Sridevi’s 300th film as an actress, ‘MOM’, directed by Ravi Udyawar and produced by Boney Kapoor, has slowly but steadily been picking up steam at the box office. It earned close to INR 20 crores domestically in its first five days, with global collections pegged at touching 40 by the end of the first week. Its budget, as was reported earlier this year, increased during production (close to 30), despite its relatively small scale and gritty template. Portions were shot in Georgia and even Bangkok. Boney Kapoor decided to ramp up the ‘look’ to make it more commercially viable despite the strong subject matter. Either way, ‘MOM’, owing to strong word-of-mouth audience reactions and decent reviews, has earned back its budget. It is now on its way to what they call the ‘sleeper hit’ category.
Here are five reasons why the relative success of ‘MOM’ shouldn’t come as a surprise to us.
The way ‘MOM’ begins, and its entire first half, is so stark and disturbing that not many of us expected it to take the path it did in its second half. It breaks genre and becomes an unabashed, filmy revenge drama. Moreover, it is led by a woman embracing the freewheeling loopholes of a theme age-old Bollywood masala flicks have long positioned. ‘MOM’ does it with a little more sophistication. Although it doesn’t offer an ideal solution or message, the film caters to the bloodlust of a country in an era where legal justice is rarely the most trustworthy resort. It shows people what they want to see, not what they need to see. It offers a dark reality wrapped in the packaging of a fantasy drama. In the end, it probably works as the kind of entertainment most of us will love in a politically incorrect year like 2017.
The Real Comeback
Sridevi made her Bollywood comeback in 2012 with Gauri Shinde’s delightful English Vinglish. This was very different from most other ex-heroines/superstars of the 80s/90s era returning with inconsistent choices. Which is why the hype around ‘MOM’ was justified, given that people now expect Sridevi to be the wisest in choosing these vehicles. Again, the 53-year-old actress didn’t let fans down, showing that she has understood the evolving landscape of Hindi cinema better than most in her time away. Irrespective of what our opinions are about the film, it is a hard-hitting one, almost unconventional for someone of her caliber.
It isn’t only Sridevi’s suitably dramatic performance as the lead, as biology teacher and stepmother-turned-vigilante Devki Sabharwal. The supporting actors – Sajal Ali as the affected daughter, and an elegant Adnan Siddiqui as the husband – are equally effective in their roles. Nawazuddin Siddiqui steals the show again as an eccentric small-time detective, while Akshaye Khanna plays an upright cop investigating the case. Even the baddies are on the ball and “look” like the worst kind of Delhiites you’d expect – the kinds that tarnish the reputation of the capital on a regular basis.
Director Ravi Udyawar shows a fair amount of skill, sense of atmosphere and craft in constructing the fear, paranoia and sheer repulsiveness of the first half. The kind of visual language he uses keeps us trapped in its world, and even contributes to our relief when the film breaks free and goes wild in the second half. He doesn’t over-use the background score or A.R. Rahman’s music. Keeping it simple and tense for most part, he lets expressions do the talking far more than needless dialogues.
History of Revenge
‘MOM’ follows in the “incorrect” tones of other anti-establishment quasi-vigilante citizen dramas like ‘A Wednesday’, ‘NH10’, and ‘Rang De Basanti’. This furthers the general illusion of injustice in a country ruled by a right-wing government prone to spreading a little fear. It’s no coincidence that more and more writers and filmmakers find themselves fashioning illogical fantasy-embracing dramas like these. It also helps the audience achieve some kind of closure in an era where redemption is a far-fetched luxury. More films like ‘MOM’ will be made over the next few years, and they will be appreciated, cheered and clapped on by viewers. This is the sign of the times we live in.