Thank God It Is Friday and there is a plethora of new releases this weekend, so lets get started. First up, I finished watching the new Malayalam film Wonder Women that is now streaming on SonyLiv. I am generally excited for any new Malayalam film in town but this one was even more special as it was directed by Anjali Menon. And she had previously directed one of my favourite Malayalam films Bangalore Days, hence my excitement for Wonder Women.
It was a month back that I had watched the Hindi film Doctor G, a story of a gynac in what was a tactful dismantling of the male ego. So even though the film was directed by Anubhuti Kashyap, it was a world building from a man’s perspective. On the other hand, Wonder Women which deals with various phases of pregnancy seemed most definitely from a female gaze. It is a life changing event for any women, both physically and mentally, and something that we men will never be able to fully understand. And hence it is important to keep showing that love, support and empathy towards your partner during this phase. With a subject like this, I expected the film also to be this sensitive, so then is Wonder Women worth your time, stay tuned.
Story & Screenplay
Wonder Women follows the story of a bunch of pregnant women attending a pre-natal session that turns out to be life changing for them in many ways. The story is sensitive with a definitely female touch to it. And in many ways this is a story of self discovery as well, given how much your life changes after child birth. The screenplay standing at just under 80 minutes, is a super brisk watch. I really did like the decision of the writers to not really indulge in unnecessary subplots and here the entire focus was solely on the main plot.
The drama opens with the introduction of the main protagonists at the pre-natal class. These lovely ladies are told to be from different walks of life and ideologies with different cultural background and it is evident from the first conflict wherein a character doesn’t understand english. So the language barrier is successfully breached within the first few minutes. This was an important start to establish the fact that all women are somewhere the same and go through a similar bunch of problems during pregnancy – internal and external.
I was watching this film with my mother and that was an important decision because I was constantly posing some questions to her about pregnancy and what sort of an experience it was for her. That did give me several insights(considering I am single and have no live reference of it previously). Along with it was unfolding this beautiful drama that almost felt like therapy. There was not a single strand of negativity here. While the drama did focus on the problems(or inhibitions) of the women, it did come with its set of solutions too.
The drama, contrary to what I thought, was not completely set in a single location. You also do get a glimpse into the lives of all the protagonists(and their psyche), right from problem with their partners or in-laws to the insecurity after a previous miscarriage and to being a single mother. But each subplot is dealt with utmost sensitivity that it never felt unnecessary. Even with these subplots, the focus was always on the main plot. This drama is one of the most beautiful representations of feminism that I have seen onscreen. In a beautiful scene, the women along with their partners sit together in a group while being honest about their relationship as a part of a task at the pre-natal centre. This was such a wonderfully written scene that was reflective and self introspective in so many ways. As they say, sharing is caring and so the load should be shared too.
The drama is thoroughly engaging and it often puts a smile on your face with its brimming positivity. The bond shared by the protagonists was infectious which made me think that they would have bonded really well offscreen too. In a moving scene, one character says that this support is important as all your landmarks featuring your children will be around the same time. I really liked how all the events were tied up together in a final act that really was emotionally but in a happy way. All your ego and masculinity just goes down several notches when you witness such an event and to represent it as effectively onscreen was a brilliant effort too without highlighting any particular message. The messaging was subtle and almost unfolded like a slice of life kind of drama which had so much more to it in terms of self discovery. Overall, the screenplay is sensitive and beautiful, something that should be watched and studied by everyone.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are conversational but never melodramatic and that is what creates an ever-lasting impact here. The music and BGM are soft and soulful, never getting the better of the drama, instead beautifully weaving its magic alongside this equally beautiful drama. The cinematography and art design are beautiful and they manage to give the film a fresh and a young look. Some of the frames are beautifully captured here. Director Anjali Menon does a brilliant job in handling this delicate subject with utmost sensitivity and care. If you watch closely, this film is healing in many ways too simply due to its treatment. And the director deserves distinction marks here for the same.
The performances are the heart of this wonderful film. Radha Gomathinas Veni’s mother in-law is endearing especially through the middle. In a beautiful scene, she chooses to side with her daughter in-law while instructing her son to travel with her to the pre-natal class. Archana Padmini as Gracy is quietly charming and does a pretty good job. Sayonara Philip as Saya is nonchalant yet beautifully sensitive in a job done really well. Parvathy Thiruvothu as Mini had a subdued and layered character going through her own littke conflict and it was brilliantly portrayed by her.
Amruta Subhash is a great actor and if ever you think why, just watch this supremely natural performance of hers here. As Jaya, she is able to convey her vulnerabilities just so well, particularly in that final act that stays with you long after the film is over. Padmapriya as Veni is heartfelt and is absolutely brilliant to watch here. Nithya Menen, that woman with an infectious smile, as Nora is just so brilliant that you just can’t take your eyes off her and her disarming smile, everytime she is onscreen. Nadiya Moidu as Nandita delivers a thoroughly positive performance. I can’t remember when was I so moved and filled with positivity that was reflective of a particular character onscreen.
Wonder Women is one of the most sensitive and beautiful films of the year that comes with my highest recommendation. Available on Sonyliv and Highly Highly Highly Recommended.