Despite the narrative issues of Maari, director Balaji Mohan managed to make his central character a lovable one. He brings back this character, Maari (Dhanush), one more time, but once again, the story that we get around this “naughtiest don” remains underwhelming.
When the film opens, we are introduced to Kalai (Krishna), the son of a mighty don who is no more. Maari and Velu happen to be thick friends. When a rival gangster wants offers to cut a deal with him in the drug business, Velu, who was once a drug addict, refuses on Maari’s insistence. Meanwhile, Gangadhar Beeja (Tovino Thomas), a hardened criminal who badly wants to take revenge on Maari, uses this situation to create bigger problems.
Until the first half, Maari 2 progresses in a fairly engaging manner. The conflicts, even if they have familiar arcs, are engaging enough. Maari’s introduction scene has him surviving the hundredth attempt on his life, and Beeja is someone who calls himself Thanatos. The central conflict of whether Maari, a man who has made survival his way of life, survive against the God of death, seems juicy. And unlike in the last film, the antagonist here is a formidable one for Maari, a mix of brain and brawn, and poses a serious threat.
More importantly, the film also has a well-written female lead character in the form of Araathu Anandhi (Sai Pallavi), an intrepid auto driver who pines for Maari. It is a winsome character and Sai Pallavi’s performance is just right. A little over the top performance would have turned the character into an irritating one, but she strikes the right balance and makes Anandhi endearing. The scenes (and the superbly choreographed song, Rowdy Baby) featuring her and Maari are the film’s highlight. They are the ones that actually capture the sense of fun that the first film had in its spirit.
With these portions, Balaji Mohan also shows that it is possible for masala movies to have a female lead who is not a loosu ponnu but a massu ponnu. The film’s treatment of female characters is commendable. Even a minor character, who Maari uses just to rile Anandhi, is never made fun of. At one point, we even have Maari saying, “Ponna porula paakaadha manushiya paakanum”, which is a far cry from the objectification of women in films of this genre. But this one too, like Sarkar, cannot decide how to use an actress like Varalaxmi Sarathkumar.
But the film loses its way in the second half. We get situations, taking place eight years later, where a don who is naughty becomes nice. And that is exactly the problem. The reason we love Maari is because of his playfulness, not because he is like the caring husband from Thangamagan. Even Beeja undergoes a marked transformation – something so out of character. The film never recovers from these developments. We get a couple of nods to the previous film’s high points and a well-timed punch dialogue, but that’s that. And the less said about the climax the better.