Anand Tiwari’s Maja Ma is a social comedy about a middle-aged woman who’s been closeted for far too long, and no one, not even her husband knows about it. The film tackles with the social conditioning and taboos that the LGBTQIA+ community in our society has to deal with, this happens after Madhuri Dixit’s character, Pallavi, comes out as a lesbian.
Pallavi doesn’t necessarily share this information by choice, but angrily lets it slip out in an argument with her daughter, Tara. After this information nearly spreads like gossip among people, during a society function, it impacts Pallavi negatively in more ways than one. Not only is she shut out by these people who used to respect her and consider her a friend, but she also struggles with accepting herself, given that she didn’t come out by choice.
After her family denies accepting any truth to the information that Pallavi is a lesbian, she tries to go back to her life, where she was deep in the closet. But, her daughter Tara realizes that her mother needs support and a safe space, and tries to be an ally. Even though Tara’s intent is harmless and even helpful to some point, it does end up being forceful.
Tara takes her mother to a counselor who helps people from the queer community and asks her to let it all out. The counselor, Sanjana, however suggests that Pallavi take her time, and share whatever she’s feeling if and when she wants to. Tara mentions that if Pallavi is given more time and space, she’d not come out to her family, at all.
Sanjana then points out something very important – that it’s a person’s right to choose how and when they want to share this information, and with whom. Often, when we watch someone or hear stories, we think of sexual orientation and gender identity as something very easy to process. When in fact, it takes a lot of effort and strength to understand oneself, let alone deal with how society will respond to it.
On the other hand, ours is a still a society that neither understands nor treats this subject with sensitivity. So, for a middle-aged woman who has grown up thinking that she’s doing something wrong, it might not be the easiest thing to accept out loud that she’s a lesbian. Moreover, something that’s personal to someone shouldn’t be shared in ways, that the world considers appropriate. After all, Tara forcing Pallavi to share her truth and the world conditioning her to not do it, both ways are pressuring, and hence lack ‘choice’.
Sure, Pallavi’s coming out might have created a sense of inclusivity among the people around her, but it wasn’t her responsibility, because it wasn’t a movement or agenda but quite literally her life. To be a better ally, one shouldn’t tell more people ‘how to come out’ but be better at listening to them if and when they do.