Clockwise from left: Parvathy Thiruvothu, Nithya Menen, Sayanora Philip,
Archana Padmini, Padmapriya, and Amruta Subhash in Wonder Women
Wonder Women | Cast: Nadiya Moidu, Nithya Menen, Parvathy Thiruvothu, Sayanora Philip | Director: Anjali Menon | Language: English | Sony LIV
The title is the only cliche in a movie that is all heart. Six women from different backgrounds congregate at a centre, which helps pregnant women to birth better. Set in Kerala, the centre is run by a woman (Nadiya Moidu) who teaches a week-long course that mixes science, yoga, and common sense to help women deal with all the changes they are experiencing. Instead of consigning women to advice from self-appointed experts, the centre allows women to voice their fears. From overprotective partners to emotionally distant husbands, the movie allows men to air their anxieties too, making motherhood a less lonely journey. Between the all-too-caring mother of popular culture and the alienated pragmatic mother who gives working women a rap, there are mothers who are confused, lost and unsure. Wonder Women assures them that they are seen, that their identity is important, and that parenthood need not be a do-it-yourself project. That it can be a partnership of joy and togetherness, both with other mothers and their partners. As always, writer-director Anjali Menon tackles gender politics with a light touch. Who decided that women always have to be in conflict with their mothers-in-law? Who decided that a pregnant woman is a goddess and not an irritable woman with an endless appetite? There are moments of great beauty throughout the film. The freedom-loving Malayali singer who lives in Goa (played by singer Sayanora Philip) looking at Jesus holding a baby tenderly, and finally understanding her touchy-feely partner. The soon-to-be-divorced single mother played with grim resolve by Parvathy Thiruvothu eating a full meal by herself with pleasure—rarely do you see women onscreen enjoying their food. The silent thank you that the would-be lawyer (the effortless Padmapriya) voices to her mother-in-law who trolls her son and husband at the dining table for their failure to co-parent. The husband telling his wife (Amruta Subhash), who is trying to carry an IVF baby to term, that he is there for her. Ustad Hotel (2012) which Menon wrote, Bangalore Days (2014) and Koode (2018), which she wrote and directed, are fine examples of people shrugging off the identities handed down to them, and living authentic lives. These and Wonder Women are the stories the world needs to see from India.
Why watch it: For a range of formidable women who light up the screen with their brilliance
The Darkness Within
Breathe: Into the Shadows, Season 2 | Cast: Abhishek Bachchan, Amit Sadh, Nithya Menen | Director: Mayank Sharma | Language: Hindi | Amazon Prime Video
Just when you think Avinash is locked up and J is in remission, the disturbed Abhishek Bachchan returns to strike again. There are six victims left and J seems determined to kill all. But is he working alone or being manipulated by a mind more twisted than his? Amit Sadh plays the brooding, psychologically battered police officer who is on his trail again. Nithya Menen is the mother who will do anything to protect her diabetic daughter. Naveen Kasturia is the evil puppet master, or is he? It’s more of the same but with even more mental health triggers. For anyone who has seen mental illness up close, it is not a comfortable watch. Worse, it offers neither insight nor succour, a continuing problem with shows that explore the darkness in our souls and the scars it leaves on caregivers and family.
Why watch it: For its intense games of cat and mouse