Dear Maya movie review: Manisha Koirala deserved a better comeback
There's a certain charm to the hills. A stillness, slowing of time, and a certain eeriness. Sunaina Bhatnagar's directorial debut Dear Maya is a film that moves at the pace of its beautiful setting, but is, unfortunately, horribly punctuated by teen troubles.
There are two stories that run parallel in this film. One, that of Maya's (Manisha Koirala), a woman locked away in a strange, dark mansion in the heart of Shimla. And the other, her teenage neighbour Anna (Madeha Imam) and her high-school BFF Ira's (Shreya Chaudhary).
The girls are curious about this strange, old lady, who looks at them through dusty windows, never once opening them. They decide they must help her by finding her love and, therefore, banishing her demons, for surely it must be love that made her so bitter. So they start writing her love letters from an imaginary man named Ved.
Obviously, things go south. Maya goes missing and the girls start hating each other, unable to live with the guilt of having destroyed Maya's life.
The first half of the film successfully tells Maya's sad back story, almost contrasting it with the lives of Anna and Ira. But the second half does the opposite as it gets ahead of itself and engages so much with the now estranged friends that the film seems to forget Maya.
There's a particularly painful fight between the two girls in Delhi's Hauz Khas Social. Painful because the dialogues are unimaginative, the acting is poor, and it almost seems like the director forgot to yell “Cut!” and went for a chai break instead.
Manisha Koirala needs more screen time
Dear Maya's strength lies in Koirala and her story, and how she's managed to make this film very personal, even though it doesn't give her enough screen-time. This is her comeback film after having fought cancer, and when Maya smiles at having got a second chance at life, and says, “Always say yes to life”, one can tell this is as much about Koirala as the character.
The film gives her a beautiful end, enough to make one think the movie could've been so much better had they deleted a good 40 minutes in the middle. Maya finds strength, love, happiness, and, most of all, 'hope', as she says so herself. Not in others either, but in her own self. Only because she gave life a chance.
The background music in the film is rather repetitive. A spunky track constantly plays for the girls, whereas Maya gets an eerie track that follows her like a ghost.
Imam and Chaudhary may not be the finest actors, but they share a great chemistry, enough to carry the film through the first half. However, in the second half they're no longer just part of the story, and with conflict comes the need perform, and it is here that they falter.
Koirala though, maintains a gruff appearance through the first half, barely speaking, and almost too quickly changing. It's at the end of second half that the film gives her the chance to play out a beautiful sequence, where she slowly begins to love herself. In it though, Koirala is stunning, and it's really a shame that the film doesn't show more of her.
Should you watch it?
This isn't a film you need to catch in the theatres, unless you want to go for Manisha Koirala.
Watch it on TV with family instead. You can even take popcorn breaks and not miss much.