Dhanush plays a local hooligan in "Maari", mostly seen in a dhoti, smoking a cigarette and twirling his moustache. You almost lose count of the number of times he lights a cigarette, twirls his moustache and mouths the line "I'll finish you off". These bits mostly happen in slow motion. So, every time he lights a cigarette, the wave of smoke covers his face like a cloud. It's quite possible the film sets a new record for featuring most scenes in slow-mo. And not to forget, he also sports John Lennon-like glasses.
It's no surprise that Dhanush performs the role of a rowdy with such ease. He, along with his sidekicks, Robo Shankar and Vinoth, feature in the film's best moments. Sadly, these moments are repeated too often, only to prove that the director isn't capable of delivering a wholesome commercial entertainer with some story, some heroism and some cliches a la Dhanush's recent blockbuster "Vella Illa Pattathari". Except the story, we get everything else from "Maari", and that's the biggest concern of the movie.
"Maari" is not a bad film. It isn't a bad film because Balaji Mohan shows he isn't, after all, a bad director. Though there are plenty of cliches, the director shows how even the most routine moments in Tamil cinema can be made enjoyable. For instance, the first time Dhanush meets Kajal, you expect him to fall for her instantly like it's always expected to happen between the lead pair in our films. But the scene doesn't pan out the way majority of the audience would have anticipated. All this saves us the pain of sitting through a duet, usually shot in some exotic location, but thanks to Balaji's quirks, the romance is underplayed.
"Maari" is a badly written film with sub-plots that don't keep us engaged even briefly. In the beginning, we're explained about pigeon racing in which Dhanush is invincible. He also finds solace in raising pigeons, and trusts them even more than humans. When he's with the pigeons, he's a different man, much calm and happy. You expect the film to predominantly revolve around pigeon racing, but there's another sub-plot about red sandalwood smuggling, and there's one more about Dhanush turning an auto rickshaw driver.
Dhanush saves a very ordinary film, which with another actor or even a star wouldn't have worked as slightly as it does now. Robo Shankar is a revelation. The effortlessness with which he mixes sarcasm in his lines, makes him one of the best contenders for a comic villain.
Balaji Mohan's big leap of faith into the commercial stream with "Maari" didn't seem to have worked in his favour.