As Maja Ma progresses, its depiction of the American accent isn’t the only thing that irks you. And trust me there is a lot of that. Director Anand Tiwari, after his explorations on love, modern thinking and traditional values in the backdrop of classical music in Bandish Bandits, comes up with explorations on love, modern thinking and traditional values in the backdrop of Garba, which could have been more. The film only livens up when Madhuri appears on the screen, dancing. Rest of the time you are just waiting for Ayushmann Khurrana to make a guest appearance.
Ritwik Bhowmik is Tejas Patel, an NRI dikro who falls in love with (oh so American) Esha Hansraj (Barkha Singh). Her ‘millionaire type’ family consists of Pam Hansraj (Sheeba Chaddha), who is trying her level best to please her accent coach, and Bob Hansraj (Rajit Kapoor) who probably watches Meet the Parents (2000) every night in his man cave. Merely 15 minutes into the film, Tejas is made to undergo a polygraph test by Esha’s parents, because what if he is a gold-digger? Turns out he is not, but he surely is madly in love to marry into that. There is another ‘condition’: Esha’s parents want to meet Tejas’. Enter the Patels. Madhuri Dixit as Pallavi, Srishti Shrivastava as Tara and Gajraj Rao as Manohar.
All is well (except Gajraj’s Manohar, not understanding the meaning of the word, proudly calls his whole family virgin) till a video shows Pallavi, irritated with Srishti’s constant bickering on LGBTQIA+ rights, admits (spoiler alert!) that she is a lesbian. The NRIs will take none of that because well, this is not the India they left for the American dream. Where is the regressive ‘sanskar’?
Once the cat is out of the bag, Maja Ma traverses on a familiar path. Tejas, who considers Pallavi as a mother on odd days and god on even, is devastated. Ritwik plays the part well but he has nothing much to do, except blame his sister Tara for putting ‘all this’ in her mind. Srishti as Tara acts somewhat similar to her role in Gulabo Sitabo. She is the family rebel, unable to apply her feminist theories in a traditional household. Gajraj Rao as Manohar again plays the misfit father unable to deal with the changing world but manages to score some laughs. Everything is so by the book it becomes a drag.
Maja Ma feels like a futile exercise to cash in on the ‘progressive’ bandwagon of small-town family comedies. The screenplay at various intervals struggles to find the next big thing to happen. After the revelation, the characters are almost forced to come of age. The Gujarati backdrop serves as an aesthetic tool and nothing more. The progressiveness is also blotted at various points. Sample this scene where Madhuri undergoes the polygraph test to prove the ‘purity’ of her sexuality to the heteronormative NRIs.
She passes the test and when Tejas asks her how she did it, she replies “They asked the wrong questions. They asked me if I ever had sex with a woman. Instead, they should have asked me if I ever loved one, I would have happily failed.” Um, that’s not, well, never mind.
Starring: Madhuri Dixit, Gajraj Rao, Srishti Shrivastava, Ritwik Bhowmik, Sheeba Chaddha
Streaming on: Prime Video
Directed by: Anand Tiwari
Rating: 2/5 stars
(This story originally appeared on Cinema Express)