Mom is a pretty straightforward vigilante film that holds your attention till the halfway mark. That first hour or so is well done, with the alpha male ambience of Delhi’s cruising party class etched neatly. A teenaged girl called Arya goes to a Valentine’s Day party at a farmhouse in Delhi. A group of regulars in a corner are busy snorting away, till one of them recognizes her as the daughter of a teacher he has had some disciplinary issues with. She once tossed his cell phone out of the classroom window. Fueled by anger more than erotic desire, he approaches her and is dismissed as some sort of creep. His much amused buddy tells him to ‘learn from the best’ and tries to pick her up himself, only to be insulted too. So the group wait for their moment and grab her as she goes out to take a call, push her into a car and drive around Delhi taking turns to beat and rape her.
The link between male sexuality and barely concealed violence, as embedded within the entitled and the privileged in the Capital City, is so ubiquitous in popular imagery that it has now become a virtual calling card for fiction set in Delhi. The casting of the men, the camera angles from which the cruising car in the dead of the night is shot, the ominous background score to the encounter, the contemptuous violence in the act of flinging the girl out of the vehicle after she has been taught a lesson; all this is exceptionally well directed, as is the nonchalance with which daily life resumes for the men, while the girl lies incapacitated in the I.C.U.
The subsequent scenes at the seedy courthouse where the men, arrested thanks to a meticulous Crime Branch Police officer called Mathew Francis (Akshaye Khanna), look authentic. As does the inability of the prosecution to gather circumstantial evidence to convict the gang. What follows, naturally, is a travesty of justice and Arya (Sajal Ali) is left to go home from hospital, battered and bruised, scarred from within. She locks herself up in a room and withdraws from all social contact.
Which is when Nawazuddin Siddiqui as the private detective, DK, starts helping Mom out with her housecleaning operations. Mummy (Sridevi) is a terrific housekeeper but needs occasional help to pick up the groceries. The two meet secretly in heritage buildings and art galleries, where DK struggles to understand the meaning of modern art. He sees a canvas painted in red, touched up with a little white, and is told by the curator that it has been sold for 50 lakhs. At which stage he looks truly shocked, and seems to ponder on his own fate as a lowly private detective.
Always a delight to watch, Nawazuddin’s quirky persona is somewhat marred by the terrible hair-do he is given, but he is still the most engaging character in the movie. He takes your mind off the grizzly vigilante violence that occupies the second part of the movie. These scenes are on the lines of na rahega baans, na bajegi basuri (without a flute there is no flutist), and interpreted in the popular imagination as rudimentary justice for a rapist.
Sridevi’s Mom starts off interestingly as she plays a rejected step-mom to a teenage daughter with hormone issues, but her character becomes very one dimensional as the film progresses. This decline follows the trajectory of the movie, which begins in an open ended manner, but ends up as a good old fashioned revenge drama.