Maryan Joseph is a fisherman in a village named Neerody. He has an auspicious bond with sea and proudly claims himself as "Kadal Raasa" (King of Ocean). There is Panimalar who falls in love with Maryan and doesn’t shy away in confessing it to him. Maryan is loved and longed by Panimalar but sadly her feelings are not reciprocated. The more Maryan tries to keep Panimalar away from him, the closer she tries to get. This eventually leads to Maryan falling for Panimalar. Once, Panimalar is caught in unfortunate circumstances and to support her financially, Maryan is forced to take up employment on contract basis for two years in Sudan. He then befriends Saami and is his only companion for two years. He successfully completes his tenure and packs bags in jubilation to return to his ladylove, but tragedy strikes in the form of Sudanese terrorists, who end up kidnapping Maryan and two of his co-workers, demanding money for their freedom. One of his co-worker gets killed by the head terrorist. After 21 days in captivity, Maryan escapes with Saami and runs for his life. He gets separated from Saami, who gets killed later on, and gets lost in the desert and suffers from dehydration and confronts cheetahs as his mirage. After finding the coast he fights the terrorist who catches up with him and escapes. He then returns to his village where his love is waiting for him.
The story is adapted from a real-life incident in 2008, where three immigrant workers from India, working for ONGC were kidnapped in Sudan. Sudan is the largest oil producing country in Africa, and a civil war was going on there. They were captured by some child soldiers, who demanded a ransom. They were held in captivity for 21 days, until they escaped.
Actor Dhanush underwent a special ocean diving course to swim up to 50 feet underwater.
Mariyaan was filmed in reverse. The climax was the first scene to be filmed and Dhanush had to work al his emotions in reverse.
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