First-time feature film director Ravi Udyawar is actually no newbie. A gold medallist from J.J. College of Arts, Mumbai, he has worked as a commercial artist, illustrator, ad film maker and music video director for quite some time now. This Friday’s big release ‘Mom’ is also notable as the 300th film by Sridevi in the actress’s 50th year in the industry. Produced by husband Boney Kapoor, the film clearly prioritises the 53 year old leading lady, and going by the cash-rich box office performance of the opening week, this choice was the correct one.

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The story of ‘Mom’ is quickly told, as there are no experiments there. Devki (Sridevi) is the loving second wife of widower Anand (Adnan Siddiqui), living with her little daughter and step daughter Arya (Sajal Ali) in a plush New Delhi mansion. Devki is a Biology teacher in a school while Anand is a successful corporate tycoon. Arya is a sensitive girl who cannot stand her stepmom. Despite Devki’s misgivings, she goes to a party in a farm house, where she rebuffs two hunks, one of whom is a spoilt school boy whose mobile was thrown away by Devki when he was found sharing porn with a girl in class. In response, 4 men gang rape Arya on her way out form the party and dump her in a ditch. Though she records her statement clearly, the culprits twist facts and get away. Thereafter, Devki steps in and extracts revenge based on information supplied by quirky detective DK (Nawazuddin Siddiqui). Inspector Matthew (Akshaye Khanna) suspects Devki of the attacks on the criminals, but is unable to nail her. In the climax, he encourages her to shoot the last goon with his service revolver. The film ends with Arya and Devki in each other’s arms.

Though Sridevi has deservingly grabbed centre stage with her powerful histrionics, the most endearing character is perhaps detective DK. The audience actually empathises with him, with his Delhi accent, unstoppable humour, and courage even at the moment of being killed in his run-down office. Pakistani actor Adnan Siddiqui fits in very well as the loving father, and it helps that he is refreshingly handsome. Sajal Ali, also from Pakistan, is not just a dewy beauty, she brings a certain dignity to the role which stops it from descending into melodrama.

Coming to the crew of the film, Anay Goswami and Monisha R. Baldawa deliver their jobs as cinematographer and editor without any notable glitch. A.R. Rahman has done an interesting score where the soundtrack of the key moments have got more attention than songs, which is good, as the songs are essentially functional. Special mention needs to be made of the handling of the rape sequence where we see nothing but a car travelling along the stretch of a road until the girl is thrown into drain water by the roadside.

It is perhaps this picturisation combined with a script lacking in swear words that got the film a U/A rating. What with it being called ‘Mom’ and the rating, there were quite a few children in the Sunday morning multiplex crowd. The kids were very quiet though, it must have been disturbing to see the sweet ‘didi’ in the film in a hospital and then suffering from depression. On the other hand, this film is actually important for teenagers to see. Once again, India’s botched-up film certification system is to blame for debacles like this.

The script not only sticks to constitutionally acceptable language, it also airs quite a few stock lines. There’s a team working here, Telugu veteran Kona Venkat Rao, newcomer Girish Kohli and the director himself. Given that three people are involved, the script is actually very smooth. It does not lack in humour either. The only thing one wishes for is a more adventurous story. Not willing to take risks, Ravi Udyawar has stuck to the given formula for revenge dramas, complete with a highly satisfying ending.

If only the reality of rape and its aftermath could be so picture perfect in our country! Most victims are socially outcast and shunned and blamed by their own families. A supermom like this is just wishful thinking, and therefore more satisfying to watch. None of this detracts the neatness of execution though, so we have reason to be eager for the next film from this director.

Dhrubaa Ghosh

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