Director Karthik Subbaraj's 'Mahaan' is a well-made, intense gangster flick that wins your heart not just with the masterful performances of its protagonists, but also because of its well-thought-out plot and the intelligent twists in it.Easily one of director Karthik Subbaraj's best films, 'Mahaan' leaves you both delighted and satisfied by the time it ends.The story begins with young Gandhi Mahaan (Vikram) being punished by his dad (Aadukalam Naren) for having secretly gambled and then having fought over it with two other school boys.Gandhi's dad, a strict disciplinarian and an avid follower of Mahatma Gandhi, forcefully drives into his son's head his family's illustrious lineage. "You've been born into a family of freedom fighters," he says and in particular, draws the boy's attention to the fact that his forefathers were actually among the first to fight for the abolition of liquor in the state.
"You must live like Gandhi Mahaan," the father advises his son and urges him to follow in the footsteps of his forefathers. Poor Gandhi is bullied into meeting his father's lofty expectations.Decades pass and Gandhi's dad is dead and gone, but Gandhi's misery continues in the form of his wife Naachi (Simran), a strict 'disciplinarian'. She forces her ideology on Gandhi so much so that he has to lie to even go and watch an English film.The poor chap lives a suffocating life until his 40th birthday when his wife, along with their son, decides to go on a one-day tour with other members of a ladies club.Seizing the opportunity, Gandhi decides he will do all that he has wanted to do in these last 40 years in that one day. He wears modern clothes, eats non-vegetarian food and then goes to a bar to have a couple of drinks.As luck would have it, he meets the bar owner Sathyavan (Bobby Simhaa), who happens to be his childhood friend. The friends party all night and by the time, Gandhi wakes up the next afternoon, his wife has already returned home.
He tries to lie his way through but Naachi finds out that he's been drinking. She is livid with rage and chooses to take their son with her and walk out of their home, ending their marriage. A heartbroken Gandhi repeatedly apologises and tries to convince her to return, but Naachi is not forgiving.Angry and frustrated by his wife's hard-heartedness, Gandhi chooses to join Sathyavan in the liquor business. Soon, his sharp mind ensures they move to the number one spot in the business. He establishes a syndicate and makes his friend its head.Challenges emerge at every stage but both Gandhi and Sathyavan are up to them. Life becomes a roller-coaster ride for Gandhi, until one day, his son, Dada Bhai Naoroji (Dhruv Vikram), now a police officer, comes to meet him.The film is an absolute delight to watch. It begins on a slow note and initially gives you the impression that this is going to be like one of those insipid gangster flicks that one often comes across. However, all that changes the moment Dhruv Vikram as Dada Bhai enters the plot. Dhruv arrives like a whirlwind and whips up a storm, not just in Gandhi's life, but also in the film.His handsome looks, fearless nature, and his confidence in his ability to control difficult situations with considerable ease make you want to cheer for him while his menacing, cheeky, arrogant and manipulative methods make you want to hate him.
It's an exceptionally difficult character to portray, but Dhruv does it with such panache that one cannot but admire the actor in him. It's what one would call a commanding performance by any standardsBut despite coming up with such a commanding performance, it is not Dhruv who steals the show; it is dad Vikram who does. Dhruv's performance is exceptional no doubt, but it is still not enough to match Vikram's class. Dhruv might be the Prince Charming, but Chiyaan is still the emperor when it comes to exuding charm.Be it the sequence in which the love for his son and the guilt that he hasn't done much for him prevents him from helping his followers, who get hunted down mercilessly, or be it the sequence where he chooses to give his son a taste of his own medicine, Vikram is just brilliant. The man might have aged but that hasn't taken away his class. It is an absolute joy to watch the man perform.Bobby Simhaa comes up with a superb performance as Sathyavan. Unfortunately for him, his exceptional performance gets pushed to the background in the light of the brilliance of both Vikram, Dhruv's performances. However, it cannot be denied that the performances of these three actors take the film to another level altogether.
The film derives its ability to impress, not only from the exceptional performances of its actors, but also from a well-thought-out script, which has a clear message to send across.Vikram tells Simran, "We sell liquor, no doubt. But we never force it down anybody's throat. People who choose to drink it buy it of their own choice. You, on the other hand, try to force your principles down people's throats. If living without any principles is extremism, then forcing an ideology on other people too is extremism of another kind." That's when you know that Karthik Subbaraj has hit the nail on the head.The unpredictable twists and turns the plot takes, especially in the second half, make the film refreshing. It keeps you guessing all through the second half, right till the very end. By the time it ends, you find yourself saying, "Well done, Karthik Subbaraj. You've outdone yourself this time around."