Maatr isn’t only and only about rape.
The one inhuman, criminal act that triggers the gritty, intense events in the film also throws light on the other prevailing evils of society. Rampant political propaganda, lagging legal systems and overpowering patriarchy are a few of them. In this revenge drama, everything is interconnected, as most wrongdoings are in reality. It definitely reflects the current scenario of our society.
The movie opens with the men who are yet to commit the crime, snorting drugs and having a carefree, debauchery-fuelled time. Shortly afterwards, we see Vidya, played convincingly by Raveena Tandon, gushing over her child who wins an accolade for a project at the annual school day function. The guest of honour is the chief minister of Delhi, along with his son in presence. While driving home, Tandon takes an unknown route to beat traffic, a move that begins the fateful night.
The mother-daughter duo is thrown off the road by a trailing car, the occupants of which happen to be the CM’s son and his goon buddies. They drag the women to a nearby farm and gang rape them mercilessly, eventually killing the teenage girl. The two women are disposed off at a roadside; hauntingly similar to the many cases we keep hearing about in the news.
This is the turning point where Raveena’s true comeback begins.
There’s an early scene in which her face is covered with a ragbag when the molestation begins. She can see her daughter being brutalised while being raped herself.
You’ll remember the light flickering out of her visible eye well after you’ve walked out of the theatre.
Raveena Tandon has made an applause-worthy return to cinema in this overdramatised yet hard-hitting film by Ashtar Sayed. Her acting is well controlled and surprisingly real, yet never overdone. Scripted by Michael Pellico, the story is about a woman who isn’t fighting only for her snatched dignity; her battle is that of a mother’s who saw her only child tortured and murdered right before her. She is the enraged maatr - meaning 'mother'.
And this is where her slow and subconscious conversion into a vigilante begins.
Her case is abandoned as soon as she reveals the CM’s son as one of the accused. There is hushed silence, followed by a quick exit by the panicked cops. They already know where this case is headed. You can tell that such a scandal isn’t anything new for them. The matter is swept under the carpet, the case is closed and justice is expectedly denied.
By now, Tandon’s character is gaining her strength, and maybe even her sanity, back. She watches her deceased daughter’s childhood footage day and night in quiet suffering, while gradually gaining grip of the fact that the right thing will never be done. This realisation gradually manifests into a determination to take matters into her hands.
But it isn’t like she wakes up one morning as a killer, set to unveil her wrath with guns out. It happens in the course of time, when one event leads to another.
Now, we get to the tricky part of what Vidya is doing. Is it okay to tackle a crime with more crimes? Can it ever be justified to take the law into your hands? The answer, as we all know, is no.
But here, we’re talking about a woman who’s left with nothing to lose. She has been reduced to just another voiceless victim, silenced by those in power.
Even her apathetic, cruel husband leaves her when she needs his support the most. Now, the only thought on her mind is to get justice, one way or another. She is single-mindedly driven by the thought of getting even with the animalistic, morally-dead men who took away her everything.
The rest of the film plays out with a lot of action, and blood. As Vidya goes after her targets, one does think about the obvious loopholes. The characters give great performances, keeping audiences hooked throughout. But the end is obvious. It seems almost too easy beyond a point.
That being said, Maatr does succeed is in raising many important questions with urgency. You can tell that the intention of the makers was honest. Most of the film was shot in Delhi, highlighting the city’s infamous reputation as the rape capital even further.
The plot might based on a sufferer’s plight but it isn’t as simple as a ‘woman’s power’ or ‘relentless revenge’. It’s about every woman right to safety and the danger that’s always lurking around the corner, waiting for her. It's about the mentality that manufactures such abusers. It's about the vicious circle that must end.
Maatr was recently in the news due to censorship issues and it’s evident that a lot has been cut off. But what remains is worth a watch. It’ll open your eyes.