Maja Ma is good in parts, but title is complete misnomer

Madhuri Dixit Nene in a dance sequence in Maja Ma. Photo: Amazon Prime Video

I must laud one aspect of Anand Tiwari’s direction: the emotional sequences are kept on a tight leash without going into over-the-top zones. And to hold the reins so that Sumet Bhateja, writer of Jug Jugg Jeeyo, is controlled is not just a tough but a commendable task, given his predilection in that film. Sumet seems to make a special business out of troubled middle-aged spouses—in this film, it is the Gujarati middle-class mother, and in that movie, it was the overloud Punjabi father who wants to divorce his wife. The Gujarati ambience and culture are all authentically provided, included the production design and costumes, without going overboard.

But Maja Ma (In good fun) has a misnomer of a title—the film is not about fun or a family having a good time. In fact, trouble begins when Tejas Patel (Ritwik Bhowmik), who studies in the US, is made to face a polygraph test (!!!) to prove his love for Esha Hansraj (Barkha Singh), whose Indian-American politician father, Bob (Rajit Kapur) wants to ensure Tejas is not after his wealth. When Tejas passes the test, Bob wants to see his family as well and they come down to Ahmedabad.

The Patels are well-respected in the area, with Tejas’ mother, Pallavi (Madhuri Dixit-Nene) and father, Manohar (Gajraj Rao) having their own areas of popularity—Pallavi for her dance and general persona and Manohar as he is running for a key post in the residential complex elections. Their daughter, Tara (Srishti Shrivastava) is a LGBTQA+ activist and is a fiery woman who is often at odds with Tejas.

Their neighborhood moppet, Kinjal ( Khushi Hajare) is fond of shooting (candid) videos of people in conversation, and no one knows when she shoots a fiery argument between Tara and her mother. The neighborhood troublemaker and Manohar’s potential rival, Viral (Kavin Dave) gets hold of it and maliciously not only makes it go viral but also shows it publicly at a society dance show during Navaratri.

Life goes for a toss for the family, which has just charmed Kavin’s in-laws who are also present, for in the video, Pallavi has blurted out that she has always been a lesbian. And the Hansraj family, despite living in the US, is hopelessly orthodox, ever thinking of their standing back home and even believing that women who have their periods need to be isolated during that phase!

So is Pallavi’s lesbian orientation the truth? Tejas’ matrimonial future lies in the answer, despite Esha’s firm support to Tejas and his clan. And Pallavi gets desperate as her husband and son and even her progressive daughter, to an extent, turn almost against her as days go by.

Anand Tiwari, who brilliantly handled the Indo-Western music clash in Bandish Bandits, deals with the story here with similar acumen, but can be faulted for approving a script that is weak in many ways. Though the individual sequences are beautifully done, like the sequence in the cable car between Pallavi, Bob’s wife Pam (Sheeba Chaddha) and the Patels’ relative, Kanchan (Simone Singh), we have some unanswered questions that I sadly cannot reveal as they would be spoilers.

The film gets a major boost from all the performers, though Rajit Kapur and Sheeba Chaddha are made intentionally caricature like, but these two accomplished actors still manage to do a good job as per the roles written for them.

Standing tall in this department is Madhuri Dixit-Nene, of course, as the protagonist who has given so much to her family and becomes victim to orthodox thinking and patriarchal societal norms. Her 1000-watt smile continues to illuminate many a frame and sequence, and she is magnificent in the serious realms of the film, with a studied underdone pathos that underlines her expressions.

Gajraj Rao is perfectly and consistently low-key, and provides the perfect contrast. His sequence at the chemist’s shop and his final, determined stance at a society meeting are just two highlights of a steadily consummate performance.

Srishti Shrivastava is the third topper in this film. She is supremely in sync with her fireball character that is like a coconut, hard outside and soft within. Here is a power bank of acting who needs constant great roles of this level and higher. Ritwik Bhowmik is sincere but does not rise above the inconsistent way in which his character has been defined. Kavin Dave is clichéd, and Simone Singh shines in the cable-car sequence. The rest of the cast is okay, though Ivanka Das stands out in a brief role as Komal.

As per the “needs” of OTT, a few expletives find their way in, but they do not distract. Technically adequate, Maja Ma has decent background music (Souumil Shringarpure). The songs fail to make a mark, though Boom padi (composed by him with Siddharth Mahadevan) is too convoluted as a tune to appeal.

This is average fare at best, and in that sense, disappoints as a Madhuri vehicle. The actress, in Hindi cinema, remains fortunately still relevant, though after her comeback, her only worthwhile lead film in totality has been the delightful caper, Total Dhamaal. The rest have been found woefully wanting in content as well as overall appeal.

Rating: **1/2

Amazon Prime Video presents Leo Media Collective’s Maja Ma Produced by: Amritpal Singh Bindra  Directed by: Anand Tiwari  Written by: Sumet Batheja Music: Souumil Shringarpure, Siddharth Mahadevan & Anurag Sharma Starring: Madhuri Dixit Nene, Gajraj Rao, Ritwik Bhoumik, Barkha Singh, Srishti Shrivastava, Sheeba Chaddha, Rajit Kapur, Simone Singh, Ninad Kamat, Malhar Thakar, Kavin Dave, J. Brandon Hill, Shruta Rawat, Ivanka Das, Khushi Hajare & others




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