Maamannan: Unliberated Mogul
Star Cast: Vadivelu, Udayanidhi Stalin, Fahadh Faasil, Keerthy Suresh, Azhagam Perumal, and Raveena Ravi.
Music Composed by A R Rahman
Edited by Selva RK
Written & Directed by Mari Selvaraj
The biggest challenge for any politician is to overcome the caste and creed barrier. However you start your journey, the electoral politics define your steps going forward. Nobody wants to lose power and there is absolutely no definitive answer to gaining and maintaining power. Krishna in Mahabharata after the Kurukshetra war asks Yudhishthir to claim the throne. But he declines stating that he cannot sit on the throne as it reminds him of the blood and remains of the relatives he had to kill. He asks Krishna to guide him or help him to take Sanyaas. He states bluntly that he has had enough blood on his hands that he can never wash it away in Thousand births. On the other hand, Bheem and Nakul, Sahadeva think they have achieved their vengeance and should celebrate. Arjun goes to Abhimanyu’s wife Uthara and succumbs to deep inner scars of losing his sons, brothers, and relatives and doesn’t answer to anyone. Krishna asks everyone including Drutharastra, Gandhari, Kunti, and Vidhura to assemble in the courtroom. There he tells Yudhisthir to bring a new rule to the land and family that saw so much violence and destruction. While Arjun and Yudhishthir seem completely lifeless, even Bheem, Nakul, Sahadeva doesn’t appear happy. Draupadi before this courtroom meeting asks Krishna, if she had wished for the destruction of her own family when she being “Lakshmi of the house”, should have wished for unity despite the flaws. Krishna tells her peace is the only option left after destruction and this destruction had been brought upon by Duryodhana and not by her. In the courtroom, he asks Druthrasthra to tell Yudhishthir, that he wholeheartedly welcomes him to the throne as future King. While everyone is shocked by this plea, Drutharastra asks Vidhura to bring a great pandit available in the state to the court at once. In front of the court, he asks for forgiveness and announces Yudhisthir as the new King. With Pandit, he decides on the coronation day and muhurat.
Still, Yudhisthir is unconvinced. Krishna summons Vedavyas and with the powers vested in Great Sage, he brings back all the dead for a few minutes back to earth. They meet everyone and no one seems to blame the other. Yudhishthir and more prominently, Drustharastra is pleased to be in that moment. Arjun meets Karna first and then Abhimanyu. After they return back, Vedavyas tells everyone that “Peace is the only reality and death, and birth are circles that continue forever.” Yudhisthir asks for forgiveness from everyone, mainly, Karna during their presence. Looking at their pleasant smile and happiness in greeting, he feels relieved of survivor’s guilt. Arjun turns to Krishna and touches his feet. After the entire scene, Yudhisthir becomes the Maamannan of Hastinapura. Still, his heart keeps seeking penance and peace, hence, he turns into an Unliberated Mogul. The man who won everything yet still conquers his inner peace. Krishna asks him to accept the situation as is and conduct Ashwamedha Yaga to conquer his inner emotions, and beliefs to establish his rule and dominance.
Maamannan tells us such a tale of a Yudhishthir, who is consumed by his relationship with Sundaram and his beliefs, and upbringing of belonging to a caste. Sundaram (Azhagam Perumal) doesn’t believe in outrageous suppression but in indirect and positive suppression. Here, power is the ultimate weapon he can wield. Maamannan for him is just a tool to establish his control over a constituency that has more population belonging to Maamannan’s caste. While his popularity overwhelms an entire area, Salem, he needs this constituency, his home ground, to be his unwavering hub. Maamannan hopes for a better tomorrow with power in his hand and while he does everything to help people, he is still a person that is supported by a strong faction and his family but not by people. Can he be the people’s leader or will he just remain their handpiece?
Mari Selvaraj decided to narrate this story with his own version of Mahabharatam mixed with the DMK chief’s inner family struggle. What if Drutharasthra (Lal) is clever enough to understand and avoid inner family struggles? He allows Yudhishthir (Vadivelu) to be king of Indraprastha, but not completely independent of influence from Hastinapura. What if Shakuni’s ploys are destroyed by Duryodhana, who is the younger brother of Dushashana (Sunil Reddy) in this verse? Shakuni tells Dushashana to invite them for a game of dice but then Duryodhana decides to keep Yudhishthir a slavely king to Hastinapura, that is a Mahasamanta? What if Arjun, Bheem and Nakul, Sahadeva don’t agree to this and have aspirations to become enslaved and independent? While Kurukshetra would still happen, Arjun (Udayanidhi Stalin) would just need motivation from Krishna but not Bhagavad-Gita to really come over family emotions. He would be burning for years to answer all the oppression he faced to leave them as slaves. In Mahabharata, because he thinks more about his brother’s principles and his own beliefs about justice and peace, he gives importance to family bonds. But if he had a burning fire in him against even the politics being played by his brother? What if he wants him to choose to be independent and fight against such inequality and Duryodhana’s wicked politics to keep them under his feet? Maamannan has many answers to offer to these questions.
