In her movies, Anjali Menon always enjoys exploring multiple dimensions of a set of people with similarities. In Bangalore Days, it was the cousins; in Koode, it was the siblings; and in Usthad Hotel, I think it was the generations. She somehow creates a tribe and then communicates their emotional journey from a low point to a more sorted position in their life. In her new movie Wonder Women, which deals with pregnant women’s emotional journey, she applies this formula again to create a film that manages to place each character beautifully, even with a limited run time of 100 minutes.
Sumana is a center run by a woman named Nanditha who helps pregnant women deal with all kinds of pressures and anxieties they might have during their pregnancy. In her new batch, Nandita has 6 women, including her staff at Sumana, Gracy. Nora, a spirited entrepreneur from Bangalore, was the first to join. Then there is Saya, a singer who is in a live-in relationship with her partner. Veni is a married Tamilian who is accompanied by her mother-in-law to the center. Jaya is a Marathi woman whose pregnancy has certain complications, and then we have Mini, a single mother who is parallelly dealing with a legal struggle. How these women with diverse backgrounds and different kinds of pregnancy connected with one another are the core of Wonder Women.
As she said in her interviews, just like all the other films from Anjali Menon, this one is about hope. What I enjoyed about this film is how it is not trying to antagonize anyone. In the film’s early parts, Veni’s mother-in-law is presented as an outsider, and Anjali isn’t trying to keep her like that till the end. The empathetic gaze towards that character from the writer makes her a part of the team quickly. And also, the men in the movie are given an opportunity to express their vulnerability and ignorance without getting judged. In certain ways, one can say that pregnancy is a mere tool that Anjali Menon uses to put several characters under one roof to show how sharing and bonding can help one heal.
Nadiya Moidu’s Nanditha is someone who has decided to channel her pain into something helpful for others. A Veteran like Nadiya Moidu fits the part, and those glances of understanding looked very authentic. As the easily gelling Nora, Nithya Menen has that energy one would associate with that character. Padmapriya, as Veni, was perhaps the most “typical” pregnant woman in the lot, and she represented the issues of that category very effectively. Parvathy Thiruvothu, as Mini, played the single mother in the group, and she made the viewer feel for her character even though the exposition was extremely minimal. Sayanora Philip, as the hippy singer Saya is the one who lightens the mood. Archana Padmini, as Gracy, has relatively minimal space, but her seniority as a mother gives her a space in the group. My favorite performance was from Amruta Subhash. From the culture and language barrier to the fear of a complicated pregnancy, a lot is happening around Jaya during the course of the movie. And Amruta Subhash pulled off that character transition so beautifully.
The writing is doing the trick for every Anjali Menon film, and her movies are flooded with characters. In Wonder Women also, she has divided several problems among that large pool of characters, and the chances of one finding a moment of relatability are extremely high. The scene where Veni’s husband talks about why a seemingly simple act of love isn’t comfortable for him allows the movie to address masculinity differently. Anjali’s way of placing hope in the climax doesn’t look far too unreal due to how she depicts her characters’ challenges in a realistic way. The cinematography by Manesh Madhavan has a calmer tone with frames that are mostly lit flat. Praveen Prabhakar’s cuts maintain a tempo that somewhere keeps you in that enthusiastic zone, which the movie wants you to be in. The signature Govind Vasantha-style background score suits the mood of the film.
The feel-good emotion created by Anjali Menon’s films has always been very distinct, mainly due to how she explores her characters. Rather than romanticizing pain, it was more like acknowledging it and moving on. That fundamental nature of her writing is still there, and with many wonderfully written characters, she manages to create yet another movie that connects with the viewer.
With many wonderfully written characters, she manages to create yet another movie that connects with the viewer.
Green: Recommended Content
Orange: The In-Between Ones
Red: Not Recommended