Directed By: Sunaina Bhatnagar
Produced By: Shobhna Yadav, Sandeep Leyzell
Cast: Manisha Koirala, Shreya Singh Chaudhry, Madiha Imam
Duration: 2 hours 20 minutes
Bollywood Bubble Rating: 3.5/5
One window that was shut forever, is unbolted. All the sunrays that the old, broken house was resisting, are unleashed one day. Her thirsty eyes flicker for a moment, the dusty bed in her room is clueless with the sudden sunbath. Her heart trembles as she steps out of the house after two decades. Dear Maya is in love with life again.
Sunaina Bhatnagar’s ‘Dear Maya’ is a story of an individual’s elevation from a situation, with her struggle with loneliness being a few notches higher. After a parent-less, un-affectionate childhood and a tortuous uncle who always plotted many curses for her, Maya (Manisha Koirala), a close to middle-age woman, has locked herself inside the house for twenty long years. Near to her mysterious house stay Anna (Madiha Imam) and Ira (Shreya Singh Chaudhry); two school friends who plan to bring merriment in Maya’s life by sending her fictitious love letters. Little did they know, Maya would believe in those words of imagination and set off on a voyage to find the man who loves her in secrecy! This marks a scratch in Anna and Ira’s friendship as well. They both are left in their own worlds, eating up the guilt; until they make up their mind to make up for the mistake and start looking where’s Maya gone. Six years have passed by. Did Maya even manage to gulp down the disappointment? Did life ever give her another chance to love herself? As the answer unfolds, we see the relationships revolving around her altering as well.
The film is both relatable and not relatable. For many, it is impossible to fathom that being disheartened could be this gloomy. But well, it could be! ‘Dear Maya’ is as much Anna and Ira’s story, as it is of Maya. Two different individuals, in two different circumstances, deprive themselves of happiness. And that’s what forms rest of the story. More than once, I felt the film was absolutely losing its pace. Then I understood, they were attempts of creating familiar confusions. It is the same confusion that arises when love knocks at your door after you’ve completely given up. It is the same confusion that crops up at a time when a friend turns a stranger just when you started believing you always had their back. It is the same guilt when you know you just thrashed someone’s belief in the name of love and you do not deserve to be adored ever. It is the rumbling of loneliness that ‘Dear Maya’ resonates. It is not fast and drumming. It is slow, gloomy and sometimes uncomfortable. Sunaina, carefully, has given every character their own space to uphold their own grief. For a fact, there are many!
Manisha couldn’t make a better comeback. From her dark circles that say she has had darker days and nights to pale glares that say she beholds no colours anymore, everything about her deserves to be loved and nothing else. After some time, you just starting living her. Shreya as a rather whimsical teen and Madiha as an emotional, caring girl are apt. Not to forget, these two have had crucial roles in the story’s development.
Sunaina has earlier assisted Imtiaz Ali more than once; and Ali’s influence on her work is very, very noticeable. Ali’s signature style of telling a story through small and often dialogue-less visuals is something Sunaina genuinely tried to bring in, and succeeded in many cases. “Textbook direction,” my colleague whispered to me as I murmured every time, “This is how it’s going to be.” Sunaina successfully makes you predict, and she makes you predict the most important developments.
‘Dear Maya’ would score fine in terms of screenplay. It is largely a character-oriented film which celebrates each character’s imperfection. Aarti Bajaj’s editing is what makes the storytelling even more apt and fluid. We probably do not even deserve to judge her, but this woman never fails to leave us amused. Anupam Roy’s music is heart-warming and situational. We would rather mark the film down on cinematography. Sayak Bhattacharya, who seems to be hugely inspired by Imtiaz Ali kind of visuals again, probably attempted to rework Anil Mehta and Ravi Varman’s work in ‘Highway’ and ‘Tamasha’ respectively; but he does not succeed at the end.
Keep this one in your watch-list only if you’re not looking out for just some entertainment or a ‘feel-good film’ only. ‘Dear Maya’ is a slow and impactful watch.
P.S. You’re in to discover a surprise cameo!