'Maja Ma' Review: We Need More Madhuri Dixit and More Simone Singh
'Maja Ma', starring Madhuri Dixit and Sheeba Chaddha and Ritwik Bhowmik, is directed by Anand Tiwari.
Maja Ma tells the story of Pallavi (Madhuri Dixit), a woman widely popular in her society (enough to make her husband win society elections). A mother of two, she must grapple with being outed while trying to come in terms with her sexuality.
Her family consists of her husband Manohar (Gajraj Rao) and her kids Tara (Srishti Shrivastava) and Tejas (Ritwik Bhowmik).
The kids' reactions to their mother's sexuality are drastically different - Tejas is worried it'll destroy his 'reputation' and Tara wants her mother to just 'come out already'.
To its credit, Maja Ma attempts to challenge how both the approaches are wrong, with both of them forgetting that the situation is about Pallavi.
But Madhuri Dixit doesn't. With every scene she's given, she outperforms everyone around her except Simone Singh (Kanchan), who is a delight to watch.
Both Dixit and Singh have amazing chemistry as actors and it does wonders for a half-baked script. After the 134-minute runtime, I only wanted more of these two actors on screen.
Sheeba Chaddha and Rajit Kapoor play Pam and Bob, Tejas' would-be in-laws. Their fake accents are hilarious but not that jarring (perhaps because they're both fabulous actors).
They're established as extremely regressive characters (I'd be upset but the man follows Trump, so…) but their daughter Esha (Barkha Singh) 'loves them anyway'.
If their characters had more dimension, they'd be more memorable but all three do the best with what is given to them.
Debojeet Rey's cinematography heavily used close-ups, even when they're not necessary but the way he frames every shot makes up for it.
Appropriate wide angled shots with magnificent art design and use of colour make some of the scenes as effective as they need to be.
A scene where Dixit and Singh's characters are sitting in their respective rooms in front of the mirror is one such example.
Maja Ma is trying to tackle a lot - homophobia, how people view queer lives purely through the lens of 'sex', the sheer danger queer people face every day, and how difficult accepting one's identity can be.
But alas, the film, directed by Anand Tiwari and written by Sumit Batheja isn't mature enough to tackle the questions.
It oscillates between offensive dialogues and sensitivity so often that it'll cause whiplash. The film's insistence on letting the lesbian characters (and even for consistently using the term instead of leaving it ambiguous) feel queer joy is a respite.
Maja Ma spends too much time on unnecessary gags instead of fully achieving its aim. Instead what we have is a queer film with a lot of potential but little execution to support it.
The film isn't a complete loss (though cutting out the 'America' song would've done wonders). But we can do better, much better - for one, write better dialogues.
There's a way to portray homophobia without relying on the crassest versions possible (as several shows like A League of Their Own and One Day at a Time have done).
It might not be having all the right conversations but it might start some.
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