It is the sepia-toned dustiness of small town India, the evening chai in a metal cup, the oppressing heat of the Indian summer. It is the delicate twirl of a soft-handed mother’s sari, the bindi on her forehead, the carefully tended to plants in a house that looks like it’s been put together as an afterthought of an artist who knows the method to his own madness.
Mai, streaming on Netflix, is gentle, it is tender and it is a show that breathes vulnerability into every aspect of itself - from the scenes to the themes and to the writing and acting.
Mai is not for the faint hearted though, and be prepared for tears and a heavy heart. This is not your laid- back weekend binge, but it is extremely addictive and watchable.
Mai is the story of a mother who, after the death of her mute daughter, who is quite literally and symbolically silenced in life, sets out to uncover the truth of why her daughter was suffering and what led to her death. It is a quick moving, fast-paced story written at break-neck speed, for before you can recover from the shocking and strange thing of the previous scene, something more absurd has already occurred.
An everyday Indian mom, sari clad and dinner ready, careful of her husband’s blood sugar and daughter's moods, she is now thrown into a seedy world of medical frauds, gangsters and hardened criminals. What was it that her daughter had gotten mixed up and how and why did she end up dying?
Mai is a thriller, a mystery and a revenge story all wrapped into one and while we have seen this mother taking revenge trope before, Sakshi Tanwar lends to this role something which is difficult to put into words. For all those who are emotionally fairly fragile, a word of caution, watching Sakshi Tanwar cry as a helpless, lost and grieving mother while pretty much doing undercover detective work on her own, is heartbreaking.
For a show that that starts on a high note and gets a little muddled in the later episodes, something Netflix India’s shows tend to do quite frequently, this one is redeemed and reaches the finish line fairly strongly on the shoulders of Sakshi Tanwar.
Sakshi is a class apart and, much like Shefali Shah, an underrated and under-utilised gem. Other actors in the cast have also done a spot-on job, each person lending a unique voice to their characters.
The set design, costumes and even music make the whole thing believable and palpable. The universe is well-established, and not for a moment do we doubt this reality. If one had to show the face of God is a woman, it would be Sakshi Tanwar’s role in this show. The story loses its edge a few episodes in and starts running to popular, established and weak stereotypes and tropes, but does so in a way that is still subtle enough that for the most part it is forgiven. What would have made the story tighter and less bumpy would have been perhaps a few episodes less and a few sub plots less but nevertheless, Mai is a definite watch if you want something engaging and emotionally demanding. This is not white noise that can run in the back with little to nothing happening, something to just fill the silences. Mai demands your attention and your emotional involvement. If ready for the tears and emotional investment, it is a fairly rewarding but draining experience and it is one of Netflix India’s most engaging recent additions to their platform.
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