The worst thing you can say to an artist is: "What does your work mean?" This is right up there with other insults like: "Fifteen-thousand bucks for three squiggly lines and a splotch?!!" and "My one-year-old creates better art in her diaper."
While this sort of attitude might establish you as a great wit among friends, in the art-circles you are what is commonly referred to as Poop-Brain. Besides, there's nothing very clever about making fun of something you don't understand. Which is why, with Meenaxi, we will scrupulously stick to only making fun of the things we did understand. This is going to be a short review.
First, the good news. The finest and most gorgeous aspect of Meenaxi is its cinematography. Plus, if you're an M F Husain fan, you'll enjoy the few inevitable props like his paintings, his furniture and, yes, an appearance by the man himself. Meenaxi uses lights beautifully and most sequences are shot with a sharp eye for drama. Unfortunately, one or two moments, no matter how exquisitely captured, won't sustain you through the entire two hours the film lasts.
The story starts in Hyderabad - City #1. Tabu plays Meenaxi, a muse who comes looking for her artist. She first enters Nawab's (Raghuvir Yadav) life as a stately beauty, who flits about enigmatically for a good while at the start of the film. Finally she walks into his parlor with a strange request and an even stranger Hyderabadi accent. Will he write a story about her?
Meenaxi is an ittar-seller in Charminar's Lad Bazaar, and this gives the director many chances to film that dear old monument. And she looks as lovely as ever.
Nawab doesn't quite know what to make of Meenaxi's proposition, till he meets Kunal (Kunnal Kapoor), a drunken, frustrated musician who is reduced to tuning horns in his garage. Then as Meenaxi reads over Nawab's shoulder, the story starts to fall in place. Kameshwar (as the writer names Kunal's character and his own alter-ego) is driven by an eternal quest (love? beauty? truth?). And his journey begins in Jaisalmer - City #2.
Here he meets and falls in love with Meenakshi, who lives in a castle and spouts the most exasperatingly philosophical dialogue this side of a bored camel. Everything she says is a perfect puzzle, but love, undaunted, does blossom amid the sand dunes. However, before the story can proceed, Nawab's Meenaxi, unsatisfied with her character, burns the novel. Now completely emotionally dependent on his worst critic, the writer starts over. This time in Prague - City #3.
Maria is an orphan, who waits tables when she isn't playing Joan Of Arc in a local theater production. She also studies Indian culture, and when Kameshwar comes to visit her professor, she is drawn to him. They take long walks together, and we get to see much of Prague's architectural splendor. And finally, you understand what Meenaxi (Maria) is all about. At least you're supposed to, at this point. But all you're thinking is: huh?
We'll hazard a guess as to the real message here: fictional characters take life from their creator's ink. But sometimes a character is so powerful, it endures even after the ink's run out. Or something. Stephen King did something similar called 'The Dark Half' - however, that was Stephen King.
On the whole, Meenaxi leaves you with a sense of vagueness. Not good-vague, not bad-vague, just vague-vague. And there's only so much of that you can take, even in the name of art.