'Mahaveeryar', the third collaboration of Nivin Pauly and Abrid Shine, is a fantasy film involving elements of time travel and courtroom drama. The movie sets a precedent by being the first film in Mollywood to have experimented with these genres.
The film's first half tells the tale of a king (played by Lal) with a weakness for women. He issues an unusual decree to his prime minister (Asif Ali), who is responsible for the execution of it. It is this journey that leads to a chain of events covering the first part of the movie.
Linearly, a godman Apoornananthan, played by Nivin Pauly, arrives at a village set in the present times. He is soon accused of stealing an idol from a temple and brought to court. While the police and the rest of the village try to portray him in a bad light, he uses his sharp wit and unparalleled knowledge of the law and myth to defend his case.
It is interesting to watch Nivin Pauly, capable of eliciting a few laughs, don the role of a godman. His witty quips remind you of characters Nivin has essayed in the past, though it is restrained for apparent reasons. However, towards the movie's latter half, Nivin ends up like a spectator who has no reason to be there, even when he is the movie's soul.
Abrid Shine, who has given us some simple yet appealing movies like '1983' is in an experimental phase. He proved this in 'Kung Fu Master' and now in 'Mahaveeryar'. Though fantasy films are not new in Malayalam (we have seen it with 'Guru' and several children's films), his attempt to intermingle fantasy with time travel is commendable. So is his commitment to addressing a social issue affecting women in the form of satire.
The element of time travel enables the director to narrate this issue from a different perspective while also poking fun at the vagaries of the justice system in India.
However, what disappoints is the director's inability to blend in the two time zones convincingly. The two stories seem pretty far apart that you struggle to find a connection between them. Of course, trying to see too much logic in a movie centred on fantasy is illogical, but the director could have made a better attempt to fill in the missing blanks in some aspects.
Also, most of the characters don't impress, as the director has focused only on the story and has made a minimal attempt to give these characters a few extra layers that would have created a more significant impact.
This is Shanvi Srivastava's debut in Malayalam and she has performed well. Asif Ali, Siddique, who plays the judge and Lalu Alex, a lawyer do justice to their roles. Lal, usually an outstanding actor, does not convince us as the king. Chandrakanth Sonawane, who designed costumes for movies like 'Padmaavat' and 'Bajrao Masthani', has done an excellent job with the costumes in the film. Chandru Selvaraj, who is cranked the camera for the film, has also done a fantastic job, while the songs also lift the story's mood.
Overall, the movie based on writer M Mukundan's story is interesting but 'Mahaveeryar' definitely is not everyone's cup of tea.