This Article is From Jul 06, 2017

Shobhaa De Reviews Sridevi, 'MOM' - And Boney Kapoor

Sridevi has a problem. Sridevi has always had this problem: she is a bit too talented for her own good. While lesser beings get away with chalega performances, we demand a mega-act from Sri every time. For when it is a "Sridevi film" we are talking about, the pressure on Sri to dominate and eat up the screen is non-negotiable. I feel very protective towards Sridevi. Which is kinda stupid. She doesn't require my protection. Sridevi is a strong and determined woman, and not the simpering simpleton she publicly projects. Sri is powerful enough to consciously choose to hide behind a wall. In the old days, that wall had a name. And that wall was a person - her own mom. Sridevi was like a ventriloquist's dummy back then. Her standard, mechanical response to any question was a nervous, "Ask Mummy." Today, her wall has a new name - Boney Kapoor.

I had half-expected Sri's old line would change to "Ask Boney'' after she married the burly and affable Boney Kapoor, the producer of her latest movie outing, MOM. Surprise! Surprise! That didn't happen. It wasn't required. Because with Burly Boney around, folks just stopped asking Sridevi any questions -they addressed them directly to Boney. This obviously worked for the reticent Sri, who preferred to stay in his shadow - literally - clad in top-to-toe designer gear. Boney, on his part, had hearts oozing out of his eyes and skin pores, just standing next to his beauteous, stately biwi. Sri recently confessed she fell for Boney after her mother died, and today Boney happily plays the multiple parts he was born for: Sridevi's adoring husband, mother, father, brother, sister and friend. Have I left out any category?

Soon after the stupendous and well-deserved success of Gauri Shinde's English Vinglish in which Sridevi glowed like an entire galaxy wildly ablaze, I ran into her at a dinner party and offered her entirely unsolicited advice. I told her to hire a sharp manager and fire Boney. She was so taken aback, she broke into a fit of uncontrollable giggles. I meant it. The world of Bollywoood has changed dramatically during the past ten years. Sridevi could have cashed in on her unalloyed English Vinglish success by getting a smart kid on board to manage her career. It's one thing to have a besotted husband playing that role. Quite another to work with a 20-something smarty pants pitching for endorsements and appearances in return for big, fat fees. Yes, it's called hustling. And it is the name of the game that has made millionaires of far lesser stars than our Sridevi. With one of those pushing her brand, Sridevi would also have minted.

Which is also one of the reasons I feel MOM could have been a far superior film had it been made by an independent producer. This MOM works more like a mom-and-pop labour of love, with Sridevi in virtually every frame, shot in deadly close-ups, sans make-up. Brave. There is also the question of the rest of the team working with a legendary mega-star on a project produced by her crazy-in-love husband! Come on, she becomes as much the boss' wife as a co-star. Despite that, and the fact the movie is shot in 90s style, minus the slickness audiences today take so much for granted, MOM works, albeit somewhat shakily. The opening sequences are disastrous and amateurish, with Sri playing a biology teacher. It jerkily gets going when Sajal Ali,the talented young actor from Pakistan , playing the teenage Arya, her surly step-daughter, comes into her own effortlessly to hog a few key scenes. Adnan Siddiqui, also from Pakistan, as Sridevi's befuddled but supportive husband, looks too overawed by Sri to venture into anything more touchy-feely than a chaste side-hug, and a brotherly peck on the cheek, during their few "intimate" moments!

For me, the real scene stealer was Akshaye Khanna. His "cool cop" turn made me wonder why we see so little of this polished, nuanced actor.

MOM will work for the same reason we love any and every Mere Paas Ma Hai movie. It's time to make "DAD".

(Shobhaa De is an established writer, columnist, opinion shaper and social commentator, who is considered an authority on popular culture.)

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