Like her Netflix series ‘The Fame Game’, 2022 Amazon Prime video’s ‘Maja Ma’ is engaging largely due to Madhuri Dixit’s dazzling persona and poignant performance. Directed by Anand Tiwari and written by Sumit Batheja, the film follows the trials of a middle-class Gujrati family when their son decides to marry a wealthy NRI girl.
Madhuri and Gajraj Rao play Pallavi and Manohar Patel, who are perfectly content with their simple life. Their son Tejas (Ritwick Bhowmick) is set to be married to his girlfriend Esha (Barkha Singh), whose parents Bob and Pam Hansraj (Rajit Kapoor and Sheeba Chaddha) are obnoxiously arrogant about their high status. While the families start off on an amicable note in their first meet, a rumor about Pallavi threatens to jeopardize her son’s engagement to Esha.
What stands out best in ‘Maja Ma’ are the colorful vibrant sets, since the story unfolds during the festive season, viewers get a lovely slice of culture, costumes and Gujarati food through the runtime. However, the music is forgettable and the writing needed a lot more fine-tuning. The first major twist in the tale unfolds with such poorly written dialogues that my first instinct was to stop watching the film altogether. But Madhuri compels you to watch on, and the other actors are engaging too, even though most of them border on being either unrealistic or stereotypical.
Gajraj Rao was almost wasted in the film, he plays the typical amicable Gujarati dad (tailored on the lines of characters from popular Hindi series ‘Khichdi’) – he doesn’t understand English and takes tips for his marital life as if he is a clueless young groom. The Patel siblings on the other hand make an interesting case study for how two children from the same family can be a world apart from each other. The feisty Srishti Shrivastava plays Pallavi’s older daughter Tara, an outspoken LGBTQ+ rights activist pursuing a PhD in Gender Studies. Ironically it’s Ritwick Bhowmick’s Tejas, who despite staying in the U.S, is a lot more conservative and regressive in his outlook. Simone Singh has a small but important cameo and matches Madhuri’s charisma with gusto.
‘Maja Ma’ is basically like an Ayushman Khurrana film, it picks up a taboo topic and wraps it up in a nice family entertainer package that should woo a lot of viewers. Madhuri Dixit is gracefully vulnerable and endearing as Pallavi, representational of all those women and men who’ve had to let go of their identities, dreams, desires to fit into the role of an ideal family member. Too bad the script gets muddled and hurriedly attempts to resolve the complex issues facing the Patel family. Instead, the makers should’ve trimmed some songs and comedic scenes (which weren’t funny), to make way for a more sensible climax.
On the surface, the film ends on a ‘happy’ not. Perhaps for the rarely explored issues it explores, ‘Maja Ma’ is a laudable attempt. It’s a 7/10 from me.
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