Dear Maya is a 2017 Indian drama film directed by Sunaina Bhatnagar in her debut feature. The film stars Manisha Koirala in the title role of a lonely woman residing in the hill town of Shimla, Himachal Pradesh. Newcomers Shreya Chaudhary and Madiha Imam play supporting roles in the film which released theatrically on 2 June 2017.
The film opens into the lives of teenage girls Anna and Ira, students at a convent (Catholic) school in Shimla. They are particularly close and divide their daytime between school and romance novels and boys and, occasionally, sleepovers. They are very intrigued by their reclusive middle-aged neighbor Maya Devi who lives alone in a large house (with her two dogs) and rarely goes out. Anna’s mother explains that Maya Devi lost her father early and lived in that house with her chacha (father’s brother) and mother. Maya Devi was, and still is, a beautiful girl but her chacha constantly thwarted her marriage (by berating her and chasing away suitors). This was because he stood to inherit her estate. In time he passed away and Maya resigned herself to a dreary and solitary life.
Ira devises a plan to write love letters to Maya. The girls hope that this prank may bring some light into Maya’s life. They write letters, vivid and touching and steamy, pretending to be a former suitor, now in Delhi, still pining for Maya. Ira takes the prank further by breaking into Maya’s house one evening to steal a photograph. This goes badly; Ira breaks her ankle, as does Maya’s maid; the girls are reprimanded and Anna is tasked with filling in for the maid until the maid recovers. During this time Anna gets a little closer to Maya. The letters still arrive and Anna observes that Maya becomes happier with each new letter.
One day Maya stuns everyone by announcing that she is selling the house and moving to Delhi to find the letter writer, her long lost suitor. Anna discovers, to her horror, that the letter which prompted the decision was written by Ira and had an explicit invitation. She runs to dissuade Maya but is unable to do so. She confides in her mother. Anna is reprimanded and sent away to boarding school, away from Ira. Anna leaves without saying goodbye to Ira and they never speak again. Ira is shattered.
Torn by the guilt of her prank, Anna makes it her mission to find Maya in Delhi. Over the next six years she sticks posters and makes phone calls and follows every lead to find Maya. She finds a boyfriend, Rahul, who ultimately proposes to her but she is unable to accept. She returns to Shimla to discuss this with her parents. Ira visits her but Anna is still angry and turns her away. Ira is profusely sorry and persists and ultimately accompanies Anna back to Delhi. Anna is still mad at Ira for her selfish and childish behaviour which likely destroyed Maya’s life, but Ira reveals that she, too, had fallen in love in Shimla, and had lost her love to a motor accident, and now, having lost love, is fully aware of the true consequences of her pranks. Anna forgives Ira and persuades Ira to transfer to a college in Delhi. But Ira decides to return to Shimla. As Anna bids goodbye to Ira on the train station she receives a phone call from Maya.
The girls hurry to meet Maya. To their astonishment they find her, bright and sparkling and happy, at the zoo garden. Maya reveals her story. She had arrived in Delhi and tried to trace the letter writer but found nothing. Instead, over time, she found that Delhi, and the world outside Shimla, was not so frightening after all. People were helpful and kind. And she eventually met a kind and charming man who owned a jewelry shop. In time she became close to this man, Ved, and they married. And today Maya is blissfully happy with her Ved. The letters changed her life and she tells them to say ‘yes’ to life. Anna and Ira are stunned. They joyfully hug Maya and she embraces them and invites them to call any time.
The film ends as Anna accepts Rahul’s proposal and Ira transfers to a college in Delhi.
Manisha Koirala as Maya Devi
Madiha Imam as Anna
Shreya Chaudhary as Ira
Iravati Harshe as Anna’s Mother
Reuben Israel as Anna’s Father
Sahil Shroff as Rahul
Rohit Suresh Saraf as Neil
Madhu Rajesh as Ira’s Mother
Sahiba Bali as Radha
Jared Savaille as Maya Devi’s son
Rakeysh Om Prakash Mehra as Ved