Ramesh Aravind and Akash Srivatsa reunite for the second instalment of the Shivaji Surathkal series
Last Updated: 11.10 AM, Apr 14, 2023
Shivaji Surathkal, our own Sherlock Holmes, returns with a new mystery waiting to be solved. His demons of the past linger stronger than ever but with a psychopathic serial killer on the loose who has been outsmarting the ace cop at every turn, things are more sinister than ever. And with Shivaji's own family life coming into great jeopardy as a result, the mastermind in him has to step up before it's too late.
Akash Srivatsa's 2020 film Shivaji Surathkal unravelled an intricate murder mystery and in the same vein, the plot delved deep into the psyche of the titular character. Referred to as the Sherlock Holmes of the police force, Shivaji Surathkal is revealed as the sought-after investigator whose antics and an elaborate eye for detail have earned a much-deserved 'cult' status. But plagued by the horrors of his past that are mainly concerned with the tragic and rather mysterious disappearance/death of his pregnant wife Janani, Shivaji is forced to reckon with his own mind in the film which also offered him a compassionate closure.
A couple of years later, still hanging on to a few remnants of his past, the ace policeman is lured once more into a much more twisted labyrinth that involves a serial killer on the loose. Shivaji Surathkal must again tackle his knotty past and catch the dreaded man who has dropped him in a race against time. Shivaji has managed to build a little world of his own with his adopted daughter and the stakes are higher than ever before as people drop dead one after the other.
At the outset, a character as convoluted as this presents an opportunity to churn out new additional instalments or sequels and we realize that Akash Srivatsa is chasing exactly after this idea. He wants his protagonist's mental instability to be turned into unreliability so that we, the viewers, are constantly pondering every step that the "hero", the only man who can solve this case, takes. It isn't the most novel of ideas but who doesn't love a damaged detective out to catch a serial killer?
The problem, though, with the approach is the incessant use of the sentimentality of the story to drive home the message. One can safely presume that if the audience is here to watch Shivaji Surathkal 2: The Mysterious Case Of Maayavi, the sequel, they must already be aware of the character, his world and the problems that have marred his life so far. But in an attempt to heighten the drama, the writer-director simply goes overboard with the use of emotions and almost drowns his story in repetitive "family" sequences.
These are important scenes, no doubt, but when you have a really gripping mystery to tackle, the writing has to be nuanced enough to include the more dramatic portions in a subtextual manner. And as a result, Shivaji Surathkal 2 is rendered clumsy and ineffective because while the cop is away marinating in his own thoughts and feelings, the audience is out there solving the case in their heads. The bigger problem arises when one realizes that the case has been solved by them well before even Shivaji Surathkal has gotten there.
The clumsiness also stifles the film of the right kind of energy and logic. We see that a Zodiac-like serial killer is on the run, dropping glaring hints about his next move, but the police force, barring Shivaji Surathkal and a couple of others, seem bizarrely uninvolved in the case. The tension in the air surfaces only through the dialogue and the background score but you never sense it enveloping the characters - Meghana Gaonkar's role as the DCP and Shivaji's senior is the case in point. She is restricted to playing the part of a stern cop with a one-note approach and is seen throughout passing the most obvious orders around, never really getting into the thick of the action or the anxiety around her.
What this also does is it makes Ramesh Aravind's character the smartest, or rather, the only smart guy in the room. People around him are caught mostly asking banal questions to solve the audience's queries but none of them 'consciously' contribute to the solving of the case. While the same pattern existed in the first instalment, the intimate nature of that story and the also setting allowed Shivaji Surathkal to be the flamboyant genius that he is. In this case, however, even though you do not really demand everyone to pitch in with ideas, you would at least wish them to be more believable and well-rounded characters.
Ramesh Aravind, for this reason, remains the only bright spot in the film and the actor does great justice to the role. Though I wasn't particularly smitten with the idea of breaking the fourth wall to speak to the audience, the 58-year-old actor is enterprising with his portrayal and ebbs and flows as the character with great finesse. Ramesh Aravind evidently catches on to the required pitch and tone of the film better than anyone else on the team and he certainly deserved better storytelling (and also a better story) in Shivaji Surathkal 2.
The emotional sequences of the film, although overbearing in nature, have their moments and Ramesh Aravind's charm and camaraderie with the child artiste accentuate them further. The rest of the cast, including Radhika Narayan, Raaghu Raamanakoppa, Shobaraj, Poornachandra Mysore and others, does manage to put on a credible show but as pointed out above, each of their characters needed finer writing.
I certainly had my expectations built up for Shivaji Surathkal 2, considering that the first part of the series is still etched in memory as a taut, well-mannered thriller. The latest film Shivaji Surathkal 2: The Mysterious Case Of Maayavi boasted a big opportunity to take things a notch up but the lack of clarity in the approach pulls it down. There are fleeting moments of promise in the film but they occur quite sporadically and any mystery thriller worth its salt knows that it just cannot simply afford to drop the ball at any point. Ramesh Aravind, the ever-reliable actor, tries his best and even delivers a commanding performance but that, too, fails to elevate the film. However, should you choose to decide for yourself if The Mysterious Case Of Maayavi is as intriguing as promised, no harm in watching it on the big screen this weekend.