Cast: Sakshi Tanwar, Wamiqa Gabbi, Vivek Mushran, Raima Sen, Vaibhav Raj Gupta, Anand Sharma, Seema Pahwa, and ensemble.
Creator: Atul Mongia
Director: Atul Mongia and Anshai Lal.
Streaming On: Netflix
Language: Hindi (with subtitles).
Runtime: 6 Episodes, Around 50 Minutes Each.
Mai Review: What’s It About:
Mai (Sakshi Tanwar) witnesses her daughter Supriya’s (Wamiqa Gabbi) accident/murder when a giant truck hits her in broad daylight and elopes. Her instincts tell her it’s a murder and she sets out to find her killers. Lesser does she know that she is about to rub shoulders with a big syndicate that takes lives each day and is never afraid of the consequences. A simple hunt for a killer evokes crime, more murders, gun combats, bombs, corruption, and more.
Mai Review: What Works:
The OTT space is changing the face of a conventional parent and replacing it with one that can brutally fight the world to save their loved ones. The always happy father, is now hatching the riskiest plans to save his family and can go to any extent (Pawan Malhotra in Tabbar). A mother who stereotypical depended on the mandir in her house to solve all her problems, now runs an entire syndicate so no one touches her children (Sushmita Sen in Aarya). Add to the list Mai, a woman who smells something fishy and decides to give her daughter’s soul peace by giving her justice rather than just grieving.
It’s the time of parents facing the brutality and shows like Mai are the example of what more can be done in the department. Of course Mai is not entirely fresh, there are already seen traits and turns but that doesn’t dilute the effect that the show is shaped to create. Created by Atul Mongia and written by Mongia with Tamal Sen & Amita Vyas, Mai is a world that exists in the heart of Lucknow, where a nuclear family lives in two row houses across the same street. When the daughter of the family dies and her mother witnesses it, the biggest question is, how is she supposed to grieve?
Mongia takes that one question and explores the answer throughout the crisp and edge of the seat 6 episodes. Sheel (Sakshi) is all the time on the mountain made of her responsibilities, aim and the losing family. She has lost a daughter, her husband is suddenly a stranger, new secrets about Supriya open up every day, the family doesn’t help much emotionally, she is expected to perform rituals but that isn’t how she wants her daughter to rest in peace, amid all this a bag of worms (read criminals) wide open unexpectedly. There is a constant conflict in her head whether she is a good parent or not and it is all perfectly translated on the screen.
What works the most in Mai is how delicately co-directors Atul and Anshai Lal (Phillauri) handle emotions in a non-over-dramatic way. In the center are parents who have raised a mute daughter. So there are moments when they talk in ASL even when she isn’t around. When Sheel goes into revenge mode, she doesn’t get all cunning and smart in a day. She is a woman who has not even thought of slapping a stranger, forget killing one. Her moves are foolish but she makes them like there is no other day. Of course she gets smarter with time, but there is a journey to it and is nail biting.
There are moments where you feel everything is lost but in the next a ray of hope shines. A mother unknowingly buys a pastry that her dead daughter loved, two goons who reflected nothing less than toxic machoism are actually doing that to hide their s*xual orientation and relationship from the world. A man who is solving a case just to find his redemption, once a mistress, a woman becomes the main villain. There is a lot of meat in Mai and delicious for the ones who love the genre.
DOP Ravi Kiran Ayyagari brings out the goriness of this set up with his mute tones. Sheel has lost all the colours and her existence is pale, so is her physical surrounding. Lucknow breathes through three distinct landscapes that of the elite, middleclass and the slum dwellers and it is visible without much effort. The man has worked on movies like Sairat, 7 Khoon Maaf and more, you can see a bit of them in his perspective.
Mai Review: Star Performance:
Name a supremely amazing off-beat movie in the last decade and there 60 percent chances that Mongia was the casting director. Queen, Titli, Lootera, Shanghai are some of the golden feathers in his hat. So when it comes to Mai, a show he has created, how will he go wrong in his casting choices.
Sakshi Tanwar is a mad wave of talent and one that the industry failed to acknowledge even after being in the business for decades. The actor embodies the guilt, grief, anger, vengeance and the softness of being a mother to a dead child. How is she supposed to process grief? By offering prayers or by taking revenge? It isn’t just the surrounding but Sakshi as Sheel constantly trying to find an answer. The loving trait of a homemaker to the badass woman who knows nothing but her quest to find her daughter’s killer, Sheel constantly juggles between them, and Tanwar only makes me bow down to her talent. Remember how Shefali Shah in Dil Dhadakne Do stuffed her mouth with cake to ease down emotional trauma? We have another one such scene and my heart broke the moment it happened.
Wamiqa Gabbi is steller as the brave Supriya. She never over dose her part, which is the highest possibility and brings in the much needed depth. She is supposed to be a mystery that slowly unfolds and is impressive. So is Ankur Ratan, who gets to play a Muslim man stuck between love and a long-dead marriage.
Vaibhav Raj Gupta is an actor I am rapidly becoming a fan of, and Anand Sharma becomes his best better half. Seema Pahwa is finally getting the work she deserves and not just comedy. In a brief cameo she serves as another woman who broke the glass ceiling brutally and faced consequences but is also unapologetic.
Raima Sen is on the screen after so long. She does get a meaty part to play but there is not much that we actually get to know about her. I hope her part of the narrative got more attention in terms of screentime.
Mai Review: What Doesn’t Work:
While Mai is clever, it also ended up being convenient a lot of times. Sheel is somehow always at the right place at the right time. The fact that the aim can escape is acknowledged just once, and in a set up so brutal and cunning, it all looks too make-believe.
The world around Mai, Sheel, and her family is more haunting than the gory gangsters and their guns and bombs. Something that binds them was missing, and they looked disjointed. I could not imagine them as one world.
Mai Review: Last Words:
Mai is Sakshi Tanwar telling you what she is capable of, and showing filmmakers what they have been ignoring for years. She deserves to be on the screen and I can watch her every time she out does herself. With a promise that you will be haunted, watch Mai on Netflix, you won’t regret.
Missed out on Madhuri Dixit’s OTT debut show? Read out The Fame Game Review here.