Cast: Sridevi, Akshaye Khanna, Sajal Ali, Adnan Siddiqui and Nawazuddin Siddiqui
Director: Ravi Udyawar
Nutshell: Sridevi’s latest vehicle see’s her as an avenging Super Mom Death Wish Style.
Sridevi’s career continues to soar well after her days of romancing with Anil Kapoor and co. Making a highly successful comeback to the big screen with “English Vinglish” a couple of years ago; a film that was effectively crafted as a showcase for her skills. She met with box office and critical returns for English Vinglish and was encouraged to take another step with the carefully considered “Mom” being selected as the next showcase. Sridevi’s diva status means that she cannot be part of a project where the focus isn’t entirely on her. She refused Bahubali as she was committed to “Mom”, thankfully Sridevi’s loss was Bahubali’s gain as the woman in the role that was originally offered to Sridevi was absolutely stunning. So, Sridevi, over the years has turned into a Diva in the realm of Beyoncé; you DO NOT criticize the Big Bey and Sridevi has created that sort of aura around her. The lady is a super star and has big budget films produced and tailored to her whims even at an age when most women wouldn’t even bag a role at all. Kudos to both Beyoncé and Sridevi for being powerful enough to be able to impose their will on a male dominated environment and to make a success of it. The trailers of “Mom” have been buzzing for the last few months and it has looked like a dark, dramatic thriller with Sridevi cast in the Sridevi version of Taken. Akshaye Khanna makes a return to the screen and there is the current flavour of the season Nawazuddin Siddiqui almost unrecognizable under a layer or two of prosthetics and another set of teeth!
The film has Sridevi cast as a stepmother and school teacher to her children which makes life awkward as the elder daughter is hugely resentful of her taking the place of her real mother in the house. The family seems to be doing ok even though the daughter- stepmother thing is a work in progress. The rest of the film follows the often-treated path of the desi rape and revenge thriller just like the ones they made back in the 80s such as Aurat ka Inteqam or even Pratighaat (released the same year as Mr. India) or indeed I Spit on Your Grave or an entire genre of Pakistani films led by the all-time classic rape revenge classic Haseena Atim Bum. Mom is almost identical in storyline to Rasheed Dogar’s Madam X where the rapists are punished with flesh eating mice among other horrors but in Mom the scene isn’t quite so lurid. Instead you have a mousy but determined Sridevi allying with quirky Private Eye to set the wheels of revenge in motion. These films follow the same path but usually try to attract attention by including some new form of ghastliness on screen as I Spit on Your Grave did or even its Pakistani version Gringo where Mussarat Shaheen takes to the garden shears to castrate a rapist. In Mom, the tone is slightly more sober and done with a lot more class but the content is pretty much identical.
The second half of the film sees Sridevi as the architect and mastermind of a murderous revenge scheme that she sets in motion with Nawazuddin aiding and abetting and poor floundering Master Cop Akshaye Khanna always several steps behind the game.
The film heads to its utterly predictable conclusion but without any major shocks or twists or reveals along the way which might have actually helped the film. At one moment, I thought during his magnificent death scene that Nawazuddin Siddiqui was about to pull off his rubber mask to show himself as Sridevi’s first husband but it never happened!
Highly predictable and employing a plot line that has been so overused in desi cinema the film still manages to remain fairly gripping largely due to another solid performance by Sridevi and a buffoonish one by Nawazuddin that does elicit giggles throughout. The rest of the cast are decent but it’s really all about Sridevi and she carries the film on her shoulders with aplomb. The film does have some moments of drama and the most memorable scene is one where the car with rapists inside drives about while an eerie drone like sound adding to the uneasiness and sense of doom. This scene goes on a bit but one wishes it had gone on a lot longer. It is ironic that a scene where all you see is a car moving along a dirt road is more powerful and chilling than any of the scenes of Sridevi crying and weeping and sobbing with snot flowing from her nose while exclaiming “how did this happen”?
Sridevi does put on a solid show though and is more than value for money and yet she is not able to reach the emotional impact that desi actresses of stature have always had the ability to. Even Nirupa Roy as Amitabh’s mother in a ridiculous Manmohan Desai romp had more emotional impact and power to arouse than Sridevi possesses. Maybe her squeaky voice is a liability; forget Shabana Azmi and Smita Patil, Sridevi pales in comparison to Rekha and Jaya Bhaduri when it comes to sheer on screen emotional impact, even arch rival Jaya Prada has more bombast than Sridevi can summon. Yet she remains the epitome of professionalism and considered peerless despite the fact that she has starred in many of the biggest turkeys of Indian cinema history, her reputation remains intact and deservedly so.
Overall Mom is a well mounted and polished product slickly produced and solidly acted and yet it is never a nerve jangling or tension inducing experience. There is hardly a single sequence when the viewer is on the edge of their seat or chewing at the nails. It has this Draupati symbolism and theme where a Mother is universal and Maa ki Mamta reigns supreme as the most powerful and primal instinct of all (despite the daughter not being her natural daughter). Mom has been created and tailor-made showcase for Sridevi and it comes across as exactly that but it might also be the films greatest weakness. While her fans will rejoice, the rest of us will feel that we have watched something strangely muted and flat. It is in fact, predictable, overlong and strictly Time-Pass, nothing more but if you love Sridevi, you will continue to love her.