What are they? Maamannan can be a friendly ruler and great statesman, still, he is just a Mahasamanta. He might be free to take a decision in favor of people and help anyone. Still, his path will be decided by the faction that controls him. If they tell him something cannot be done. He will leave it there and look for another solution. In this way, even though people like him, he will be hated or loved only because the faction, “who owns him decide if he should be or not”. Athiveera (Udayanidhi Stalin) liberates him from this but greater political liberation doesn’t happen. Mari Selvaraj says a compromise to establish unity can be achieved. This compromise becomes the problem in the second hour too. While political people who still endorse these “powerful factions” exist, you feel the victory is incomplete and incompetent. It feels like a good first step but not a solution. People should realize that casteism and oppression are bad but what if they see leaders and “heroes” still prevailing? While choice is right, future generations cannot still be fed on the old-world ideologies that support oppression and not equality.
DMK’s inner family power struggle has even a caste angle between Azhagiri and MK Stalin, say few sources. This is unconfirmed but Maamannan seems like a statement against that too. The presence of Udhayanidhi Stalin could be making us look in that direction but without confirmation, not something we can point our finger at. The powerful insinuations regarding Mari Selvaraj’s hate towards casteism are seen throughout the film. This time Villain tames dogs and regards everyone as his dog. At the same time, he is a dog too. Dogs fight for their prominence, and their territory, and while tamed ones’ are highly loyal, the same cannot be said about a starved and power-hungry one. On the other hand, Pigs are not as lazy and dirty, as we believe them to be. They are intelligent and researchers say that they are 4th most intelligent animals on Earth. So, such animals love their surroundings and don’t mind the dirt as they’re playful and like to wash away that dirt with some belly rubs and a nice stream of water. Hero is equated to pig, as he loves being playful and enjoys the surroundings. He doesn’t mind getting dirty or violent to make his point. A dog doesn’t mind hurting another animal if it is starved and trained to attack. While Pigs only attack when they’re forced and only wild boars have that streak of violence in them, due to the hardships of wilderness. These things are captured by Mari Selvaraj in a way to state Pig-herds have the patience and knowledge to see people as people but dog owners who have violent streaks could look at people around them as dogs. The final shot symbolism makes us look at it this way.
While there is a penchant to tell a story of oppression and what is the reason behind it. Mari Selvaraj is not Vetrimaaran. He is not been able to treat a film as a complete film and then give you that spark or drop that hint that you need to carry with you. Asuran  despite Sivasamy’s final lines in the film, works as a solid film. Thevar Magan  gives you the complete arc of a bad guy descending into Evil territory and dragging a Good guy into it with him. While the caste angle is problematic, the film doesn’t celebrate hero worship. Here, Mari Selvaraj dwells in a political battle, and with a real politician by his side, he fails to carve out even stronger political solutions to problems, in front of him. GMC Balayogi, became a Speaker and Draupadi Murmu is now our President, how much change did that bring in the caste ramifications of India? So, a proper solution rather than a “realistic-looking compromise” is required. BR Ambedkar lines about the difficulty in starting a change should not be a backbone to the compromisable situation. Fahadh Faasil‘s character needed to be shown his place by Maamannan and him still being in politics or being an influential figure doesn’t make up for the “metaphorically dead” person analogy, either. Fahadh Fassil kind of people need to lose their influence, what can be done? Caste organizations and bodies should lose prominence, what can be done? Perumal and Fahadh Faasil’s characters need to lose their political recognition, how? What answers did Mari Selvaraj give to these questions? None. What answers did Vetrimaaran give? – In Asuran , he said to leave answering violence with violence. What did Thevar Magan  give? – No matter about caste and creed, Good intentions or bad, a criminal is a criminal. Maamannan leaves a criminal “metaphorically punished” and the police don’t dare to touch anyone ever.
On the whole, Maamannan is carried by powerful performances of Vadivelu, Fahadh Fassil, and surprisingly, Udayanidhi Stalin. Keerthy Suresh is good too. Vadivelu has even given his inner singer a great chance to shine. AR Rahman‘s score and songs are apt to the screenplay. Mari Selvaraj like Prakash Jha, tries to give a realistic “probable solution” rather than Pa. Ranjith‘s kind of “reverse oppression” or “idealistic triumph”. This kind of idealism mixed with symbolism is great as Narrative but when it comes to sustaining it as a “good solution” and discussion worth substance, it falls back into the “believe it because cinema” genre. Maybe he will find that perfect balance between his vision and a “realistic solution” that gives us complete satisfaction. Maamannan has a pitch-perfect First hour and goes into this “good solution” or “easy to believe” mode in the second hour. Just like a Great Innings while setting up a game but a faulty second inning during an easy chase that keeps us engaged but leaves us craving for perfection.
Maamannan Review, Maamannan Rating, Nayakudu Review, Nayakudu Rating, Maamannan Tamil Review, Maamannan Telugu Review