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MOM movie cast: Sridevi, Nawazudin Siddiqui, Akshaye Khanna, Adnan Siddiqui, Sajal Ali, Abhimanyu Singh
MOM movie director: Ravi Udyawar
MOM movie rating: 2 stars
Mom begins with promise. Vivacious teenager Arya goes with her friends to a swinging party, and instead of working off an illicit hangover the next morning, and conducting giggly post-mortems with her school pals, finds herself in a dark, dark place.
First time feature filmmaker, adman Ravi Udyawar sets it up deftly, sketching Arya’s (Ali) rocky relationship with stepmother Devki (Sridevi), an overly compensating one with her father (Adnan Siddiqui) and younger sister. There are some chilling sequences that we watch with our heart in our mouth: a black car circling the deserted streets of Delhi like a shark ; a bunch of entitled testosterone-filled jerks casing the joint in search of easy female prey; and how a party meant for fun and games can swiftly descend into terrifying chaos. You recall those names—Jessica Lal, Jyoti Singh — and so many other young women who don’t hit the headlines but make up the sickening assault count in the Capital. And you shake yourself and wait for the track of righteous comeuppance to kick in.
We know how the rest of it will pan out, given the countless rape-and-revenge thrillers churned out every so often: just a couple of months back, Raveena Tandon was walking the same path in Matr. The only way you can break through the clutter is via a plot boasting novelty and distinctive performances : unfortunately, Mom’s plot is riddled with holes, and is far too focused on Sridevi.
When you start creating scenes to topline the actor not plot, such as it is, you do disservice to both. Mom is so busy keeping Sridevi centre-stage that it makes this film much less impactful than it could have been. It isn’t as if Sridevi, who returns after a sizeable gap after English Vinglish, can’t carry a film on her own. Shorn of her mannerisms, and pancake, Sri needs only a twitch or a glance to prove that she is a powerhouse, and there are several scenes she lifts by just being there.
But the film overdoes it, and what could have been a taut thriller is reduced to being a showcase for Sridevi’s capabilities, which we are fully aware of already. It also leaves even someone as capable as Nawazuddin struggling to overcome a spectacularly ugly hair-piece and a sketchily written part. He plays Detective DK, who is to be seen playing a wholly inexplicable game of hide-and-seek with Devki, which just serves to stretch the film needlessly.
The film side-steps this crucial question in its quest to do quirk. As the four perpetrators (including a very vivid Abhimanyu Singh) seem to be getting off scot-free, Devki gets going, and from then on, the improbabilities pile up. Just how is a school biology teacher, for that is what Devki is, meant to know anything about breaking-and-entering, and other things involving larceny? The plot is distressingly vague about these details, and we are left muttering, just like poor Akshaye Khanna who shows up as a crime branch cop reaching the point post-facto.
There are other good actors here, apart from Nawaz and Abhimanyu. Sajal Ali, who plays the young victim, is particularly effective. Adnan Siddiqui, as Sridevi’s husband, is very dishy, but suffers from the same problem the rest of the cast : not enough heft. The heavy-lifting is left to Sridevi, and she goes all out. But she is made to do too much: too much widening of the eyes, too much narrowing of the mouth, and too many things we don’t really believe she can do. You want to see what she can really do, give her a solid plot, and see her make a meal of it. Mom is not that film.