There is a place carved out in Indian cinema for tales of righteousness and revenge. With “Maaran,” we are taken into this familiar landscape, and Dhanush leads the way. Directed by Karthick Naren, the film is a tale of truths, and the weight that comes from being honest in a dishonest world.
Major Spoilers Ahead
The opening of the film depicts a family like any other. A boy excited about his mother’s pregnancy and sitting by his father’s side as he tells him the importance of telling the truth. Little Maaran is happy, healthy, and blissfully unaware of the violence that can follow the act of truth-telling. His father is an investigative journalist, diving deep into the injustice that must be brought to light. And he ignores the warnings until the threats finally chase him down.
In a cruel twist of fate, the thugs confront the family when Maaran’s mother is going into labor. His father is killed before his eyes, and his mother dies, giving birth to his little sister, Shwetha. And the little boy decides that with the help of his uncle, he will raise his sister. In his own words, he will be her mother and father. He will not let go of this last piece of his family, and he will not abandon his responsibility for the easier path. It is a decision that echoes through his life.
Maaran, now played by Dhanush, holds tight to his sister even as a grown man. He is always on alert to the slightest inconvenience that befalls her, but also rags on her like any older brother. And while she fears deeply for her brother’s safety, it turns out that it is her own that she must safeguard as the threats begin to circle her brother.
Young Maaran takes his father’s words to heart, and eventually, follows in his footsteps to become a truth-telling journalist himself. He gets kicked out of jobs routinely for refusing to write the twisted clickbait pieces that rule the news. At a job interview, he is asked by the seniors to prove his side. To tweet a positive piece of news that must compete against a tweet that speaks of yet another scandal. As he wins the job, we see the confidence that he approaches his vocation with.
Alongside his colleague, Tara, played by Malavika Mohanan, he becomes a celebrated journalist. He becomes a torchbearer for truth, and he owns his victories with a dash of arrogance. He is routinely approached for fights by those whose wrongdoings he has exposed, but he does not take any of it too seriously. Not enough to deter his belief in the truth and its place in the world.
He is asked to help out the police in conducting an operation, hoping to uncover dirt on Ex-minister Pazhani. Maaran discovers that he is tampering with the EVM machines for the upcoming elections. As the machines are discovered, and Maaran is once again hailed for a job well done, he is unaware that it is going to be the mission that changes his life forever. A threat that will threaten his life, his principles, and his loved ones.
On his way back from a date with Tara, he is confronted once again by a gang of thugs. While he makes quick work of beating them, it is the video he receives immediately afterward that finally shakes him. His sister has been kidnapped, and he can no longer pretend that he is in control. Not when it comes to Shwetha.
He makes his way to the place he is asked to come, and he is faced with the sight of a burning corpse that was once his sister’s laughing frame. His sister is dead, and now what does the truth matter? He drowns in alcohol and apathy, stuck in a memory loop of his beloved sister. It is Tara who shakes him out of his depths, ordering him to be the truth-teller he has claimed to be all this time. This time, the news has become his own, and justice isn’t merely a principle. It is his duty to carry out.
By piecing together clues from the boyfriend Shwetha had gone out to meet, and his own roster of enemies, Maaran arrives at ex-minister Pazhani. He has a motive, and there is circumstantial evidence. It is enough to convince Maaran, but not the police. It is then that a second girl is kidnapped, and there is stronger evidence that points to the minister. The police get their search warrant, and Maaran gets to sit down with the man who may have killed his sister. But the minister makes it clear that he has had no part in it, and Maaran is finally convinced that it wasn’t him.
Maaran is a powerful investigator, but he is also a writer. He knows stories, and he knows how to create them. And the police discover that the second girl and the concrete evidence was a story Maaran fabricated for them. But Maaran has thought of it all, and his uncle is willing to take the blame as long as it leads him closer to the truth. And he follows the story to the doorstep of the man who is actually at fault.
It is in this confrontation that Maaran reveals what he has kept only to himself. His sister, his precious responsibility, isn’t dead. The post mortem report did not mention a steel plate in the body’s arm. But Maaran has been around for every bruise and every accident. He knows that this corpse isn’t his sister. And so the mission isn’t vengeance, but a rescue. The culprit, Prathipan, is not fazed by what Maaran knows. He was responsible for the EVM machines, and his own daughter, disturbed by her father’s criminal tendencies, has let them be caught. And so, his daughter is burnt to death before her father can rescue her.
Maaran is face to face with a casualty of his truth here, and when the minister arrives to kill Prathipan, closely followed by the police, Maaran must choose. Will he stick to the truth again, or follow the rest of his father’s advice – to be smart when it comes to protecting his loved ones?
Ending Explained – Does Maaran Saves Shwetha?
It is the moment that Maaran diverges, for the first time, from the path of truth he has stuck to. The rigid rules that he has set for himself, are finally broken, bowing down to the heart of justice. Perhaps, it is the vision of what he thought was his sister’s burning body. The vision of what Prathipan’s burning daughter must have looked like. After coming face to face with grief, Maaran can no longer ignore the complexity of truth. Unlike the black and white letters he uses to speak his truth, his words affect people who are of one too many shades.
And so, Maaran decides to lie, casting the minister as the one who carried out the kidnapping of Shwetha, and Prathipan the accomplice who changed his mind to help Maaran. And with this act of kindness, Prathipan raises his hand, pointing Maaran to his sister. As he descends into the room she is trapped in, finally, he can breathe. His instincts are proven true. She is alive, and while her eyesight has been impaired, she is here. Alive and breathing.
In the final shot, we see Shwetha’s eyes blink open, and we are left with the sight of the true Maaran. Not the crusader for truth, or the fighter who fears nothing, but a brother whose purpose has always been his sister.
“Maaran” is a 2022 Indian Crime Thriller film directed by Karthick Naren.