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Solid performances let down by a weak script Starring: Madhuri Dixit, Gajraj Rao, Ritwik Bhowmick, Barkha Singh, Sheeba Chaddha, Rajit Kap...

Solid performances let down by a weak script

Starring: Madhuri Dixit, Gajraj Rao, Ritwik Bhowmick, Barkha Singh, Sheeba Chaddha, Rajit Kapoor, Simone Singh, Ninad Kamat, and Srishti Srivastava

Rating: 2.5*

Streaming on: Amazon Prime

When Madhuri Dixit’s Pallavi is subjected to a lie detector test to confirm whether she is a lesbian or not, she asks Rajit Kapoor’s Bob Hansraj a very pertinent question: What do you mean by being lesbian? Later when her son asks her how she aced the test she replies, “They asked all the wrong questions.” Well watching “Maja Ma” has you feeling the same. A unique concept but executed rather clumsily for this first-ever Amazon Original Indian film.

Life is perfect for the Patel family in Ahmedabad. Pallavi (Madhuri) is the life and soul of her community, the perfect housewife with a doting husband Manohar (Gajraj), a straight social activist daughter Tara ( Srishti) who is hell-bent on giving the LGBTQ+ community their rights, and a son Jas (Ritwik) who is living the American dream, in love with a richy rich Indian-American girl Esha (Barkha Singh in Manhattan. After passing the grilling tests his hoity-toity would-be in-laws Bob (Rajit Kapoor) and Pam (Sheeba Chaddha) subject him to, the Hansrajs next decide to come down to India to check out their would-be samdhans.

All hell breaks loose when a video of Pallavi and Srishti having an argument over gender issues and Madhuri blurting out impulsively that she’s a lesbian becomes viral and that too in front of the entire locality and the visiting in-laws.

It’s not that lesbian issues haven’t been addressed earlier by Bollywood. Unfortunately those films end up being controversial and even banned (Fire) for being un-Indian. More often than not it’s a means to titillate the audience (Girlfriend) or treated so gingerly that the message gets lost (Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga).

The issue here is not whether she is lesbian or not. It’s the way equations change. The community ostracizes her just on the basis of a viral video. The family goes to extremes - the daughter literally pounces on the mother eager for her to come out of her closet. The husband looks lost. The son goes a step further and takes her to an ojha to drive the “gayness” out of her. The in-laws threaten to call off the marriage and force her to undergo a lie detector test. Yes, the same test to check whether the son-in-law was pure and a virgin.

What galls are the cliches and there are so many of them. Sheeba and Rajit are great actors but that American accent of theirs? The characters of Bob and Pam are downright obnoxious and insufferable but their phony accents take the cake as the worst ever in a Hindi film! Madhuri’s own reaction to her 30-year-old secret tumbling out too is rather muted and when the object of her affection (a gorgeous Simone Singh) comes visiting she barely moves a facial muscle. Giving Simone cancer is another done-to-death gimmick the director Anand Tiwari resorts to. The film winds up without actually going deep enough to address the issues of gender orientation, just skimming the surface as it were, to avoid upsetting the apple cart.

What elevates the film are the solid performances. Madhuri is bewitching as the troubled housewife handling her role with ease alongside showcasing her dancing prowess in the many Garba sequences. Gajraj Rao is dependable as always. Ritwik is charming with Barkha Singh lending sweet support.

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