As far as spooking the living hell out of you goes, Maya is Grade A material. This is by far the most-hair-raising-est Tamil film in recent memory. Recent memory being clouded and raining horror flicks, that is one daring act pulled off. Maya does not try to be a comedy/sentimental drama/revenge masquerading as a horror movie; in a way it does, but only just. It goes makes no detours other than to cater to the Tamil sentimentality quota. This film is relentless and single-minded in bringing your fear of the paranormal and laying it bare for all of the two-plus hours.
Ashwin Saravanan does two things very well – first, he’s that director who understands his lights and shadows. His mastery over the physics of throwing light at darkness, the psychology of creeping darkness into broad daylight and having the smarts to economically, but potently deploy them, is unmatched in Tamil. Ashwin reminds us of a Manoj Night Shyamalan, in that he manipulates the audience by what he holds back from the screen more that what he reveals on it.
But, visuals and lighting can only deliver so much on fright. The other front that Ashwin hits the bull’s eye with is the sound. Like a pranking sibling, the eerie background strain holds your hand with an assurance, only to blindfold you and push you into a bolted dark room, where your scrambling in a void. Then the Bernard Herrmann violins squeal with you as you scream out loud. When the BGM isn’t setting the alarms off, the Sound effects keep you from reaching to the comfort of the seats. Not calling this the most original or path-breaking stuff, but one that knows precisely the tools to get the job done.
Of course, Ashwin’s “story” pretext for a horror movie is flimsy and predictable. If you haven’t figured the end of the movie within the first 15 minutes, you shall have disappointed me. Despite Ashwin’s best efforts to throw us off track from spotting the familiarity of the plot, a barely perceptive eye ties almost all loose ends. None of this matters ’cause Maya has the gift for the gab. That gab is to petrify you into shutting your eyes, but then dare you not to let your eyes stray off the screen.