Streaming on Netflix April 15th 2022
Mothers seeking justice for their daughters has become a genre in itself. Late Sridevi’s Mom along With RaveenaTandon’s Maatr are very good examples of that. Directors Atul Mongia and Anshai Lal take this familiar premise but they still make it work. They make sure that the audiences connect emotionally with the main protagonist Sheel Chaudhary (SakshiTanwar). She is the mourning mother in search of justice. The story takes place in the labyrinthine of Lucknow over six episodes.
Wamiqa Gabbi plays the daughter Surpriya. She is a mute girl who is not just a doctor, but she also does standup comedy. She is in love with a married police officer Faroque Siddiqui (Ankur Ratan).In the very opening episode we see her being hit by a truck. Sheel is absolutely convinced that it’s a murder and not a hit and run accident. She sets out to find the killers. However, Sheel has no idea that she is going to rub shoulders with a big syndicate that takes lives each day. What starts off as a search for killers turns into a tangle of crime, more murders, corruption etc.Other important caste members include Vaibhav Raj Gupta, Raima Sen and Vivek Mushran among others.
There are many things which work for Mai. To begin with the co-directors have done a very impressive job in building up the character of Sheel. When Sheel gets into the revenge mode she doesn’t become cunning or smart overnight.
She is a woman who has not even thought of slapping a stranger let alone killing someone. Her moves at the beginning are a little foolish but sheel still makes it work.
Of course, sheel gets smarter with time, but there is a journey to the entire thing and this journey has a strong emotional connect.
The husband and the wife relationship between Sheel and Vivek Mushran’s Yash also gives the show some of its best moments. The ups and downs of their marriage particularly after the death of their daughter has been dealt with the required sensitivity. Vivek Mushran is also in good form as the husband who is facing the storms of life with a smile.
There are many subplots that the co-directors have integrated into the narrative. My most favorite of the lot is the one involving Ankur Ratan’s Faroque Siddiqui. He is a police officer who could not fit into the world of his upper class wife. He is also not successful in ensuring that Surpriya had a passage to enter his. Initially Sheel just sees him as a Muslim. But as the series progresses the dynamics between these two undergo a significant change. Both of them realize that they are living in a very complex space grappling with many inner demons. He along with Wamiqa Gabi give arresting performances in their respective parts.
The biggest reason why the series works though is the conviction that Sakshi Tanwar brings in. She embodies the various aspects of her character without missing a single beat. The guilt, grief, anger, vengeance and the softness of being a mother to a dead child is all brought out superbly by the actress. She constantly osculates between being a homemaker and a badass woman who is on the quest of finding her daughter’s killers. This juggling act majorly works because of Sakshi Tanwar’s performance. This series should do what Aarya web series did for Sushmita Sen.
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DOP Ravi Kiran’s work is another big plus for the series. He captures the three distinct landscapes of Lucknow without much effort. The three distinct landscapes here are the elite, middleclass and slum dwellers. Ravi Kiran had earlier worked on a classic like Sairat and you can see a bit of that perspective.
There are some things which stick out like a sore thumb in this series. One among them is Raima Sen’s character and performance. The character is sketchily etched and Raima’s stone faced act doesn’t exactly help the cause either. She is not able to muster up the deadliness which is required.
The story also ends up being convenient at certain junctures. Sheel is always there at the right time and that sometimes looks odd. Also the percentage of family scenes could have more.
All said and done Mai is a haunting series that is going to stay with you.