In her comeback movie after a 15-year absence from the screen, Sridevi played a housewife who learns English to overcome her inferiority complex and her family’s ridicule. Five years after English Vinglish, Sridevi is back in maternal mode. In Mom, Sridevi is no wide-eyed and retiring matriarch, but is out for revenge. Mom is the prolific actresses’s 300th title.
The July 7 release also stars Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Akshaye Khanna and Pakistani heartthrob Adnan Siddqui. The plot remains closely guarded, but this much we know: it traces the relationship between Devki and her daughter Arya (Sajal Ali), which is tested by an unforeseen incident. The movie has been scored by AR Rahman and marks the directorial debut of advertising filmmaker Ravi Udyawar. The movie has not been inspired by the Korean thriller Don’t Cry Mommy, but is an “original story” that is “based on the times that we live in and the places that we are from”, Udyawar told Scroll.in.
The trailer begins with Devki asking, ‘The wrong or more wrong, which one is better.’
That is the exact dilemma I wanted to focus on: in the times that we live in, what is wrong and what is very wrong is life and everything that we do. There is always that question, even for the smallest of things like somebody caught at a signal. Is paying a bribe wrong or is skipping the signal very wrong? We face that question in our day-to-day lives. I have just tried to amplify that idea and channel it into what it means to be a mother and all the things that she takes on in life.
The bond that stays for a lifetime is between a mother and a child. It is definitely a timeless bond. I wanted to explore that relationship and its intricacies. So I gave this bond a concept and it became a beautiful story.
How did ‘Mom’ take shape?
I had met Boney Kapoor in 2014 to discuss my idea. He had seen my films and commercials, which he really loved, after which he said, let us collaborate and do something exciting. So when I met him, one of the ideas that we discussed really interested me. I wrote a storyline and he loved it. “You got a producer on board,” he said, telling me to pitch it to Sridevi. I came back with a detailed story and screenplay and she found it very interesting as well.
What was it like to with work Sridevi in your directorial debut?
Working with her in her 300th film was something really special. It was my privilege to be part of this film with Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Akshaye Khanna and, of course, her. She has never played a character like Devki, which is a very challenging one. The way she took it upon herself, she believed in this character. She actually became this character and completely transformed herself. An entire transformation like that speaks about her amazing commitment.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui dons a receding hairline coupled with an ominous look in the trailer. What can you tell us about his makeup?
We wanted him to look completely unrecognisable. In fact, we were shooting in places like Chandini Chowk in Delhi, where there are thousands of people at any given point in a day. We have shot during the daylight in the middle of those streets, among those people, where we were hiding with cameras and equipment. But Siddiqui would just walk into shops and do his scene and nobody caught him. And that, to us, was a success.
He completely camouflaged into that crowd. He would come in early in the morning and go through a three-hour makeup exercise before the crew came in. That can only come from passion, and his commitment was unparalleled.
How different is filmmaking from directing commercials?
While they are different, commercials have taught me a lot of things, one of which is to be precise with storytelling. A commercial is all about being concise with your stories. Cinema is all about the characters, narratives and the emotional takeaway of your story, which is in a longer format. The switch was a gradual process.