Take a base of Baghban, add a generous portion of Alzheimer’s and bring in a respected singer to act and what you have is what ‘Mai’ could have been - nothing amazing, but fairly relatable.
But half an hour into the movie, it was clear that poor acting, unnatural reactions and a painfully drawn out storyline makes the movie yet another soppy amalgamation of words and scenes. But for a movie that follows a predictable storyline, the real attraction was always going to be the legendary singer Asha Bhosle’s acting as the Alzheimer-struck ‘Mai’ (mother), a widow who now depends on her children and lives with them.
In her one-off stint, Asha hasn’t quite disgraced herself. Her acting is patchy and unconvincing at times, but nonetheless she just about pulls off the role of an old mother-of-four who’s suffering from a steadily worsening illness. The constant whining and complaining is probably in keeping with her character but it comes across as rather annoying, especially given the lethargic pace at which the movie progresses.
The movie begins with Mai’s favourite son, Munna, palming off the responsibility of taking care of his increasingly forgetful mother because he’s got a job abroad. His three sisters veto his decision to put her in a care home and idealistic Madhu, played by Asha’s real-life niece Padmini Kolhapuri, decides to take her in, in spite of her husband’s strong objections and her daughter’s firm refusal to ‘adjust’.
The movie moves along predictable lines with the ‘modern’ daughter’s discomfort and annoyance, the husband’s lack of ease with his mother-in-law and Madhu’s struggle in coping with a job and trying to take care of her ailing mother.
The movie drags on painfully, trying to force sentimentalism down your throat with a mixture of melancholic chords playing in the background, unnaturally rude behaviour by people around the Alzheimer affected mother and soppy, old fashioned, poorly delivered tears.
The songs drag the movie on even slower and what could’ve been a poignant 15-minute featurette is stretched past its point of elasticity, converting it into a 105 minute movie.
Portions of it were less interesting and gripping than a medical documentary on Alzheimer’s and the dim-lighting and shadowy shots, mixed with some utterly random cinematography, meant there was little to keep you from grabbing your popcorn and heading home.
Ram Kapoor’s acting as the miffed husband and doting dad was a positive, but his potential was left unused as director Mahesh Kodiyal failed to push his character to its potential. His journalism avatar is unconvincing and if he gets journalism awards for that much work, we are working way too hard!
The rest of the cast, barring Anupam Kher’s little cameo, ranged between mediocre and poor, and the storylines and character development didn’t do them any favours either.
There are barely a couple of ‘twists’, as it were, throughout the movie and even those are ill-explained and shabbily handled. For a movie with such a slow pace, the ending is rather quick and feels almost bundled up.
Flaws of logic abound as well, giving it an even less relatable feel. Why, for instance, does Charu, the hep regular modern teenager, have a double-bed in her very own room? How does the probing, award-winning journalist Subhash not guess that Mai’s behaviour is a mental illness, if not Alzheimer’s, instead of attributing it to her being strange and annoying?
Well, on the whole, it’s a dull, dragged-out cliché with a point that seems to falter in the way the movie winds down. The end also leaves a lot of loose ends, be it about Madhu’s career or Munna’s life. At least they get the Alzheimer’s symptoms and reactions right and Asha Bhosle seems to just about manage portraying that adequately.
Skip the movie unless you really want to watch Asha Bhosle’s one-off acting stint. I’ll give this one a largely generous 2 stars, primarily because I learnt a lot about Alzheimer’s through it.