*May contain spoilers*
Everything is so neat and polished in Ravi Udyawar’s debut feature film, Mom. Sridevi, who plays the titular role, looks perfectly made-up in every scene, even when she is mourning the brutal rape of her daughter, or fighting villains. Her kitchen sink is more photogenic than an average man’s living room. She executes her revenge systematically, never leaving a loose end anywhere. Her victims walk into the trap that she sets without an ounce of doubt. There is an element of implausibility in the film that the makers never try to address.
Mom is on the lines of recent films, Pink and Maatr, woven around crimes against women. The film has a one-note narrative, narrowing down its focus to crime and vengeance, and forgetting the criminals and the societal conditions which manufacture them.
In spite of these shortcomings, Mom is a gripping thriller, thanks to its well-paced narration, some excellent characterisations and sequences.
At the centre of the film, is a brutal gang-rape of Arya, an 18-year-old school student from an affluent Delhi household. Hours before the incident happens, you see her preparing to leave for a late night Valentine’s Day party with her classmates. She is wearing a bright red short dress. “You look stunning, Arya,” says Devki (Sridevi), her mother, and she blushes. Devki asks Arya’s friends to take care of her, and return home before it’s late. But Arya doesn’t return home that night. The mother, terrified, begins searching for her. The girl is found the next morning in a gutter, brutally raped and beaten up.
Mom is the story of these two women. The first crucial moment in the film comes when Arya reminds Devki that she is ‘just her step-mother’. “Why didn’t you tell your friends that you aren’t my mother, ma’am?” Arya asks Devki, her voice brimming with hatred. She prefers to call her ma’am, the way she addresses her at school, where Devki is a teacher of biology.
But the film doesn’t let the youngster be misunderstood as yet another spoilt rich girl. Arya and her friends are not showcased like a set of spring-breakers, but as a group of kids who want to have some harmless fun, away from the restrictions of home and school. Arya despises Devki because she is yet to come to terms with the death of her mother and the remarriage of her father. In a preceding scene, you see the girl apologising to her father for being rude at the dinner table. When she tells him that she will never be able to forget her dead mother or love her step-mother, you feel for her.
At the party, a bunch of men push her into an SUV, beat her up brutally, and take turns to rape her, while driving the vehicle through the deserted roads of the city around midnight. The sequence is chilling, effective enough to hold the rest of the film together.
For Devki, who works as a teacher at Arya’s school, love and affection come effortlessly. She understands that teenagers need to be handled with care and sensitivity. She is an amiable teacher who starts her class talking about a new Hollywood sci-fi movie. In the first scene, you see her dealing with a male student who sends a lewd video to girls. It is only natural that she decides to avenge the rape of Arya. She would have fought the criminals even if Arya was a girl she barely knew. She is the kind of person little girls and women confide their secrets and sorrows in.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s DK is a lowly detective with an extraordinary IQ. A facilitator, DK helps the movie balance its ‘class problem’. From Devki’s plush, speck-less world, it is DK who takes the movie to the noisy and raw middle-class space. He brings a very convincing human element to the film. There is a scene in which he looks at her daughter, and lets out a sigh in the morning when he meets Devki. You realise why he is going all out to help Devki break the law. Siddiqui’s brilliant acting moves you deeply.
Equally good is the performance of Sajal Ali, who makes Arya a haunting figure.
AR Rahman, the renowned Oscar-winning composer, does a mediocre job in Mom. His background score deafens you at times, shutting down other sounds. His songs for the film aren’t memorable. However, one has to give it to the composer for deftly using silence in the right portions. For one, in the sequence of the crime, all he uses is the sound of a heart beat, which can terrify you to the core.
Udyawar’s film plays to the crowd in its most pivotal portions. It doesn’t make you ponder about the origin of the crime, but just revel in the act of vengeance through vigilantism. The brightest of its positives is its lead actress, Sridevi, who delivers a mesmerising performance. Especially during the instance in which she walks away from the room when Arya begins to scream hysterically at the sight of her. Sridevi’s face is stiff, unable to cry or come to terms with the pain of rejection. She empathises with Devki’s sufferings, and that makes this role one of the best in her career.
The Mom review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.