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J Babay has its tear-jerking moments with some audiences sniffling, but that momentary relatability cannot make a brilliant movie

Director: Suresh Mari

Cast: Urvashi, Dinesh, Maaran

The role of a mother in Indian society is centred on the sacrifices of a human who prioritises her offsprings before herself. When we think back on literature or fiction about great mothers, it underlines this particular aspect as the sign of a good mother. Oftentimes, even the woman herself is wrapped up in this motion that to be a good mother, they have to come second. Fortunately, J Baby, produced by
Pa Ranjith
and directed by Suresh Mari, doesn’t depend on this particular aspect. Instead, J Baby (Oorvashi) is portrayed as a loving mother. One who goes above and beyond to support her children throughout her life. While J Baby has three sons and two daughters, the film follows Senthil (Maaran) and Shankar (Dinesh) — their relationship with Baby is on focus.

The narrative itself hooks you in in the beginning by taking us on this journey of two sons who are out to bring their mother back from Kolkata. They come as insincere, inconsiderate and uncaring towards their mother’s well-being. In fact, they seem careless about their mother’s whereabouts in the beginning and have to be asked by a police person to think back on when was the last time they spoke to their mother. As the plot unravels, it becomes clear that the three sons and two daughters are at the end of their rope with Baby’s antics. They are frustrated with the changing face of their mother and are unable to come to terms with how ageing has affected her.

Sure, the film is quite realistic, considering it is based on a real life story. However, this is where the intrigue ends. The trailer indicated that the film would probably give a take that was sarcastic, funny and dark. There were perfunctory moments that encapsulated the mood of the trailer, but the film itself was long-winded. It was hard to engage with it beyond the surface level because the film itself is shallow in its treatment of motherhood, the relationship between the mother and her sons or even the aspect of her mental illness.

The cursory glance at Baby doesn’t give us enough time to unpack her psyche. Where did things begin to go wrong? What exactly was the trigger that had this strong woman crumble unto herself? Sure, the moments of her children abandoning her — for her well-being — does get the spotlight, but what of her loss of a partner? What about how the conflict between her children affecting the foundation of her life? There is really no depth to any of these life-changing moments of this character, and she comes off as a caricature. If not for Oorvashi’s performance, Baby would be left as unmemorable, one-note character.

In a film where the story is the star, and the visuals, music, and other aspects take on the supporting role, the flawed and superficial narrative results in the film taking a big hit. Especially, the second act of the film — where each character’s intentions and back story is being unpacked — becomes a laborious experience. The light side being Baby and her intriguing habits in the flashback.

Sure, the film had its tear-jerking moments with some audiences sniffling, but that momentary relatability cannot make a brilliant movie.

Rating: 2 (out of 5 stars)

J Baby is playing in cinemas

Priyanka Sundar is a film journalist who covers films and series of different languages with a special focus on identity and gender politics.

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