When Arya in Mom asks for her father’s permission to go to a party, I felt restless and deep down somewhere, I wanted her father to refuse. When her stepmom Devaki interferes and adds a few inquisitive statements, she walks away from the table in anger.
I was thinking, Come on! You idiot; can’t you see she is right? But then, the parents wilt to her wills and she gets the required permission. From that point onwards, I couldn’t help but feel a restlessness, a discomfort and a feeling of loss that not even the brutal punishment of Arya’s tormentors could make go.
This discomfort is at the very core of Mom, the debut feature of Ravi Udyawar which is bound to strike a chord with one and all. Arya (Sajal Ali) is a teenager who isn’t exactly comfortable with her biology teacher cum step mom Devaki (Sridevi). From the very first scene, you know that Devaki loves her daughter but she is somehow unable to accept her as her Mom and instead refers to her as Mam.
Their troubled relationship is further destroyed when Arya is brutally raped by four miscreants and left for dead. One of the rapists is his own classmate and had a tiff with her Mom regarding a cell phone incident. As he is raping her, he makes it a point to tell her to call for her mom.
A distraught Devaki, after trying all legal avenues to get the perpetrators punished, sorts to her own brand of justice when the Legal System fails her completely. Helping her in the matter is DK (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), a gawky private detective who feels for her predicament as he is a father himself. What happens next forms the crux of the narrative.
Let us be honest with ourselves, we all know what happens next. The mother punishes the perpetrators and the daughter finally chooses to accept her as her mom. Mom is not a film about the revenge as much it is about the pain and suffering that a mother has to goes through to reach a point from where she turns into a punisher.
Throughout the hits that Devaki undertakes, she makes mistakes, she remains uncomfortable and she literally shakes every time she comes up against a tense situation. She is even overpowered sometimes and leaves clues too. But what she doesn’t do is give up. The film is about that indomitable spirit of a Mom who finds it impossible to cope with the trauma of her daughter.
Having said that, the paybacks are no lesser sweet. The criminals are castrated, paralyzed shot and face physical abuse too but none of it can make you feel as good as you would have felt had the girl been saved. The film takes a known path through the revenge. We have a collaborator for Devaki in the awkward DK and we also have a cop hot on her trail in Francis (Akshaye Khanna ). The ending is just what you expect. So what is it that makes Mom special?
Well! If you ask me, it is the execution and the performances. For, a film that is 2 and a half hours long to have a screenplay as engrossing and tight as this one is a rarity in Bollywood these days. The film sets up beautifully and aesthetically making it a point to not show the brutal rape and leaving it all to your imagination which in turns makes it worst.
The pain and the sufferings of the girl and her parents are shown in graphic details as we see scene after scene of their torment which by the way doesn’t get repetitive or boring. These scenes are brought breathtakingly to life by the somber performances of Sajal Ali and Sridevi. This is another masterful performance from Sridevi who is sensationally believable. It’s because of that fact that every scene of the film acquires new meaning.
Sajal Ali is real. You buy into her performance. You accept her for the daughter that she portrays and you accept her for the victim that she becomes. You understand her aloofness from her mom and you also understand her blaming her mother partially for the assault. Her portrayal is haunting. Coupled with the sensational background score of A.R Rahman that pops up almost every time Arya or her mother are shown in pain, the sequences make you go weak on your knees.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui is a class act. He turns in an extremely restrained performance in a plot that is all vigilante-ism. He is also someone who brings in a glimmer of a smile to your face in an otherwise joyless film. The payback may be sweet but the brutality that the girl has to face cannot be compensated by any form of punishment. Akshay Khanna as the cop, though worthy is somewhat unnecessary. No one would have missed him if he wasn’t there. His change of heart, in the end, was also a tad bit too sudden and difficult to digest.
On the flipside, I felt the finale to be a tad bit rushed and conducive to the typical Bollywood co-incidence. This could have been easily avoided by a few re-writes. But still, I am not complaining primarily because of the amount of heart that the film puts in the tale that it has wanted to tell. A film of this sort cannot be judged from the standpoint of technicalities or cinematic sense. It will have different effects on different viewers. For me, It was intriguing and heart-wrenching and satisfying up to a certain extent.
I really loved the fact that the director had enough time to concentrate on the nuances of the mom-daughter relation and also the agony that came with the assault. For that and all the entertainment and the sterling performances that the film provides, Mom is a must watch for me.
Rating : 4/5 (4 out of 5 Stars)