North Chennai’s notorious don is back on the screen in the Dhanush-starrer Maari 2 on December 21. While the original film from 2015 traced the exploits of the lanky don, the sequel will focus on the people around him, Dhanush said at a press meet in Chennai on Tuesday.

“It is an out and out fun masala Tamil entertainer, but we have tried to convey something extra under that format,” Dhanush said. Directed by Balaji Mohan (Kadhalil Sodhappuvadhu Yeppadi, Vaayai Moodi Pesavum), the film stars Sai Pallavi as Aanandhi, Maari’s romantic interest, Malayalam actor Tovino Thomas as Beeja, the film’s antagonist. The cast includes Varalaxmi Sarathkumar, Kreshna, Robo Shankar and Vinoth. The sequel has been produced by Dhanush’s Wunderbar Studios.

Maari 2 (2018).

The sequel is much more layered with an emotional narrative, Mohan said at the event. The original film, starring Kajal Aggarwal, explored the journey of Dhanush’s goon, whose life is transformed after he falls in love. “In Maari 2, we had the freedom to expand on the character because his character is already registered with the audience,” the filmmaker said. “Maari is not too nice or too bad. The core of the film explores the consequences of hatred and unconditional love directed at people.”

Dhanush had predicted that the 2015 film had the potential to be turned into a franchise after reading the script, Mohan revealed. “But we did not want to do it just for the sake of it,” he added. “So I finished and showed him the bound script and it excited him and us. In a commercial film, there is a high point. But this film will be a pleasant surprise and is full of twists.”

While playing the lovable goon gave him immense satisfaction, it also required preparation, Dhanush said. “It is even fairly easy to act as Anbu in Vada Chennai, as there was some guilt to emote in the character,” the actor explained. “But Maari was difficult because he is not good or bad. It was a challenge to play this character and play it likeable as well. I had to do a lot of homework for that.”

The character is one of the most free-spirited personalities he has played, the actor added. “He has no rules,” Dhanush said. “Like how Johnny Depp kept saying he wanted more takes to stay in character towards the end of Pirates of the Caribbean, I did not want to end the shoot at all. I am the happiest when I am Maari because it’s such a fun character.”

One of the key characters in the sequel is Sai Pallavi’s character, Dhanush said. The actress plays Aanandhi, an auto driver who falls in love with Maari. The acclaimed actress rose to fame with her roles in Malayalam films Premam (2015) and Kali (2016), and made her Tamil debut with AL Vijay’s Diya earlier this year.

Maari (2018).

“I have often heard that Dhanush is so phenomenal that nobody can look at anyone but him when he is on screen,” Sai Pallavi said. “But he complimented my acting, and that was wonderful. He would often encourage me to act and emote in different ways. He cared about everyone’s characters in the film, and not just his.”

Maari 2 also marks the second Tamil feature film for Malayalam actor Tovino Thomas, whose films include ABCD (2013), Oru Mexican Aparatha (2017), Godha (2017) and Mayaanadhi (2017). The role in Maari 2 was unlike any other character he has played before, said Thomas, who made his Tamil debut with the romance Abhiyum Anuvum this year.

“It was a golden opportunity for me to work here [Tamil film industry],” the actor said. “I had some commitments and had to manage the dates. But when I heard the script, I was excited because I have not gotten such a villain’s role before. The positive energy I got from the sets will be reflected on the screens.”

Maari (2015).