(An edited version of this was published in The New Indian Express)
To be honest, I walked into Ashtar Sayed’s Maatr, better known as Raveena Tandon’s comeback film, assuming it is probably a treatise on the long drawn out efforts to obtain justice for a rape victim and her mother, dealing with courts, lawyers, media, and years of struggle. Of course, in this age that is only possible if you skipped the trailers and Maatr was also caught in issues with the censor board. We now call it just another Friday. But this wasn’t just another Friday as I slowly realized Maatr has nothing to do with complex issues of dealing with rape victims, the trauma they suffer after, the behavioral changes of men close to them etc. The film pays lip service to all of this. But what it really wants to be is a Raveena Tandon slasher film.
Written by Michael Pellico, Maatr is stubborn in its approach to what it wants to be and that is also its undoing. The result is a one-dimensional revenge saga that is relentless but also unrewarding. Yes, it is true that the men are written to be absolute scum and this helps in drawing comforting satisfaction in the way they are meticulously seen off but after a point, there is nothing much to it. Maatr could have been a lot more as a film that has no redeemable men. Like in real life. But it takes the easy way out at every step.
Is the revenge saga interesting? It’s entertaining and never dull but there is nothing that we haven’t seen a million times before. Vidya Chauhan (Raveena Tandon) goes after the men who did horrible things to her and her daughter almost like checking off her daily tasks and class hours at the school where she works. Practically facing little opposition. There is little regard for class wars (a hilarious scene at the police station has Vidya’s friend talking down to the investigation officer in English and then use the word mahila, to a constable referring to Vidya), her equation with her husband, how friends and family react to her. Nothing. Even a complex topic like a rape and murder victim’s identity seems to have been brushed off. But then Maatr was never going to be that film.