Wonder Women Movie Review: Haven’t learn professional editing yet, but that hasn’t stopped me from enjoying Anjali Menon’s past directorial efforts. Be it her very underrated debut Manjadikuru, the delightfully thrilling short (Happy Journey) in the anthology Kerala Cafe, the charming Bangalore Days and the touching Koode. Why, I still get confused and give credit of directing Ustad Hotel to Ms Menon (who had written the screenplay and dialogues) than to Anwar Rasheed, the actual director. Wonder Women is Anjali Menon’s attempt to go ‘Pan India’ at the mere fraction of the budget (and even runtime for the matter) of other such Pan Indian films, while telling a story that would reciprocate with all. She has cast a wonderful set of actors in the lead and explores the joys and trials of expectant motherhood, but Wonder Women isn’t sadly wondrous enough to live upto the high standards of expectations I expected from the filmmaker. Wonder Women Fame Parvathy Thiruvothu Feels Cinema Must Highlight Injustices Around the Society.
Wonder Women mainly revolves around ‘Sumana’, a pre-natal training centre run by Nandita (Nadhiya Moidu). Her new batch has a diverse set of expectant mothers. There is cherubic Nora (a very charming Nithya Menen), who has given her entrepreneurial spirit a backseat over her pregnancy. We have Veni (Padmapriya), who comes from a conservative Tam-Bram family with her mother-in-law accompanying her. Then there is an always grumpy Mini (Parvathy Thiruvothu), who is separated from her husband and who is least interested in bonding with others.
We also have Jaya (Amruta Subhash), a Maharashtrian home-maker, who had suffered three miscarriages before and who faces major communication problems with others. There is also Gracy (Archana Padmini), who also works at Sumana as a domestic help and who is the more experienced of the lot because this is her second child. Finally there is Saya (singer Sayanora Philip), an independent spirit who is in a live-in relationship with her hippie boyfriend.
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Wonder Women is about these women forming a heartwarming camaraderie and bonding with each other, as they together figure out the challenges of pregnancies with Nanditha’s help. Wonder Women doesn’t have an central driving plot as such, and at one hour 19 minutes runtime, it doesn’t over-stretch itself. All the actors have done fine work with their roles, with Archana Padmini being a surprise element and also Radha Gomathi who plays Veni’s mother-in-law. Jaya Jaya Jaya Jaya Hey Movie Review: Darshana Rajendran and Basil Joseph are Exceptional in Malayalam Cinema’s Most ‘Massy’ Film of 2022!
It’s not easy to categorise Wonder Women into a particular language film. Sure most of the characters are supposed to be Malayalis and there is a sprinkling of Malayalam here and there. But we also have them speak Hindi, Marathi, Telugu, Kannada and mostly, English. Like I said before, this is Anjali Menon’s ‘Pan India’ film.
Interestingly, the opening act of the film has its characters squabble over which language to speak after a meek Jaya, who can only understand Hindi and Marathi, asks Nandita if she can speak in Hindi. The other women round up on her, Veni mentions that Hindi and English are just official languages and Nora alleges of regional bias. It is as if the director is trying to poke fun at the National language row with the scene, with people fighting with each other without understanding the need for language to be an effective communicator. In the end, the characters compromise by mostly speaking in English and Hindi.
Like with Menon’s other films, some of the nicer moments in the film is where the characters themselves peel off layers of toughness or reticence to show their sensitive side. When Veni’s husband tearfully explains why it is difficult for him to handle his wife’s pregnancy because he was brought up in a heteronormative manner, I did relate to his dilemma.
And yet here also lies an issue with Wonder Women as a film. It doesn’t really flesh out these characters or the scenes that allow these moments to feel earned enough. An example of this is the scene that impressed me the first, when Veni’s mother-in-law chastises her son for not being there for his pregnant wife when she needs him. It was a nice surprise and the moment in itself earns a win but it is not enough to forget how the character behaved before like a domineering, casteist lady who looks down upon non-traditionalism. I get the idea, even the bigots have a soft side, but where do we go from here?
Even the main characters don’t exactly get explored much. Like, why does Nora need to compromise on her work because she is going to have a baby? Later, her husband tells her that he doesn’t like how she has changed with the pregnancy, but that conversation is never brought back afterwards. Mini’s caustic attitude towards her batchmates merely feels like a trait and never understood, and so is her habit of taking pictures of everything. There is a certain kind of disconnect we do feel for most of the characters, even though the actors are quite loveable in their roles.
The only couples that actually tug your heartstrings is that of Jaya, with Amruta Subhash in sublime form, and her adorable husband, played by Sandesh Kulkarni, and to some extent, Gracy and her husband. And I am glad that the finale revolves around what happens to Jaya, even if others around them feel unfulfilled in their arcs. It is like Menon is serving delectable tidbits throughout with the promise of a fulfilling main course, that never comes.
In Wonder Women, Anjali Menon brings a wonderful set of actors, narrates a universal story and serves heartwarming moments. In totality, though, the film is strangely underwhelming which is a surprise coming from this director and leave you feel unfulfilled by the end. Wonder Women is streaming on SonyLIV.
(The above story first appeared on News Brig on Nov 18, 2022 11:51 AM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website newsbrig.com).