Maa Tamil short film: Subtlety packs a punch in this Gautham Vasudev Menon venture
Maa is another Ondraga Original directed by Sarjun KM after the critically acclaimed Lakshmi.regional movies Updated: Jan 31, 2018 18:33 IST
What does teenage pregnancy do to a girl, her family and her dreams? That knotty question is the subject of short film Maa, directed by Sarjun KM and starring Anikha and Kani Kusrut. The film has been produced by Gautham Vasudev Menon’s venture Ondraga Originals for Ondraga Entertainment.
Here is my takeaway from the film (Spoilers ahead)
The protagonist, a 10th grade girl Ammu (Anikha) faints during her hockey practice. She is seated on the bench, later joined by her friend. She asks her, “Have your periods ever been delayed?” Her friend wonders for a moment as she gulps water, and turns to her to says, “A couple of times, by a day or two.” There is worry on Ammu’s face, she hesitates for mere seconds and continues, “Has it ever been delayed by 3 or 4 weeks?” Her friend looks confused and asks, “It hasn’t. But why are you asking these questions now?” There is silence.
This simple scene tells us why it is important to educate teens about sex. It is important for them to understand their body intimately to help them make the right decisions. It is important for them to know how to deal with the raging hormones in their body.
Ammu’s sick and her mom (Kani Kusruti) wants to take her to hospital. Ammu is worried by now, but finds courage to tell her mother that she might be pregnant. Her mother, naturally, is shocked. She is angry, she questions her child how something like this could happen, and asks her why Ammu didn’t realise the repercussions of doing something like this. How would this affect the family and so on? It is an expected reaction.
A day passes and Ammu approaches her weeping mother to tell her she would do anything to make it right. “Will you do anything?” the mother asks and is responded with a nod. The mother instantly tells her, “Die.” It is not loud, it is not dramatic. She just utters this one word so simply that it packs more power.
This instant reaction to teenage pregnancy is common in reality. There is no second thought here because fear overrides common sense.
But that night, the mother wakes up after a nightmare. She sees her daughter slitting her wrist and realises how much weight her word carries, especially in this sensitive situation.
She immediately goes to check on her daughter, hugs her and apologises for reacting like that. She decides to take care of the decision and sits down to ask her daughter exactly what happened and when it all happened.
When did it happen? Where? Who? How are all common questions. But, this mother asks, “Did he do it with your permission?” That one questions hits you so hard. The question that popped in my mind as I watched this scene unfold was, “Do we even consider the emotions of the girl or the boy in cases of teenage pregnancy?”
The daughter hesitates before answering her mother, but she says yes. It is then that she asks if they took photos, if they took videos, or if the boy blackmailed her at any point after.
The boy in question, is Ammu’s hockey classmate, Hari. Ammu’s mother approaches him and tells him that Ammu is pregnant. Hari pleads to not reveal this to his parents. She retorts, “Then why did you do it in the first place? You should have thought about it then.” He is in tears and replies, “We thought that was love.”
The exasperation in Ammu’s mother’s expression mixed with resignation as she continues to question if he told any of his friends or took videos is an excellent scene. Especially when he says, “Aunty, I like Ammu a lot.”
The boy and the girl liked each other and simply thought this was a normal thing for couples in love to do. They are after all learning from their what they see. This paired with absence of knowledge about the act is one of the biggest contributors for teenage pregnancies.
Then comes the action - to give birth to the baby and become a teenage parent, or to abort the child - an action that is considered by both Ammu and her mother. There is no emotional blackmail involved here. Initially Ammu asks her mother, “Can we have the baby? We can both take care of them.” One would expect an outburst from the mother who is already having to deal with the situation, but we see her patiently explain how giving birth is not easy. She doesn’t say no, but instead explains what would happen if she says yes.
Coincidentally, she sees another young girl with a child working as a help at the library and realises everything that she has to give up in life if she gave birth and how that would adversely affect another life. This dawns on her so simply and the moment of truth when both the mother and daughter together come to the same decision is just right.
Does Ammu’s mother start doubting her after this? Does she stop her from meeting Hari or attending hockey classes for that matter? No. She tells her daughter that this is a lesson learnt, and she needs to concentrate on what’s important in her life now.
The pro life - pro choice debate is null and void in this situation. That is the beauty of Maa. The depth of each scene, the underlying layers are so thoughtfully written and so beautifully directed. The director Sarjun’s style of working seems to be on the lines of ‘less is more’ style, which was also seen in Lakshmi.