Thanks Maa review: You need a strong stomach!

Thanks Maa review: You need a strong stomach!

Source: General

By: Sonia Chopra

Critic's Rating: 3/5

Monday 08 March 2010

Movie Title

Thanks Maa review: You need a strong stomach!


Irfan Kamal

Star Cast

Alok Nath, Raghuveer Yadav, Barry John, Sanjay Mishra and Ranvir Shorey

It?s a mystery why this film hasn?t been publicised enough and why theatres are screening it in their most expensive screens, discouraging even the few who are curious about Thanks Maa. For if Slumdog Millionaire can make it, this one, a notch up for its soulful story, certainly deserves to.

Thanks Maa?s characters are so lovable that when the group of five street kids rob a person by creating a diversion, you cannot help but chuckle at their inventiveness.

Soda is the gang leader, older than the other kids by only a few years. The other three are mere followers. The fourth, Salman a.k.a Municipality (Shams), is our hero, with strength of character that would humble most of us.

When Salman is put in a remand home for stealing, he meets the new warden (Alok Nath, creepy - yes, he can play more than the tearful patriarch), who tries to rape him. Traumatised, Salman decides to escape the Home, but finds an abandoned baby at the doorstep. Picking the baby up, Salman wanders about, thinking what to do.

His determination to find the baby?s mother flashes bright in his innocent eyes. It is to the filmmaker?s credit that he showcases the children?s essential vulnerability, despite their street-smartness and cuss-soaked language. His friend-foe Soda instructs the gang to keep away from him, even as they cannot help but be transfixed by the baby.

The film takes us, along with the boy, on a journey by following the clues to find the mother. To get to the mother, Salman has to wrestle information from a cheating husband, a prostitute claiming to be the mother, and a daughter abused by her own father.

We visit slums, red-light areas where a pimps eyes girls for business, busy khau-gallis, shady love joints where we see two men smooching under an umbrella, and a prostitute who is ready to sell babies into the trade so her daughter can be free.

One wonders if Salman?s character has come out of the filmmaker himself ? both people of conviction. Debut writer-director Irfan Kamal?s Thanks Maa makes comments on various levels. It shames the privileged class, as almost everyone who Salman approaches deals with the request for help by throwing small change in his direction.

And indeed it takes great strength of character for a starving Salman to refuse the money, demanding real information about the mother.

There?s no attempt to camouflage realities, and your eyes will not remain dry for long. You?ll cringe helplessly as our characters, for whom we?ve developed genuine fondness, get ruthlessly battered by cops, molested by middle-aged men, or are eyed for the prostitution market.

How then will these children, facing predators at every step, grow up into stable adults, you imagine. It?s a dismal thought, and not easy to live with.

Thanks Maa is one of the few films that has solid content and is technically masterful - cinematography, music, sound are a treat. Dialogue is unforgettable, remaining true to the characters: Salman?s childish possessiveness of the baby is felt when he replies with a ?mujhe mila hai, mera bacha hai?, when asked whose baby it is.

The acting by the children could humble the best performers in the world. It?s a mystery how in film after film, child actors manage such spot-on, genuine performances. In Thanks Maa, all the kids, except Shams (National Award winner for Best Child Actor), have been hired from slums.

Towards the end, you find yourself promising to help with children?s causes. You?ll think about the movie a long time after it?s over. And that can hardly be said about the films we see at theatres week after week.

Dedicated to abandoned babies (270 in India every single day), if the film has been inspired by Tsotsi (2005 best language film Oscar winner), it makes the original seem a diluted version.

Those addicted to fairy tales and brightly lit frames may find Thanks Maa a demanding watch. It?s hard-hitting, real, raw. Go for it only if you have a strong stomach. On the other hand, since this is the reality we live with every day, we better develop a strong stomach. Don?t miss it.

Rating: 3.5 stars

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