The trend of well-meaning but heavy-handed and ineffective women empowerment film continues – last week it was Begum Jaan. This week it's Maatr.
Maatr is the story of a New Delhi school teacher who turns into an avenging angel – she and her daughter are gang-raped after Vidya takes a wrong turn on the highway. The perpetrators have connections. The cops are callous. She has no option but to pick up the gun herself. A lone woman wrecks havoc on the system.
This might have worked as a satisfying revenge fantasy if the script by Michael Pellicohad a smidgen of freshness. But there isn't a moment here that you haven't seen before – the grotesque, entitled politician's son and his goon friends, the cops who advise the victims to stay silent, Delhi depicted as a terrifying metropolis where women – old and young – are fodder for brutal males.
Yes one thing was new – the character of Vidya's husband Ravi – a man so horrifically insensitive that all he can do is blame Vidya for taking the wrong turn.
In an unintentionally comical scene, he tells Vidya that they can't live together anymore and then promptly asks her to – pass the ketchup. Director Ashtar Sayed and writer Michael Pellico aren't big on nuance or subtlety. Every point is driven home with a sledge-hammer. Even when we see Vidya in her class room, she's talking about Raja Ram Mohan Roy and his work for the upliftment of women.
The good intentions can't camouflage the holes in the script. Or the predictable plot. So it's up to the actors to liven up the narrative. Madhur Mittal, who you might remember from Slumdog Millionaire and Million Dollar Arm, does well as the entitled, obnoxious CM's son who speaks casually of rape and murder. And it is a pleasure to see Raveena Tandon on screen again. But here she's saddled with a clichéd character and spends most of the time, either looking stricken or strong. I hope better material comes her way.
Maatr has several scenes in which women are raped, assaulted and brutalized. At the end of it, I had a queasy stomach and no new insight into why this is so.