A family drama with a unique twist

STORY: Pallavi, a devoted housewife and a doting mother, is faced with buried truths from her past. The narrative revolves around how she embraces certain realities, pivotal to her personality and sense of self, and its impact on her near and dear ones.

REVIEW: Pallavi Patel (Madhuri Dixit), is a graceful dancer, a dutiful wife and an extremely dedicated mother. Her son Tejas, while pursuing a career in the US, falls in love with an NRI Punjabi girl, Esha (Barkha Singh). Despite doubt and hesitation, her parents, Pam and Bob (Sheeba Chadha and Rajit Kapoor), agree to the match and decide to meet Pallavi and her husband Manohar (Gajraj Rao). The situation turns on its head when a nasty rumour about Pallavi spreads like wildfire and puts her son’s engagement in the dock. What transpires after that changes everyone’s course of life forever.

Writer Sumit Batheja and director Anand Tiwari display a unique approach while narrating a story about two lesbian lovers who come out to their families 30 years into their marriages. Without using any sexual innuendos or below-the-belt jokes and gags, the duo comes up with a competent narrative that feels extremely relatable and easy on the senses. The dialogues are on point – not too dramatic and not cut and dry. The film makes a conscious effort to navigate the internal conflicts that various characters feel, with Pallavi’s sudden revelation, with care and sensitivity. The difficulty that Tara and Tejas feel while trying to accept their mother’s sexual preference, gender dynamics, the absence of sex in marriages, social and cultural conditioning of families and individuals, and Pallavi’s dilemma that pulls her into numerous directions at all times are just some of the lanes that the film meanders in.

But in recent times, one has seen several stories about individuals coming out to their loved ones and finding gradual acceptance (Bai, Modern Love – Mumbai on the same platform). The conversation here could have easily gone beyond that; there was scope for it. The film has a large number of elements that are applaudable, but there’s still something that feels amiss at the end. Probably, it’s the conveniences used, and a happy-in-the-hood kind of an ending for Pallavi and her lover, Kanchan (Simone Singh). A more realistic conclusion would have elevated the material way more. Also, the pace of the film feels incredibly slow on several occasions which should have been looked into more carefully.

The film has a beautiful setting and blends in the vibrancy of Gujarat during Navratri really well. The camerawork is neat. The dress department makes every character look striking – several times even when it’s not needed in a scene. The music is strictly okay.

The film puts the spotlight on Madhuri Dixit, almost entirely. And she delivers a confident and lived-in performance. Her ability to emote with her eyes and her expressions is beautiful. Gajraj Rao effortlessly plays Manohar; he’s extremely likable and cool. Ritwik Bhowmik as Tejas, and Srishti Shrivastava as Tara pick up the emotional beats of their characters well. Simone, Rajit, Sheeba, Barkha and Ninad needed some more heft to their characters. Rajit, Sheeba and Barkha’s accents don’t create the right effect but their effort to get in sync with the material is evident.

All in all, ‘Maja Ma’ is a cool family watch, which feels very relatable, at times in ways that can difficult to put into words.

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