MAA is a 2010 Bengali Film directed by Shiladitya Moulik based on The Mother by Maxim Gorky. Read the exclusive review of MAA at Calcutta Tube.
MAA – WONDERFUL PERFORMANCE, WEAK FILM
In celebration of the 140th birth anniversary of Maxim Gorky, and to commemorate the centenary celebration of his novel TheMother , Souvik Sanskritik Chakra presented a Bengali translation of the novel through cinema under the title Maa. Souvik Sanskritik Charka produced the Bengali version for the stage. It earned so much popularity that it presented more than 1000 performances over a span of 30 years. Gorky was inspired to write Mother from the real-life story of courage of the mother-son duo Anna Kirlovna Zalomova and her son Pyotr Zalomov who headed the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. The first film version by Vsevolod Pudovkin (1926) starred Vera Baranovskaya as the mother and Nikolai Batalov as the son. Utpal Dutt made the first Bengali film adaptation of Mother with Sova Sen in the title role in Maa (1983.)
Maxim Gorky publicly opposed the Tsarist regime and was arrested many times. At the heart of all his work was a belief in the inherent worth and potential of the human person. The brutal shooting of workers marching to the Tsar with a petition for reform on January 9, 1905 (known as the “Bloody Sunday“), which set in motion the Revolution of 1905, seems to have pushed Gorky more decisively toward radical solutions. 1906, the Bolsheviks sent him on a fund-raising trip to the United States, where Gorky wrote his famous novel of revolutionary conversion and struggle, Mat’, (The Mother).
In the current production, Gautam Mukherjee and Samaresh Basu play mother and son. The film was made in 1907 but could be released only three years later. Maa, directed by Shiladitya Moulik, suffers from the drawbacks of a play turned into film by people who are skilled in stage production and not in making films, technically and aesthetically. The script remains faithful to Gorky’s original novel but the treatment is rather weak and takes away the power of resistance the novel thrives in. The characterizations do not come across strongly and therefore, the acting leaves room for improvement. The interior set design is convincing but had the director relocated the film within an Indian situation, the designing would have seemed more real and not tacky. The dialogues are mostly delivered sans inflection and tone. The marching scene culminating in the May 1 history with the militia gunning down Pavel brutally as he runs out of captivity in prison is weak and unconvincing. Most of the scenes are too dark. Pratul Mukhopadhyay’s music is nothing to write home about.
If this film makes it to the archive, the credit for this would solely rest on Gautam Mukherjee, who boldly enacts the title role of a woman who remains one of the most historical characters in world literature. Mukherjee has played the character for the stage for many years so he has internalized the character of Nilovna. He spans the character not only by investing it with the qualities that belong to the mother in Gorky’s novel, but also maps the growth of the character with depth and quality. He pans the growth of Nilovna from a submissive wife bent under her husband’s violence, through her widowhood where she suffers the pain of seeing her only child Pavel Vlasov becoming a useless alcoholic, then registering happiness when she finds that he has become a rebel fighting against those who ruthlessly exploit labour, till the final tragedy of seeing him being gunned down in front of her eyes. She draws strength from this collective and cumulative pain, and rises to become everyone’s mother. Looking back on the film, one recalls glimpses of Nilovna silently rendering services, preparing, serving and distributing bread and food to the rebels, bearing the humiliation of being tortured by her alcoholic husband, witnessing the slow decay and downfall of her only child that does not offer any hint of the strength and the courage that lies latent within her, waiting to light up with the trigger of her son’s unfair and untimely death. Somewhere along the way, the woman called Nilovna is completely submerged under the idol of the Mother – from the personal to the political.
This is a well-intentioned film. But that does not make it a good film or even a memorable one. The only thing memorable about this film is the courage of the theatre group to be able to present such a challenging production in an ambience of films like My Name is Khan, and the classic performance of Gautam Mukherjee in the title role of Mother.
by Shoma A. Chatterji