Dear Maya: Beautiful Yet Flawed
Movie Review by Trijai Nerthi (Rocheston Certified Movie Critic)
Dear Maya is a beautiful film. But ultimately, within the walls of its beauty lies prevalent imperfections. For a debut film, director Sunaina Bhatnagar has fared reasonably well, but if she had perfected the lending of depth, this story would’ve been more impactful. On an eerie portrait, Maya Devi lifts off but she doesn’t hold enough depth to trigger your interest.
Anna (Madiha Imam) and Ira (Shreya Chaudhary) are convent-going sixteen year olds who are constantly on the lookout for something to spark their interest in the small town of Shimla. On one such uneventful day, they spot the majestic yet forlorn house of the mysterious Maya Devi (Manisha Koirala). The more they learn of Maya Devi, the more they are intrigued by her eerie and lonely presence. In efforts to bring her out of her shell, they start writing letters to Maya in the name of a secret admirer. For a while, everything goes smooth until one day Maya Devi decides to sell all her assets in order to look for this admirer in the mean streets of Delhi.
A large mansion painted with shades of abandonment, two majestic great Danes, birds who’ve forgotten their songs having been restricted to tiny cages and an uncared for beauty in Black who is known to the world as Maya Devi. This is the mysterious picture Sunaina Bhatnagar paints for you in the beginning. This picture is worth a thousand words, in fact it bubbles with potential. For a while, you want to know this woman personally, but gradually the woman’s enigma and the mystery surrounding her fades away. The mystery director Sunaina gloriously build up slowly fades due to the shallowness lent by plot deviations the screenplay often indulges in.
For instance, just when Maya Devi piques your interest, the story shifts base to Anna and Ira, when you are drawn to the girls, Maya is brought back into the picture. This way of narration is far too inconsistent and shallow to sustain your interest.
Dear Maya is also guilty of spelling everything out for its audiences. Some sequences work better if a subtle handling was employed but the film leaves nothing to the imagination as it spends time reconstructing everything. It has already been established that Maya Devi is a lonely woman, but a few more details that tell you who she really was or how she lived previously could’ve been helpful in triggering the same interest Anna holds for Maya.
The second half holds many unnecessary plot twists. Ira’s flashback in particular seems to be more of an afterthought. After this point the screenplay not only lags but it also becomes quite melodramatic and takes a preachy undertone. If many unnecessary sequences were cut down, a sole focus on Maya Devi could’ve been achieved.
Dear Maya’s script had as much potential as Lion and held as much freshness as Makdee. Sadly, the diversion the screenplay liberally takes, robs the film off its greatness. This isn’t to say that the film doesn’t have its moments. Whenever Maya Devi is seen setting her birds free or is letting herself get drenched in the rain, it is a truly liberating sight. If this liberation had seeped into the entire screenplay, this could’ve been flawless portrait.
Manisha Koirala is prepossessing as the mysterious Maya Devi. She wades through her role impeccably by mastering the balance between inhibition and liberation. If this beautiful role fetched women of her age and stature more such significant roles in Hindi films, the industry would be rightfully diverse.
Madiha Imam and Shreya Chaudhary are adequate as Anna and Ira. Their personalities lacked a quality of rawness. Their characters seemed too polished to be passed off as schoolgirls. Otherwise, as far as performances go, they were able to hold their own in most of the sequences.
The set design in Dear Maya could’ve been more organic. Maya’s premises looked a tad too staged. Ideally, it should’ve looked lived in to create a sense of abandonment. Sayak Bhattacharya’s visual story-telling painted Shimla in remarkable shades. Even a city as busy as Delhi looked refreshing through his lens.
On the whole, Dear Maya could’ve been a flawless tale but due to the diversions it takes, its beauty holds prevailing imperfections.