Nivin Pauly starrer 'Mahaveeryar' is a genre-bending time travel flick with a social message

The movie touches upon a hard-to-miss social issue focusing on women, says actor


Dhanusha Gokulan

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Published: Wed 20 Jul 2022, 7:42 PM

Last updated: Wed 20 Jul 2022, 7:45 PM

What do you get when you mix a courtroom drama with a time travel period flick? The genre-bending commercial entertainer - Mahaveeryar. Starring the darlings of Malayalam cinema - Nivin Pauly and Asif Ali - a duo last seen together nearly a decade ago - the movie is "unlike anything we’ve ever seen before," says Pauly.

The actor has joined hands with his fail-safe collaborator and director-producer Abrid Shine from the Action Hero Biju and 1983 fame. The highly-anticipated movie will be released in cinema theatres across UAE on July 21.

With elements of time travelling, fantasy, and comedy, Mahaveeryar’s trailer leaves audiences wondering – is this the trailer for two separate movies that the director accidentally merged? “It is not an experimental flick,” confirmed Pauly to City Times during a candid chat ahead of the movie’s release.

The story is loosely based on one of Kerala's most celebrated literature writers and Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award winner M Mukundan's short stories. The film also features Shanvi Srivastava and Lal as lead characters. Other famous actors roped in for Mahaveeryar are Siddique, Lalu Alex and Sudheer Karamana. Pauly and P S Shamnas bankroll the film under the Pauly Junior Pictures and Indian Movie Makers banner.

What’s Mahaveeryar all about?

While stifling a laugh, Pauly tried his best to speak about the movie without giving away too much. “It is a courtroom drama with elements of time travel and fantasy. There’s a freshness to the cinema that we haven’t seen before as well,” he adds.

“Courtroom dramas are relatable to our audiences, as are stories of lore and fantasy. We have all grown up listening to stories that begin with ‘A long, long, long time ago. It is a captivating narration technique. I believe the movie seamlessly combines all these elements,” says Pauly.

“Yes, it is a period film as well. However, one cannot compare it to the likes of Bahubali. Everything blends very well,” he adds.

He says, “There is no clash between the heroes if you’re wondering.” After a few seconds of thought, he also said, “It addresses a pervasive social issue from a woman’s perspective, which is the crux of the movie.”

Moreover, the film enjoyed immense support from M Mukundan during the ideation phase of the movie. “I first heard the story pre-pandemic, and just as Covid-19 hit in 2020, the script was ready. We took our time with it,” he says.

Pauly’s co-actor Asif Ali portrays the role of Veerabhadran, a forgotten warrior King. Mahaveeryar also marks the first movie where both actors share the screen after their 2011 action movie Sevens.

“It was great to work with Asif again, and he’s a good friend. We had a blast while shooting for this movie. There were a lot of long night trips and drives. It felt like we were in college again,” he says.

From no-nonsense cop to Godman

In Mahaveeryar, Pauly dons the role of Swami Apoornnananthan – an enigmatic and mischievous monk whose intentions seem unclear from the get-go.

“I’ve never played the role of a monk or saint before this one. It is one of the more interesting characters I’ve done. Moreover, the story and the script are the real heroes in this movie. Not the actors,” he said.

Moreover, Mahaveeryar also marks Pauly’s first movie after a hiatus of over two-and-a-half years and the third collaboration with the director Shine. “I believe our audiences trust our collaborations, especially after the success of Action Hero Biju,” he says.

Pauly says, “When we made Action Hero Biju, the initial feedback revolved around how untraditional it is for a movie about Kerala Police. Yet, it was well accepted, and people still talk about it. We hope Mahaveeryar will be spoken about similarly,” he says.

Pauly says Mahaveeryar was not supposed to be his first release after the break, commenting on his hiatus from the silver screen for the past two-and-a-half years. Rajeev Ravi’s Thuramukham was supposed to release ahead of Mahaveeryar. “The movie has suffered some setbacks, unfortunately. Hopefully, it would release soon,” he says. He is also working on a sequel for Action Hero Biju.

How hard was it to bring the movie together?

“Shooting during Covid-19 time was tough. We had to stop shooting for two weeks which was stressful. Moreover, we shot half the movie in Kochi and the other half in Rajasthan. It was scorching at times, and working while wearing this monk costume was hard,” he laughs.

Commenting on challenges and career setbacks amid the pandemic, Pauly also said, “Initially, I did not know what to do. I got a lot of free time to work without a deadline. Moreover, everyone was relaxed. I think a lot of us used the time to make well-thought-out movies. I learned a lot about script writing and updated myself as well."

Though OTT platforms have given Malayalam cinema an international presence, he says that movies do well only when the script and story are superb. “Take Mahaveeryar, for example. It is a movie which everyone will understand and relate to. There are kings and courtrooms everywhere,” he adds.

“Irrespective of whether the movie is made for theatre or OTT, if the script and story are exciting, it will reach a wide audience,” he says. In a message to his UAE audiences, Pauly says, “You can expect a fresh movie without any clichés.”

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