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Mafia movie review: Karthick Naren’s film is a smart, ultra-stylized gangster drama

Mafia movie review: Mafia may come across as slightly over stylised for a story set in Chennai and involving officers of the Narcotics Control Bureau, but once you get used to the world, you’re in for a surprise.

Updated: Feb 21, 2020 17:24 IST

By Haricharan Pudipeddi, Hindustan Times Chennai

Mafia movie review: The film stars Arun Vijay and Prasanna in the lead.

Mafia
Director: Karthick Naren
Cast: Arun Vijay, Prasanna, Priya Bhavani Shankar

 

Karthick Naren is one of the most exciting filmmakers in Tamil cinema today. After making a smashing debut with Dhruvangal 16 a few years ago, Karthick returns with a bang with his sophomore film Mafia – a smart, slow-burning, ultra-stylized gangster drama which has the perfect marriage of style and substance. Mafia, even though belongs to a different genre and world, could very well work as a companion piece to Karthick’s debut film – in terms of writing, style and presentation. Mafia may come across as slightly over stylised for a story set in Chennai and involving officers of the Narcotics Control Bureau, but once you get used to the world, you’re in for a surprise.

Watch the trailer of Mafia here: 



The film opens in a restaurant of a plush hotel and we hear Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World play in the background. The camera pans across happy faces in the restaurant, and as the song reaches the line What a Wonderful World, we hear a shoot-out and everybody starts running helter-skelter. Karthick wastes no time in establishing the fact that it’s not a wonderful world after all. It very much applies to Mafia, which follows the life of Aryan (Arun Vijay) – an officer of the Narcotics Control Bureau and his team as they hunt for DK (Prasanna), the kingpin behind the drug cartel in Tamil Nadu. When Aryan and DK cross paths, we aren’t sucked into a world of bloodshed; instead, we get a slow but riveting cat-and-mouse thriller.

It takes about 20 odd minutes to get used to the world of Mafia. Initially, everything feels out of place. Be it the characters, the way they speak, their fashion sense and the frequent but at times tiring slow-motion shots, but once you’ve made peace with the proceedings, you dig the experience. Karthick Naren builds Mafia on some great visuals which he uses to his strength to elevate the overall viewing experience. The visuals are effectively complemented by Jakes Bejoy’s terrific background score and Sync Cinema’s sound design. But the film is much more than just gloss and Karthick backs it with some smart writing, especially when he pulls the rug from under with a delicious, gallery-pleasing climatic twist which serves as a rewarding pay-off.

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Arun Vijay as narcotics officer Aryan displays range and delivers a fiery performance. His character is interestingly written, and rarely do we see a hero in Tamil cinema sans heroism. Aryan is an exception, but he gets plenty of moments to shine and hog the limelight. Karthick doesn’t needlessly make Aryan heroic, and his is a character that isn’t ashamed to ask for help from his team. Prasanna is a very interesting choice for DK, and he isn’t your quintessential mainstream antagonist. We see him as someone with class and he nails his character with grace. If not for anything else, Mafia makes for an exciting watch as it pits two genuinely good looking men (Arun Vijay and Prasanna), oozing with charisma and good fashion sense.

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