When I was called for a special screening of KM Sarjun’s next short film Maa, I knew there would be something to write about. Forget the name he has earned through his controversial short-film Lakshmi. There was subtlety in Sarjun’s writing that made me look forward to watching Maa. And, I wasn’t disappointed. A film on a sensitive subject, Maa definitely gives us lots of material to introspect and contemplate.
Revolving around teenage pregnancy, Maa centres on the relationship between the mother (a brilliant Kani Kusruti) and her daughter (an equally good Anikha). It is commendable that an actress of her age, has chosen such an unconventional role (or in reviewer’s parlance, a bold role.). I remember watching Kani Kusruti in the controversial Memories of Machine and being engrossed with the childlike innocence in her portrayal. Personally, it felt like a transformation for me to watch her in Maa. As the concerned, conflicted and sensible mother, Kusruti gives a performance that steals the show.
There were several moments and lines that touched me personally. As a young girl growing up, there have been several times where I have asked my mother about the ‘unfairness’ of the woman’s anatomy. “Why is it that only women suffer every month? Why is it that only our bodies are put through the physical struggle that is pregnancy?” I remember receiving an indulgent smile as she listened to her young daughter ramble. I have a better comprehension of how things are now, but several lines made me revisit those days where I was shocked of the ‘unfairness’ it all. When Kusruti says, “Thappu yaru panalum kadasila kashtam unakum enakum than, (No matter who commits a mistake, only you and I face the consequences.)”, I was reminded of my own mother. This isn’t about equality or feminism, but about facing things as they are.
However, it doesn’t mean that I didn’t have qualms about the film. I found the inconsistent tone of the frames a tad distractive. The ‘message card’ at the end was unnecessary. But I am willing to let go of all this for Sarjun’s treatment of the issue. Instead of pointing fingers, the film only reinforces the need for proper sexual education in our country; the need for a sensible conversation about love and sex. This is why Sarjun’s movie is a film that we need to watch, despite the pandora box of debates it might open.
Maa is a short film that is backed by Gautham Vasudev Menon’s Ondraga Entertainment. The film will be publicly available on the company’s YouTube channel on January 27, 2018.