Mafia movie review: There is nothing extraordinary about Mafia: Chapter 1.
Mafia Chapter 1 movie cast: Arun Vijay, Prasanna, Priya Bhavani Shankar
Mafia Chapter 1 movie director: Karthick Naren
Mafia Chapter 1 movie rating: 2 stars
Mafia: Chapter 1 is Karthick Naren's second film after his impressive debut venture, Dhuruvangal Pathinaaru. Naturally, the expectations from this Arun Vijay and Prasanna-starrer were high. But, here is the thing with the second film of any successful director—it is seen as the acid test. There is nothing extraordinary about Mafia: Chapter 1—the storytelling is plain, and so is the presentation. For the gangster drama that Mafia is, it lacks the detailing and emotional connection.
Arun Vijay plays Aryan, who belongs to the Narcotics Control Bureau. What happens when Aryan gets to know of his past, while investigating a case, forms the plot. For some reason, I felt Mafia: Chapter 1 needed a star like Vikram to pull off what Arun Vijay did. And, in Prasanna's place, I would have liked someone like Arjun Sarja. Vikram has a unique body language, and he can elevate even a wafer-thin storyline with his presence. Mafia: Chapter 1 wants to be both simple and ambitious. Behind a straightforward plot, there is a germ of a bigger idea, which will be explored in part 2. Which is why Mafia: Chapter 1 seems incomplete. You understand Karthick Naren's intentions, but much of the film remains a disappointing blur. Parts of the film appear interesting, but Karthick Naren hasn't knit them well as a whole, and that's precisely why Tamil cinema needs to invest in writers.
In an interview, Karthick Naren had said, Mafia: Chapter 1 was more brains than brawns, but the film was anything but that. We walk out with this question: Is it possible to make a relatively “realistic” gangster drama? In lots of places, it is hard to get a grip on the man (Arun Vijay) or the movie. Why is it so important for the Narcotics Control Bureau chief to have stylish hairdo all the time? It is flawless every time I look at the screen. This made me think if I was watching a model or a officer.
Karthick Naren's writing is too generic, and you see the twists coming. Slow-burning plots can do wonders for romantic dramas or films that discuss relationships, but for gangster dramas, this type of narration does no good. Diwakar Kumaran (Prasanna) plays a swag businessman, whereas, in reality, he is a drug kingpin. Why did we not get a backstory about how he came to be this way? Instead, we get a dose of slow-mos, because that's what stylish actors do. In order to be "cool", you are required to sport a certain hair-do, wear specific glasses, but there's nothing more than that. I am not blaming Prasanna, but what more can an actor do, if this is all he was given? Prasanna is a revelation despite his intermittent presence. But again, why are these antagonists shown smoking all the time? Maybe, because they are "thinking" people. I don't know.
Mafia: Chapter 1 truly belongs to Arun Vijay, who swings between over-the-top and measured acting. The film could have been a winner if it had a tight screenplay. No scene was remarkably smooth in pushing the story forward. Oh, also, Mafia: Chapter 1 has Priya Bhavani Shankar travelling alongside Arun Vijay's character. Sathya (Priya) acts only if Aryan says or wants something. Otherwise, she doesn't have the brains to execute stuff on her own. She waits for Aryan to "give instructions" half the time—because "timing miss aaga koodadhu".
With so much that’s so fascinating at a conceptual level, it’s surprising how dull Mafia: Chapter 1 is, and that’s because Karthick Naren doesn't know how gangster dramas work in the first place. The characters and scenes should have a cinematic punch, which the film lacks.