The intense thriller that releases this Friday seems all set to deconstruct the mother image sanctified by the 1957 Nargis epic.
Sridevi’s upcoming thriller, Mom, has been grabbing headlines for the choicest of reasons. It happened again recently when the Censor Board certified the film U/A without a single snip. But more than escaping the dreaded scissors of Mr Nihalani, what sent the media and fans into a choral frenzy was the high praise that the Censor Board has lavished on the film. Nihalani and Co have not only compared Sridevi’s performance to that of Nargis but also declared Mom as ‘the modern day Mother India.’
This is not the first time that the thriller’s name has been taken in the same breath as that of the iconic 1957 film. During the making of Mom, an inside source had revealed that Sridevi has never forayed into the grey-black zone as she has done in Mom and that her ferocious character in the film demystifies the relatively wholesome Mother India.
Releasing ten years after Independence, that Nargis epic had allegorised a Nehruvian nation seeking renaissance. Her character, Radha, was elevated to a goddess like persona and in the process became a metonym for the ideal woman, wife and mother. A mother who sacrifices herself for the sake of her sons. A mother who sacrifices her son for the sake of honour. In both cases, Radha never punishes the external forces of evil that harm her. It is her and her family alone that pays the price every time, perhaps echoing Gandhi’s ideologies of non-violence and non-cooperation.
Going by the harrowing trailers of Mom, Sridevi’s character, Devki, seems anything like Radha. Although cast in the same archetypal mould of a loving wife and mother, the cracks in her relationship with her step-daughter, played by Sajal Aly, are glaring. Unlike Mother India, the Mom here is battling demons within her own family. And then an external evil seems to storm in and devastate this already fragile home. While Nargis’ Radha is estranged from her husband, Sridevi’s Devki appears further distanced from her step-child post the tragedy. But while Radha chooses the path of quiet suffering, Devki obviously seems to go for chilling revenge like never before. For Radha, it’s the simpler choice between right and wrong. For Devki, it’s a more brutal new-age dilemma between wrong and very wrong.
The second trailer released recently gives us a glimpse of the horrifying vendetta wreaked by Devki in Mom. Her eyes breathing fire. Voice dripping venom. Facial muscles tightening with hatred as she hisses at one of the perpetrators, ‘Aa gayi uski Maa.’ Besides hypnotising us once again with the sheer brilliance of her legendary talent, Sridevi redefines Mother India in that one moment. She is not the one to endure misery in silence. She is the wounded tigress clawing for her pound of flesh. Both Radha and Devki challenge patriarchy. Honour remains paramount for both of them but while the former clings to it precariously, the latter wears it like an armour. While the former sustains it by killing her own blood, the latter reclaims it by making her enemies bleed. Nargis in Mother India is Goddess Durga who defends. But Sridevi in Mom is Mahakali who demolishes.
Sridevi in Mom is also metaphorical for a new India that celebrates 70 years of independence this year. A millennial India that still cherishes love and peace like every mother but can also lash out now if provoked. Can make surgical strikes. Can hang a Kasab. Hang the Nirbhaya rapists. Can look the enemy in the eye like Devki and inspire mortal fear. An India still pacifist but nor more a pushover. An India that treasures loved ones more than ever now when families are breaking and values changing. An India that must also embrace those tighter who are different from us like Devki crusading for her step-daughter.
In several interviews, Sridevi has maintained that Mother India remains her dream role. Recently she also confessed that she would love to go dark and edgy for a film. Mom seems to be the perfect amalgamation of both. Back in 86’, her snake-woman act in the blockbuster Nagina had offered her a similar visceral experience. Three decades later she no longer needs those fake blue lenses to convey terror. Sridevi has evolved into an artiste so towering that her Mom co-star, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, marvels at how her performance in this thriller is so raw and fresh despite acting for five decades. This is the central reason why Sridevi’s comeback has made history where others have petered out. By constantly venturing out of her comfort zone, the actress now challenges her own supreme craft and keeps reinventing herself.
Her co-star Akshaye Khanna has already declared that Sridevi’s iconic act in English Vinglish is not even 10% of what she has performed in Mom. We will have to wait for this Friday to witness that intense act. But for now it looks like Mom is going to be Mother India on acid!
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