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