Maatr: A mother’s revenge
by Manika Verma
Ek aurat ne kiya yeh sab/ Aakhir voh ek aurat hi toh hai, kaise kar sakti hai yeh sab!
(A woman did all this/After all, she is only a woman, how can she do all this!)
On different occasions, from different people, this sentiment comes out in dialogue throughout Ashtar Sayed’s ‘Maatr’, written by Michael Pellico.
A politician, his son and his friends, as well as the police look and react incongruously at the thought of a woman going around the town killing the perpetrators of a heinous act that takes place with her and her daughter, who dies as a result.
Vidya Chauhan, played by Raveena Tandon, is a school-teacher who is driving back home late at night with her daughter, Tia, after the annual function in their school. A wrong turn taken due to traffic, changes things forever as the mother-daughter are gang-raped and after being presumed to be dead, thrown on the side of a road.
What differentiates ‘Maatr’(Mother), from other films based on the same subject, is the agency it provides its protagonist. Vidya takes up charge when no one else does, and fights her own battle. Deprived of her daughter, with a husband (Rushad Rana) who can’t seem to care about his wife, but continuously blames her for their daughter’s death, she decides to act and bring justice to herself and Tia. And the way she decides to do this is to kill all of those attackers one by one.
Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury’s recent court-room drama ‘Pink’ had a similar narrative, but the agency there rested with a man, the suave but old lawyer played by Amitabh Bachchan. Pan Nalin’s ‘Angry Indian Goddessess’ touched upon a similar storyline, but revenge formed a minor part in it, as compared to ‘Maatr’. The characters in Leena Yadav’s ‘Parched’ were head-strong women but even they didn’t wield as much power as Vidya Chauhan does.
This is what occurs in the impressive first-half of the film. Unfortunately, the second-half disappoints in comparison; making the two halves feel like they belong to separate films. The former part makes the audience sympathetic to her psyche and actions, the latter part makes them count the number of people left to be killed.
The camera just moves along with the characters, yet in a couple of remarkable shots manages to do wonders to the story. In particular is the scene where the rape takes place. As Vidya lies on the ground with a jute sack covering her entire face but an eye, she unblinkingly looks at her daughter. The shot changes to her point-of-view and is more horrifying than the gory scenes in the film. Similarly, when the men proceed towards their car to dispose the two women, the camera again moves along with them, leaving an empty house, and managing to send chills down the viewers’ spine.
A repetitive technique employed in the film is flashes of headlines that guides the audience too much through the story, and loses its novelty after a few times.
Songs are used to show passing of time that Vidya takes to get over the aftermath of the death of her young daughter, and they do the needful. The gruesome scenes in the movie are accompanied by an equally powerful sound design, and minimal use of silence that reminds one of Kashyap’s ‘Raman Raghav 2.0’.
‘Maatr’ is an important tale told rather weakly. Raveena Tandon’s convincing performance and Ashtar Sayed’s direction of an uncommon narrative is all what the film has going for itself. Watch this one for what it’s worth!
(Manika Verma recently graduated with a Bachelor’s in Mass Media (Journalism) from St Xavier’s College, Mumbai, and writes for FilmIndia Global)