Cast: Sridevi, Nawazudin Siddiqui, Akshaye Khanna
Director: Ravi Udyawar
A black car speeds its way through a deserted Delhi road on a pitch dark night. An aerial shot shows it halting at a lonely crossroad. Two doors open, and the driver swaps his seat with a person in the rear. The car starts moving again, and sometime before daybreak, its occupants throw a teenage girl into a roadside drain.
We haven’t been shown the inside of the car, but we all know what could have happened there. Hundreds of media reports scream of such crimes against women every year, but people simply pick up the pieces and move on with their lives. This movie is not about them. It is about a mother who decides to avenge the rape of her daughter because the law couldn’t get her the justice she deserves.
A likeable-yet-strict biology teacher Devaki (Sridevi) is your average parent who wants to keep tabs on the social life and friends of an adolescent Arya (Sajal Ali). She is Arya’s stepmother, and is probably why Arya doesn’t seem to trust her. The child’s rape threatens to further tear them apart, but Devaki is determined to not let that happen.
Now, all this may sound like the recently released Maatr, where Raveena Tandon played a mother who moves mountains to punish her daughter’s rapists. Though Mom is similar in tone, the previous film didn’t have actors like Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Akshaye Khanna and Adnan Siddiqui.
The supporting cast turns out to be a great asset for director Ravi Udyawar’s film, which brings out the mental trauma experienced by the rape victim just as much as it celebrates Sridevi’s valour.
Dayashankar Kapoor aka DK (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) is the real charmer in Mom. He knows exactly when to switch gears and how to look timid despite being in the spotlight. The actor’s understanding of his reel-life character comes to the fore in an interrogation scene with crime branch cop Mathew Francis (Akshaye Khanna). DK is scared like any other law-fearing citizen, but he still summons the courage to retain his composure in the circumstances.
And, of course, there are his one-liners. When told that a certain piece of modern art costs Rs 50 lakh, he murmurs: “Isse toh achcha main paan thuk ke bana deta (I could have made a better painting by spitting betel juice on canvas).”
Overlook Akshaye Khanna’s twitched eyebrows for a few seconds and you’ll start appreciating his sarcastic tone. He remains underutilised, though, probably to give Sridevi more screen time. The movie seems to be headed in the right direction, complete with an excellent emotional outburst by Devaki inside a hospital in the first half, but the story soon begins to waver.
What stops Mom from becoming more like Pink is its inability to enter the minds of the criminals. Abhimanyu Singh is definitely menacing, but his accent is nowhere close to what his character should have. Other typically Bollywood liberties have also been taken to reduce the stature of the movie from a gut-wrenching film to a slightly above-average revenge drama.
Verbal duals between Sridevi and Akshaye Khanna appear staged, as if subtlety was the last thing on the filmmaker’s mind. They fail to achieve what Nawazuddin Siddiqui does with a single glance. Just one look at his own daughter, and you know whose side he is on. No words are needed.
To give credit where it’s due, Mom does fan the audience’s anger against people who indulge in anti-women crimes. However, it never intends to create a full-blown fire that would change the attitude of potential criminals in such situations. Instead, Sridevi takes it upon herself to deliver justice – thereby undermining the authority of law and related machinery. This is where Pink excelled.
The good thing is, Mom does what it intends to: Become a film that can hold the audience’s attention for 148 minutes. There are no intricacies that unfold step by step (it’s mostly predictable, really), but Girish Kohli’s screenplay ensures an entertaining drama.
It’s been five years since we saw Sridevi nailing it in English Vinglish (2012). Though she has made a stunning comeback with Mom, I still believe it’s Nawazuddin Siddiqui who scores here.