CINEMA READ

‘Mom’ review — Highly enjoyable revenge flick

Debutant director Ravi Udyawar brings freshness to a familiar narrative — although a little rough around the edges,  it is a solid and highly entertaining, well-paced effort.
by Rutwij Nakhwa

Not many months ago, in the sweltering summer month of April, Raveena Tandon starrer ‘Maatr’ hit the cinemas. ‘Maatr’ translates to mother and the similarities between that film and ‘Mom’ only begin there. Both star a veteran mega-actress and the stories, typically set in Delhi, involve a daughter (and mother in one case) being gangraped, and then the mother exacting revenge on the perpetrators one by one. At times the plots are almost eerily identical. However, despite all the similarities ‘Mom’, releasing in the middle of this unpredictable Mumbai monsoon, is  a far more digestible and better executed film.

Sridevi, is a biology teacher who shares a strained relationship with her step-daughter, Arya, also her student. Arya, calls her “maám” throughout, refusing to use the one letter shorter, more maternal term. And this trope of rejection is pulled to its breaking point right till the end of the movie, where it finds welcome release. Arya attends a valentine’s day party, where a classmate, who holds a flame for her and a grudge against her mother, and his bigger (both in size and ego) cousin, on facing rejection fall to monstrosity. The two along with a watchman and low-life criminal abduct the 18-year-old girl and brutally assault her in a car and leave her for dead in a gutter.

Although, a lot in the narrative seems to have been addressed in numerous recent films, there is something quite refreshing about ‘Mom’. Maybe it’s got to do with it being ad-filmmaker Ravi Udyawar debut feature. It might be a little rough around the edges, but it is a solid and highly entertaining, well-paced, first time effort.

Once, Arya regains consciousness she names her violators and they are promptly dragged and out and put behind bars by a ferocious and sexy, Akshaye Khanna who plays the lead cop. For a change, cops are not portrayed as good-for-nothing up-for-sale louts as has become standard with all Bollywood films; even when Sridevi’s character first walks into a station to report her missing daughter, they are mostly kind and helpful. The court trial too is not made into a grand tamaasha. However, as the law runs its course, the rapists’ quick steps post the incident and various unfortunate circumstances means that they walk out scot-free. As anyone would, the titular mom loses her faith in the justice system and takes matters in her own hands.

Sridevi, uses her own voice and does struggle a little with Hindi, but it works in her favour as a mother put in a harrowing unfamiliar territory by a cruel twist of fate. What gets slightly unbearable though is her version of grief. She contorts her face to its breaking point accompanied by animalistic shrieks. Even then, there is some genuine emotion that comes through her grief and the rest of her, almost matter-of-fact, performance. Nawazuddin Siddiqui steals the show in a delightful character turn. He is a peculiar detective-for-hire, all with a splendid UP accent. DK, as he calls himself, is big fan of Bhole nath  (Shiva) and Bollywood. He provides plenty comic relief with incredible timing and panache that doesn’t make it stick out in an otherwise bleak story. DK is Sridevi’s partner in crime—or rather rightful revenge—who provides her valuable information about her targets. The narrative does take a few liberties now and again, but even then as far as commercial cinema is concerned, it is grounded and thought-out and never makes you feel like a buffoon.

The music is a bit too punched up and a bit too much so. That is sad because the film really shines in its quieter moments when the delicate sound design is near perfection. Sridevi-Nawaz interactions that have to happen under-cover at odd locations are gold. We don’t see much of the rape scene either. Most of it is an aerial shot of the car, moving on an empty highway. But interesting use of a chilling, oscillating sound track creates this simmering sense of dread that never leaves you. Credit also to the anxious, unsteady cinematography, and editing that keeps up the pace and pulls out all its stops in rapid montages—but only when needed, unlike Rahman’s music.

The third act is a little disappointing. It features many archetypal Bollywood moments and a highly underdeveloped and dispensable song that comes in A R Rahman’s so very familiar voice. ‘Mom’ is not the kind of film that keeps you at the edge of your seat, guessing what is about to come. You can see all of that from many miles away. But what it does, is deliver on those predictable expectations quite nicely. And sometimes that is what you need. It’s not earth shattering but some of it does make it’s way right into you heart.

Rating 3/5

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