“Maradona”… After ‘Koode’, Malayalam cinema gives us another beautifully directed story of ‘healing’

Posted on July 31, 2018

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Spoilers ahead…

Read the full review on Film Companion, here: https://www.filmcompanion.in/maradona-movie-review-tovino-thomas-baradwaj-rangan/

In case you were wondering about the title of Vishnu Narayan’s Maradona (written by Krishna Moorthy, and starring Tovino Thomas), the film has nothing to do with football, or the legendary footballer. The closest we get to the latter is a No. 10 jersey on a boy who adopts the player’s name as his nick. The protagonist’s nickname is a good-enough excuse for a film’s title (and he has it tattooed on the back of his broad neck), but it still doesn’t tell us what kind of movie this is. For that, we have to wait for the scene where a little girl, Dia, asks Maradona what his real name is, and he whispers it in her ear in the midst of a song sequence — the way the protagonist of In the Mood for Love whispered into a stone hollow in the ruins of Angkor Wat, or the way Bill Murray whispered to Scarlett Johansson at the end of Lost in Translation. Maradona is that kind of movie, where some secrets remain secrets.

For instance: Why is Maradona this way? What made him turn from that No. 10 jersey-wearing kid to this criminal-on-the-run we see in the present day? He silences a beagle by tying its snout shut with a long piece of string, and tosses it into a bathroom. He twists the arm of a little girl in Bharatanatyam attire, ignoring her whimpers of pain, demanding that she mimic the Nagavalli character from Manichitrathazhu. Even when Maradona falls for Asha, a nurse who works in the flat opposite his — Sharanya R Nair pulls off a “cute” role without overdoing the cuteness — he tries to peer down her T-shirt. Maradona leaves us in little doubt that Maradona is far from a “good” human being, and it doesn’t make him sympathetic by pointing to a past trauma that shaped his present. He just is.

At times, we sense something of a moral core. When Maradona stumbles into a drug party where Aravind (Shalu Rahim) is having sex with a girl who’s zonked out of her mind, he tells Aravind that one should either pay for sex or woo women like a hero – but this is unacceptable! And peering down a T-shirt is? But when a guitar-strumming neighbour is beaten up by his girlfriend’s disapproving family, Maradona pauses. We hear him think: In a past life, he would have been one of the goons hired by the girl’s family to beat up this boy. But now that he has Asha, he’s finally seeing the other side. (Her name suggests the glimmer of hope in Maradona’s life.) The conceit of Maradona — that good people can change a bad man – isn’t new, exactly, but two things make the film fresh: Tovino’s exquisitely tuned performance (watch him seethe quietly, helplessly when someone dies), and the director’s conviction that any kind of transformation takes time, which means the film has to take its time too. (It’s quite a while before we are told why Maradona is on the run.) In these pauses, we literally see a half-animal transform into a half-decent human being.

Continued at the link above.

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