In Mom, her first Hindi film since 2012’s English Vinglish, Sridevi isn’t merely expected to do the bulk of dramatic lifting, she’s required to pretty much distract you from noticing the film’s many problems, including the gaping script holes, the flawed ideology, and the fact that you’ve seen this movie before. Many times actually.
Arya (Sajal Ali), a teenage student, is savagely raped, but the perpetrators get off the hook. Seething with righteous rage, determined to deliver justice to the offenders, her mother Devki (Sridevi) takes matters into her own hands.
Wait, wasn’t this exactly the plot of the recent Raveena Tandon starrer Maatr?
Well in the hands of advertising filmmaker Ravi Udyawar who’s making his feature debut, Mom is a stylish revenge thriller and relatively less shrill than most films in this genre tend to be. The grotesque crime that triggers the plot takes place off screen, but the director never spares you the discomfort. In the film’s most chilling scene, we get an aerial view of a black SUV into which four men have forcibly trapped the victim, as it courses through empty roads in the dead of the night, an ominous background score filling the air. Shudder.
But stylistic choices aside the screenplay faithfully sticks to the genre template. Devki tracks down each of the men and delivers brutal payback for their misdeeds. She is helped in this by a pushy private eye (an recognizable Nawazuddin Siddiqui), even as a suspicious cop (Akshaye Khanna) is on to her.
The ease with which Devki executes her revenge plan is unconvincing, and presumably the big idea here – that she gets away with a lot of it because who would suspect a woman, a mother? – is interesting, but never adequately exploited. A bigger problem with the film is its tendency to focus squarely on Sridevi, often at the cost of the story. Mom, as its title clearly suggests, traces Devki’s arc, and as a result Arya and her plight get relegated to the background.
Having said that, it’s also true that a deeply emotional but superbly controlled performance by Sridevi elevates Mom from its standard revenge fantasy leanings. The actress uses body language and her eyes to communicate complex emotions, and makes it impossible not to root for her despite the popular but frankly dangerous sentiment – of vigilantism – that the film is peddling.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui somehow creates a fully realized character despite an underdeveloped part, and he is riveting when he’s on screen. Akshaye Khanna, unfortunately, gets very little to work with, which is a shame given his talent. The rest of the cast too is in good form, particularly Sajal Ali as Arya, and Abhimanyu Singh as one of the offenders. But make no mistake, this is the Sridevi show and everything is expressly designed to add to her legend.
Mom is a far from perfect film, but it’s never boring. Sridevi’s terrific turn makes up for many of the script problems. I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five.
2.5 / 5