Maa (The Mother) is a courageous attempt to deal with female subjugation and poverty in Indian society.
Maa (The Mother) is dissatisfying, not because it is a bad film, but because it is astonishingly too short. Criticising a short film for being such is a bit like blaming the zebra for his stripes but in this case there was not enough screen time to identify with these characters and the story might have worked better as a feature.
Based on actual events witnessed by the film’s director Maa (The Mother) is a courageous attempt to deal with female subjugation and poverty in Indian society. The film follows the impoverished Gummeto (played by Mandeeep Ghaj), the “mother” of the title. Trying to make ends meet for herself and her husband, she works as a housemaid but finds her every attempt thwarted by either her brutal landlady or society at large. Her struggle eventually culminate in a brutal attack.
The title is slightly misleading in that she isn’t yet a mother, but it is this hope of hers to become one that is her driving force. It also loosely refers to the “Maa Shakti” – Mother Goddess prevalent in Indian culture.
Although the film effectively highlights the underbelly of Indian society, it falls short as a truly powerful piece due to length constrictions, some almost caricatured performances and an a distracting and over weighty score, which distracts from rather than supports the onscreen events. Some moments of silence would be appreciated to let the nature of the scenes settle in your mind. There are some standout performances that come from Vansh Bharadwaj, who excels as the challenging and emotional role of Shindu and a surprising Jolly Kang, in a smaller role. Kang proves an absolute natural in front of the camera and is possessed with a magnetic presence.
Vicky Ghai’s cinematography is simply breathtaking with wide-angle tracking shots and low-key lighting giving a sense of wonder as well as observation to the story. Indian native, but Australian based director Guralambir Singh (Alex), has a distinct style and sensitivity to his work. He has already developed a signature move of placing his protagonists in the rain at some point in each of his films or screenplays - a poignant image. He shows great promise as a director and I look forward to watching his development. Maa (The Mother) is a worthy and fascinating screen debut by this enterprising young director.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Maa (The Mother)
Writen, directed and produced by Guralambir Singh (Alex)
INDIA, 2013, 18:30min
Australian Centre of Moving Image
From 12 October