Most storytellers seek inspiration from Hollywood films. But very few film-makers look at what our auteur have to offer. Maharathi is the cinematic adaptation of Uttam Gada's Gujarati play, which was a huge success two decades ago. Another reason that enhances the curiosity is the fact that it brings four of the finest talents of the Hindi film industry together.
But not all plays are fit for cinematic adaptations. Maharathi may be a hugely successful play, but it's not as engaging as a cinematic experience. Let's face it, cinema and theatre are two different mediums altogether!
Also, Maharathi is not one of those Bollywood thrillers where everything, right up to the minutest detail, is spoon-fed to the viewer. Besides, it falters, loses balance and gets cliched and contrived when the director and writer decide on winding up. And that's not good news for any thriller.
Subhash [Paresh Rawal] has spent the last ten years unsuccessfully trying to get acting parts in films. One night, he saves a man's life. He accompanies the injured man back home. Subhash is awe-struck at the affluence of Mr. Adenwalla [Naseeruddin Shah]. Subhash realizes this may lead to a generous tip.
Soon enough, Subhash is hired by the grateful Adenwalla as his driver. The wife, Mallika [Neha Dhupia], resents Subhash for his proximity to her husband.
Subhash is now firmly ensconced in Adenwallas' house and discovers his wife's evil designs. On the other hand, Adenwalla, driven to the point of insanity by his money-hungry wife, decides to take the ultimate revenge. He commits suicide!
Subhash recognizes this as an opportunity to rid himself of a lifetime of middle class mediocrity and poverty. He collaborates with Mallika to acquire all the money and property. Working hand in glove, they get a caretaker [Tara Sharma], with the help of their family lawyer Mr. Merchant [Boman Irani], to be a witness to an ailing Mr. Adenwalla's presence in the house.
But the best plans can go awry and this brings ACP Gokhale [Om Puri] and Inspector Borkar [Vivek Shauq] into the picture.
The problem with Maharathi is its inconsistent script. To start with, there should've been a valid reason for Naseer to commit suicide. In the first place, if he had to teach Neha a lesson, why should he shoot himself? Why not shoot Neha instead? Much later, even Neha's death looks unbelievable. Another pertinent question that crosses your mind is, why does Naseer bequeath his riches to Paresh? In fact, he barely knows Paresh. The Boman track in the end is quite confusing as well.
On the brighter side, Maharathi has several well-executed sequences and that's why the deficiencies in the script bother you. It could've been an engaging experience, which it isn't.
Director Shivam Nair has shot the film well, but how one wishes he would've opted for a far more convincing screenplay. There's no place for songs in the film and the sole track towards the end -- the promotional number -- looks out of place. Cinematography is striking.
With a crème de la crème cast on hand, it's natural to expect sparkling performances from the cast. Naseeruddin Shah is convincing. Paresh Rawal scores yet again. Boman Irani is in form. Om Puri deserved a meatier role. Neha Dhupia is okay. Tara Sharma is fair. Vivek Shauq is hardly there.
On the whole, Maharathi has some curiosity-value thanks to its interesting cast and an equally inviting promotion. But the film lacks the power of an arresting script. That, in turn, will make the journey tough for the film.