Wonder Women review: Anjali Menon's film is full of sunshine and hope with a very natural take on pregnancy as a superhero's job and the support of sisterhood.
Motherhood is often put on a pedestal and worshipped rather than being viewed as a human act. And when a woman is pregnant, it's stylized as the most beautiful journey one embarks on instead of a scary, painful, messy act that requires help. Anjali Menon's Wonder Women tackles all of these in what's mostly unheard of in India - a 2-week prenatal workshop where 6 women from different socio-cultural backgrounds connect and get bound together in sisterhood for pregnancy. It's a rainbow-colored picture of pregnancy that touches water on the various issues related to it rather than a dark in-depth take on it. But acts as a warm, fuzzy bear hug that one probably needs during this time.
In a prenatal workshop called Sumana run by Nandita (Nadiya Moidu), 6 women with distinct personalities and backgrounds come together. Nora (Nithya Menen) is a designer by profession who has recently with her partner opened a cafe. Mini (Parvathy Thiruvothu) is a single mother who is very practical and seems a bit distant. Veni (Padmapriya) is a learned lawyer turned housewife now who deals with an overbearing mother-in-law and disinterested husband. Saya (Sayanora Philip) is a singer and a self-proclaimed rebel who lives with her extra-caring partner in a live-in relationship. Gracy (Archana Padmini) is Nandita's househelp, and this is her second pregnancy. And Jaya (Amruta Subhash) is a Maharashtrian woman from Satara who is here on her doctor's recommendation.
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At first, there is some clash or newly met anxiety between the women that borders on them being different from each other, and the word 'madrasi' is uttered. Though that is silenced by the fact that they are all in the same boat aka being pregnant, with a line 'all will be screaming the same when giving birth'. The film's aesthetic appeal and calming tone make it a soothing watch. Even the shots by Manesh Madhavan and the sound of the film are aesthetically beautiful making you want to go to this place as well. Though this minimalistic sunshine approach doesn't overpower the film's message about pregnancy and what women go through during this period of time.
The film is light-hearted and not in-the-face with its take on the various issues which makes it a richer experience. From a nudge towards forming a deep emotional connection with your partners, learning to empathize with each other, gaining knowledge about pregnancy together, the loneliness of a single mother, the anxiety of an old mother who already had three miscarriages to being alone even when with a partner and the loss of a child after birth, this film covers many many more issues.
Many moments are applause-worthy and help break the glass ceiling further. A mother-in-law who was anxious about the classes at first stood up for her daughter-in-law, men talking about their deepest fears relating to pregnancy, woman who is irritated by her partner's caring behavior because she is not used to men like these, an old man understanding the value of his wife and letting go of the fear attached to the pain of birth and myths about it.
Produced by Ashi Dua Sara, and Ronnie Screwvala, with all its knowledge about pregnancy Wonder Women creates that safe heaven of sisterhood for pregnant women who are scared, alone in many ways, don't have real knowledge, and think beyond it just being the most magical thing in the world. It offers a daydream to middle age pregnant women who can sit together, chat, share their woes, meditate, and just simply enjoy each other's company in spite of the real world around them. This film, in many ways, will act as a prenatal workshop and push people towards attending one in real life, especially the ones who don't know that such things exist too. It reminded me of how Dear Zindagi acts as a warm hug at times when I feel low.
But given that it is written and directed by Anjali Menon who also made Bangalore Days, I did expect more depth, and even the film with its run time of one hour and twenty minutes leaves you wanting more. Sure the film could have easily been written better, giving undercurrent to the varying contrasts that exist in the film. But isn't that life itself? Issues like worrying to feed one more mouth on low-wage income, the complicated relationship with your own mother or losing your identity in the process of being a mother in life? These issues don't get resolved, they are just as they are, and we deal with them. So just like the film uses English as a language that blends in perfectly well with local ones, the same way it mirrors life just as it is, rather than forming it into a dramatic story. And the cast being their utmost real selves without any glamour makes you understand how moms really are superheroes, they're growing life inside of them, and it does take a village.
These six women in and as (a term only used for heroes) Wonder Women is a heartfelt love letter to motherhood and womanhood in general, and sometimes we all just need that rather than a harsh darker take. It's currently streaming on SonyLIV!
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