Film: Dear Maya
Cast: Manisha Koirala, Madiha Imam, Shreya Chaudhary
Director: Sunaina Bhatnagar
Swaddled in black, the first shot of the lone Maya (Manish Koirala), in the dark corridor, standing against the filtering light from the dust covered windows, paints a rather eerie picture; and the following scene of her crafting her daily doll, made just like her in all black, promises us an intriguing 120 minutes. Sunaina Bhatnagar’s directorial debut, Dear Maya, is anything but.
Set in Shimla Dear Maya, follows the life of a reclusive woman who has lived alone in a bungalow, plucked out an antique dream, for twenty years. Two girls, Anna (Madiha Imam) and Era (Shreya Chaudhary), live in her neighbourhood, and decide to bring her love by writing fake love letters. Needless to say, the letters are plucked out of poetic genius, and Maya falls in love with her pen friend, Ved. When she gets a letter with a returned address, she decides to shift to Delhi, in hope of finding her love. Meanwhile, Anna is haunted by her error in judgement, and goes on a hunt for ‘Missing Maya’. Will she find her, and alive?
Bhatnagar’s film has all the makings of a good short story, but loses pace adapted to the big screen. What started of as intense drama turned to an overstretched fleshing of plot, characters, and their relationships with each other; and to such a great extent that you may find yourself dosing off in between. The plot is repeated one to many times, and over telling of the tale dulls it out. The second half is quit a drag, and the climax falls short of expectations. Sure, the film is about hope, but it is to wonder if Bhatnagar has given too much of it. If not for these, the cast is stellar.
Dear Maya is all of Manisha Koirala, and she does not disappoint in her comeback film. If anything, she doesn’t get her due in the character transformation – from the wrinkly, grey-haired damsel in distress, to a believer, the journey is a short one. Debutantes Madiha and Shreya are a light reminder of the ‘Dangal girls’, and hold their own in their performances despite the limited scope of their individual stories.
In spite of irregularities, Bhatnagar’s is a film with its heart in the right place. It is a satisfactory watch, as long as you don’t hold your breath for anything extraordinary, given the expectations raised by Bhatnagar for a good part of the first half.