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Thursday, Sep 19, 2019

Dear Maya movie review: Manisha Koirala shines like a diamond in a coal mine

Dear Maya movie review: Manisha Koirala brings a certain charm and elegance to the film otherwise fails at several points. Sunaina Bhatnagar should have really focussed on her rather than the ill-attempted side stories.

movie-reviews Updated: Jun 02, 2017 19:13 IST
Sweta Kaushal
Sweta Kaushal
Hindustan Times
Manisha Koirala plays the titular role of a lonely, old woman in Sunaina Bhatnagar’s Dear Maya.
Manisha Koirala plays the titular role of a lonely, old woman in Sunaina Bhatnagar’s Dear Maya.

Dear Maya
Sunaina Bhatnagar
Cast: Manisha Koirala, Shreya Chaudhary, Madiha Imam
Rating: 2/5

The beautiful Manisha Koirala returned to the silver screen after her long successful battle against cancer, playing the protagonist in Sunaina Bhatnagar’s Dear Maya. The 46-year-old actress was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2012.

The film is about Maya Devi, an old and lonely woman who has given up on life. She looks at the world through a gloomy lens, distrusting and sad.

But then, schoolgirls Ira and Ana — played by Shreya Chaudhary and Madiha Imam — decide to add colour to her all-black life and start writing to the spinster secret love letters signed by a fictitious character named Ved. (Haven’t we watched a similar letter-writing plot in Ranbir Kapoor’s Tamasha?)

Manisha in a still from Dear Maya.
Manisha in a still from Dear Maya.

Dear Maya traces the transformation of the reclusive woman in black through the letters and lessons the two schoolgirls learn as a result.

Manisha shines throughout. She appears as a recluse with a dagger dangling from her waist and morphs gradually into a confident woman in a red sari enjoying life. She makes the emotions come alive.

But the film falters in the dialogue department. Manisha speaks little, almost none, in the opening scenes.

The dialogues and monologues are clichés from maybe the 80s or thereabout.

“Right time pe shaadi nahi hui, isliye she is depressed.”

“Think of it as social work, hum kisi boring lady ki boring life me Shah Rukh Khan bhej rahe hain.”

Will today’s kids say such sentences in their daily conversations? The film fails to portray the teen and young adult life we see in today’s Shimla or Delhi.

It’s a brilliant story poorly told, literally, but portrayed with finesse. The story cherishes hope, love and life of a woman.

Shreya Chaudhary and Madiha Imam play the young girls in Dear Maya.
Shreya Chaudhary and Madiha Imam play the young girls in Dear Maya.

The wrinkles on Manisha’s face, her silhouette, and a damp and dark haveli. These add to the sense of depression and dejection, and paint the perfect picture of an abandoned woman.

When the character moves from darkness to light, it is conveyed with open windows and sunlight lifting the haveli’s gloom. The change in mood is visible from colour of Manisha’s clothes. From an all-black skirt-shirt ensemble, she gets into elegant and colourful saris and suits.

For the imagery, no words were used. They were not needed either.

The story has a contemporary appeal. In our patriarchal society, even women in large families often feel lonely because her personality is seldom respected. She is destined to a prescribed role in the family and nothing beyond. When she realises her worth, she cherishes the small joys of life.

But again, Sunaina falters with the supporting characters too. Schoolgirls Ira and Ana weren’t a patch on Maya. The narrative touches the right chords with Maya, but looses every rational connect with the side characters.

Dear Maya relies heavily on old-school-style time leaps — kids hold hand and by the time the camera pans to their faces, they are adults. Well, not exactly, but you get the hang of it. Had Sunaina focused on Maya a little more, the film would have been way better.

As little else is of interest in the film, the fact that Manisha’s presence is limited to small bits in the beginning and towards the end makes it a rather stretched watch.

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First Published: Jun 02, 2017 18:05 IST