Pure. Idealistic. Dutiful. This is how Indian mothers were presented on celluloid in the 80s and 90s. But now, creators of TV shows and films are pushing past one-dimensional portraits of mothers to delve into their realistic side. ZEE5 and ALTBalaji’s latest offering Mentalhood focuses on imperfections, insecurities, mistakes and doubts of a mother. It is a step forward in the onscreen representation of mothers.
Mentalhood is a depiction of modern mothers who are trying to get to the end of the day without going completely insane. Meira Sharma (Karisma Kapoor), Anuja Joshi (Sandhya Mridul), Preeti Khosla (Tillotama Shome), Deeksha Shah (Shruti Seth), Namrata (Shilpa Shukla) are the mothers who seem to be in a race. A race to become the best parent. But in their quest of perfection, their imperfections show. They are competitive. They put the pressure of their dreams on their children. They spy on their kids. And, all of this while being under the gaze of a society which easily blames everything wrong with a child on the mother.
The show tackles several problems of a mommy – the dissonance between loving your children unconditionally and fulfilling their demands, choosing between dreams and responsibilities as a parent and taking a break from children before you lose whatever sanity is left. It shows that being a mother is never easy no matter if you are a work-from-home mommy, a full time working mommy or a stay-at-home mommy.
However, as the episodes unfold, the show becomes a guidebook on motherhood and parenting. Meira’s quotes from her blog at the end of the episodes can be compiled into a how-to-manual and handed over to new parents. Sample these pearls of wisdom – “Bullies are weakest people, the best way to deal with them is inner strength”, “Gender Fluidity: a child gives birth to a mother and a father” and “Emotional insecurity and competitiveness are epidemics which have no solution.” Now, if the makers have actually taken them out of a parenting guidebook, I can’t be sure.
The moms of Mentalhood take their own sweet time in getting you interested in their stories. Like every web series of ALTBalaji, Mentalhood too keeps you waiting for it to get better. If you survive the first three below average, poorly performed episodes, you will manage to get through the rest of the episodes.
Where the show stumbles is in its performances. Karisma Kapoor and Dino Morea (playing a single parent) get better at their job with each episode. The ones who deliver the goods are Sanjay Suri, Shilpa Shukla, Tillotama Shome, Sandhya Mridul and Shruti Seth.
In all, Mentalhood is a show by mothers and for mothers. At times, it includes the perspective of fathers as well but mostly portrays them as irresponsible beings. It tries to weave in relationship struggles and identity crisis, but at its core, Mentalhood remains a show that gives lessons on good parenting.
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