There’s a tendency among films about crime against women to garner respectability by championing a cause that demands urgent attention and action. But in the absence of artistic merit, they have as much influence as slogan-bearing tees.
Kind of what goes wrong with Ashtar Sayed’s Maatr while chronicling the vengeance spree of a woman (Raveena Tandon) after she and her 12-year-old daughter are abducted and sexually attacked by a politician’s wanton son (Madhur Mittal) and his equally nefarious cronies. Wish Sayed would understand the difference between a well-meaning crusade and a well thought out one.
Maatr begins with tawdry glimpses of debauchery inside a secluded Delhi farmhouse, a foreboding sign of the brutality the afore-mentioned guys are about to commit. But the mother-daughter pair they prey on are too busy basking in their triumphs from the school’s annual day function to get a whiff of it.
I am not sure how much of it was retained in the final cut, but when it comes to censorship of rape scenes, I am not one to complain. They are inevitably exploitative and disturbing to watch.
Consequently, director Sayed’s low-angle filming of the horrific events gets an uncomfortably close view of the agony a mother and her child go through, but neglects to establish a real bond beyond superficial pleasantries.
This lapse in priorities hurts Maatr as much as its shoddy writing. A good deal of which is epitomised in Rushad Rana’s wishy-washy portrayal of an obnoxious husband snapping at his traumatised wife for her poor GPS skills and demanding sauce and seperation in the same breath. Even if he has to be portrayed in a misogynistic light, give the chap some subtext if not a more decent actor.
Maatr would like to believe its relevance comes from true events that headline news channels regularly, but its typically Bollywood tropes to attain justice modelled on the likes of Aakhri Raasta and Mohra are not half as engaging. Even in an out and out masala fare like Mohra, Suniel Shetty has to suffer the consequences of his actions.
Crammed with glaring loopholes and stupid contrivances, Maatr‘s simplistic depiction of a volatile, scarred psyche prefers to exult in unaccountable violence.
Through the course of its less-than-two-hours duration, things go from bad to ballistic.
Killing people is as easy as quashing bugs. Armed avenging angels cross heavy police bandobast as easily as getting past a circle of dandiya dancers. Cabbies partake in car chases. Gas leaks at will. Indecisive fools beg for life only to take it with their own hands. Maatr doesn’t make much sense — the hurry it wraps up in suggests it probably realises it too.
What’s unexpected though is how easy it’s on histrionics. Too bad the background score doesn’t follow this brief and comes across as jarring as much of the film’s supporting cast. To Maatr‘s advantage, the ones who matter most do well.
If Madhur Mittal is aptly repulsive, Anurag Arora plays his casehardened cop with a smidgen of humour before driving Raveena to ‘Google’ and ‘Facebook’ her way to settle scores.
A riveting combination of tough and tender, Raveena shines all the way. Her character doesn’t talk much or let on the frenzy of her heavily burdened mind. In a performance marked by amazing maturity and restraint, the actress conveys the dark, brooding and internal process of recuperating from grief and finding closure.
It’s obvious she feels strongly about Maatr‘s theme and her sturdy ambition is the only thing that holds your interest even when the film does not.