An elder brother tries to charm Arya (Sajjal Ali) on a Valentine’s Day dance party after his younger brother fails at it. The younger brother who is also her class fellow laughs at her brother for failing terribly. As soon as Arya steps out to call home she is forced into a jeep by the two brothers and friends. She struggles, yells but is punched into silence. As an audience we have our guesses but things change dramatically as we shift to the Birdseye view of the car. Almost like tracing evidence through a magnifying glass, the camera follows the car’s path with a haunting yet very minimalistic score, reminiscent of the great David Lynch.
The car and the camera are neither pacing forward nor lagging behind, they are easing into the path almost creating the ambience of a joyride which isn’t as amusing, says the score. The jeep stops and so does the camera as the two men step out from different doors and jump back from different ones. The ride continues as usual till its dawn and a body is dumped into a nullah.
Bollywood is flooded with rape sequences both explicit and subtle but I haven’t seen something as nuanced and visually spectacular. Saying so much without saying anything, that too, so early in the film raises your expectations beyond Everest. Mom director Ravi Udyawar holds his ground with some carefully conceived visual motifs and characters that fit like a glove but only till a few minutes after intermission, that’s when he eventually gives into his Sisyphean destiny; an end typical of Bollywood these days.
The film revolves around Anand’s (Adnan Siddiqui) wife, Sridevi( Devki) who is failing to get recognition from her stepdaughter Arya despite all her right intentions. Things start to change when Devki finds Arya in a hospital, abused and injured. She takes the lead in what becomes a story of justice and retribution aided by good humour and stellar performances.
Bringing together actors as diverse in their approach to the craft as the classic old-school Sridevi and the seasoned Adnan Siddiqui to the selective yet superb Askhay Khanna and methodic Nawazuddin was meant to create something extraordinary. And they did – not so much the scenes between Adnan and Sridevi but overall it is an ensemble that makes you stay in the cinema to be swayed.
Unfortunately for Sajjal, it’s a role that we have seen Pakistani actors play before; she is equally good but not as noticeable but Siddiqui’s efforts do shine occasionally when he makes his and Sridevi’s apparently unnatural chemistry seem quite organic. Though a tad intimidated at places, particularly for the few seconds of the film in which he is asked to dance, Adnan has arrived in B-town.
However, the real hero and the villain of what Mom is and what it turns out to be is the debutante director, Udyawar. What happens to Bollywood writers and directors after the intermission is a mystery that baffles me more than the mystery of what women want baffles Stephen Hawkings. We saw it happen with the much-celebrated Lootera where Vikramaditya Motwane reduced an epic to a pointlessly extended love story and same was the end result of Vishal Bhardwaj’s Rangoon, to name a few.
The case for Mom, however, is slightly different, it is a great watch for the most of its duration but it’s the last 20-30 minutes that are actually insulting, not only to your senses but also to the film, comparing it to the way it started out as.
Mom fails to make up its mind in becoming a tale about the importance of motherhood or crime thriller surrounding retribution. The narrative oscillates between the two and doesn’t merge seamlessly, which is why the stupidity of the climax hits you harder. Perhaps Mom was the wrong title, to begin with.
Rating: 3 stars
Verdict: It’s a good film that you can walk out of when you’ve figured out the end. Don’t wait for it to explain itself.
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