When a top politician refers to Raveena Tandon’s character and says, “Aurat hai… kya kar legi (She’s a woman… what can she do?),” we know he will soon have to eat his words. After all, Maatr is one of those films that wants to cash in on the robust trend of ‘women-oriented’ films in Bollywood. But mere dialogues can’t save a weak story, and that becomes evident within minutes.
An idealistic Delhi school teacher Vidya Chauhan, played by Raveena Tandon, lives a strained personal life. Though she loves her daughter, her equation with her husband is far from cordial. While trying her best to deal with the world with a smile, she and her daughter are gangraped. To make matters worse, the chief minister’s son is among the culprits.
The investigative officer Shroff (Anurag Arora) buckles under pressure, and does his best to brush the case under the carpet. However, he underestimates Vidya’s anger who is now out for revenge.
Sounds like Zakhmi Aurat, Sherni, Bandit Queen and many other films?
On a thematic level, it’s understandable. Society is taking time to wake up to the idea of gender equality. Playing to popular imagination, director Ashtar Sayed chooses Delhi as the backdrop and shows the politician-criminal-police nexus, much like Pink.
But while Pink focused mostly on victim shaming, Maatr — which means mother in Hindi — is the story of a vengeful mother. The unidirectional approach works in the beginning when we see Raveena gearing up to unleash her anger on her perpetrators like the heroines of Dushman, Pratighat and Anjaam, but the idea begins to lose steam soon enough.
Where Maatr is successful is in how it approaches rape; it doesn’t trivialise the subject. It also shows well how Vidya’s husband fails to provide the unwavering support she needs.
However, barring some emotionally charged scenes featuring Raveena, Maatr appears repetitive; we have seen this story several times before.
While Sayed banks on Raveena to completely shock his audience, he fails to back her up with a good screenplay. More than a woman on a mission, Raveena appears like the female version of Sunil Shetty from Mohra, with less swag at that.
Also, the criminals are cringe-worthy only because of the nature of the crime, but not because of great writing. Unlike some of the finest films made, nobody in the film cares to go further into the mind of the criminal.
Ultimately, Raveena alone couldn’t save a thin storyline, and Maatr is just another run-of-the-mill revenge saga.