Maharaja is easily the best Tamil film of the year; it also marks the comeback vehicle of Vijay Sethupathi as a solo hero.

Director Nithilan Saminathan’s sophomore film, Maharaja, is a taut thriller with a shocking climax that surpasses his debut film, Kurangu Bommai, which was appreciated for its hyperlink concept and unpredictable red herrings.

Early in the film, Saminathan’s treatment makes us believe that Maharaja is the desi version of John Wick, known for waging war after someone kills his puppy. The major difference here is that the protagonist, Maharaja (Vijay Sethupathi), a barber, takes down a bunch of criminals who have stolen his precious iron trash bin (they call it ‘Lakshmi’) that saved his daughter in a cruel accident. But as the story unfolds, we begin to understand that Saminathan has smartly used this angle to deceive us and then proceeds to the final twist that will leave a big lump in your throat, reminding us of a popular South Korean flick.
A relatable character
We cite these two films not to undermine Nithilan’s credibility; his story is very original, and he has seamlessly incorporated these inspirations into a screenplay that flows organically without any hiccups. Nithilan’s screenplay is quite brilliant; he has smartly used two different periods in his narration and stuns us with his intelligence. What is laudable about the director’s work is that his brilliance is not self-indulgent; it only helps the film establish high moments whenever required.

While there is a shock value in the climax, the director has also added a poetic touch, which is the frame-worthy moment of the film! Another impressive aspect of Nithilan’s screenplay is how he prepares the audience for the twists and turns by placing the necessary cues. He constantly caters to audiences who crave intelligent storytelling and Easter eggs from filmmakers.
Sethupathi, who has struggled to deliver a quality film as a protagonist in recent years, has finally succeeded with Maharaja, his 50th film. Tamil cinema audiences were missing the Vijay Sethupathi known for selecting brilliant scripts and fitting the bill perfectly. In Maharaja, Sethupathi doesn’t come across as a typical hero but as a relatable character. Slowly, his screen presence gains heroic elevation at key moments (intermission and climax).
Nithilan is the kind of director that actors/stars like Sethupathi deserve. The filmmaker has smartly included these heroic elements without going overboard. The scene where Sethupathi holds the iron rod and breaks the ceiling when the school correspondent refuses to apologise for wrongly framing his daughter elevates the heroism to a new level and further amplifies it whenever similar scenes are repeated in the film.

Sethupathi’s comeback as a solo hero
After Sethupathi, we all would remember Anurag Kashyap for his remarkable role as Selevam, a robber, in Maharaja. The brilliant filmmaker also proves that he is a powerful performer; he doesn't look alien in a Tamil film but fits in perfectly as the menacing robber. Nithilan’s casting choice is another big advantage of Maharaja.
For example, Natarajan Subramanian, who is usually seen in the typical corrupted cop role, gets a superb positive twist in the second half, which is one of the big highlights of the film. Also, Singampuli, who features as a harmless comedy sidekick in several Tamil films, has given a contrasting role here and it augurs well for the film. Though actors like Aruldoss, Bharathiraja, Munishkanth, and Mamta Mohandas (PT teacher) only appear in a few scenes, they get their winning moments.
Abhirami, who plays Selvam’s wife, gets only a few scenes, but her performance is exceptionally well in the emotional sequence with Kashyap. Jothi, who plays Sethupathi's daughter, is also an interesting find; her character is the lifeline of Maharaja.

Technically, Maharaja stands out with Dinesh Purushothaman's arresting visuals, Philomin Raj's masterful editing, and Ajaneesh Loknath's pulsating music. Philomin especially deserves applause because Maharaja is a challenging film to edit as it has multiple characters and travels between different periods yet the editor makes it all coherent. To conclude, Maharaja is easily the best Tamil film of the year and it is also the comeback vehicle of Vijay Sethupathi as a solo hero.
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