Mentalhood review by a parent: Most mothers will identify with the scenarios

Mentalhood

A scene from Mentalhood

By Sapna Khajuria

The moms' WhatsApp groups, school drop-off and pick up, after-school classes, school politics, balancing work with the unending demands of motherhood, judgy moms, tiger moms, and the mirage of perfect moms… Sounds familiar, doesn't it? If you're a parent, you have definitely encountered one or more of these moms at school or on that dreaded WhatsApp group.

The new show on Zee5/Alt Balaji, Mentalhood, will take you on a fun ride with all these ingredients of motherhood. It's the much hyped digital streaming debut of Karisma Kapoor ("Biwi No. 1 becomes Mummy no. 1"), and is perfect for a binge watch while you practice social distancing.

Meet the leading mommies

Karisma Kapoor is Meira, "Meira with an I." Mom to three who, along with her husband (Sanjay Suri) moved from Kanpur to lead the life of a "modern family" as a husband-wife dream team (away from her nosey mother-in-law and neighbours) and to give their children a better life. Meira dreamt of becoming a model but has put her dreams on hold while she devotes her time to her children. Bewildered by all the motherhood mantras that are thrown at her, she starts a blog called "Mentalhood", and the episodes are narrated through her blog.

Sandhya Mridul is Anuja Joshi aka A Jo, Momzilla-in-chief of the school, the head of the PTA, uncrowned queen of the moms' WhatsApp group, and perpetual micromanager of her children's lives.

Shilpa Shukla (aka Bindiya Naik from Chak De India) is Namrata Dalmia, an unbeatable force in the corporate world, but not immune to questions about her skills as a mother - AJo being the lead bully in calling her an inadequate, absentee mother.

Shruti Seth as Diksha is a free-spirited, all-organic, alternative medicine, yoni crystal seller, vegan, earth mother incarnate, who is in the process of separating from her husband.

Tillotama Shome as Preity, married to a man best described as a boorish misogynist and mother to two rowdy boys, wants the social status of her children going to the best school, and wishes they not turn out like their father.

The last member of this motley crew is single dad Akash (Dino Morea), father to twins, and the eye candy for all school moms - the "testosterone in the sea of estrogen".

Each of the 10 episodes follows a different theme, like gender identities of children, adoption, surrogacy, child sexual abuse, trusting your child versus keeping a strict check on every possible step they take. At some points it does get preachy and overtly simplistic in its solutions, but the overall themes are familiar. You may even find yourself sniggering at some of the characters. Admit it, you know you've encountered that snobbish mom at parent teacher meetings, the one in designer togs judging every other lesser mortal in her path, or the one trying too hard but seeking approval from the snobs.

Most mothers will identify with some of the situations - whether it is the desire to be a perfect mother and in the process, losing oneself; the unending criticism whether one is a stay at home mom or a career mom, or the see-saw between wanting to be a friend to one's child and taking unpopular decisions and making oneself unpopular.

Meira, aka Mental Mom says, "Moms are planets losing themselves in the centrifugal forces of the sun, i.e. their kids." She thinks other moms are perfect. Every mom thinks all other moms are perfect; turns out everyone is going through their own version of struggles. There are plenty of articles about "unpaid emotional labour" that women continue to bear; and this show shines a light on the mother invariably pulling all the weight at home.

The episodes are short and fast-paced, and it's refreshing to see an Indian show talk about things like the new normal for families, surrogacy, some real struggles of parenting in a largely non-over the top style. If you've watched Big Little Lies (now on Hotstar), the plot line will feel familiar, but the "big reveal" portion of Mentalhood is nowhere near as good as the one on Big Little Lies.

The ageless Karisma Kapoor lights up the screen, and does the "deer in headlights" look of the bewildered mom very well. The other main actors are good too, but it's Tillotama Shome's Preity who steals the show. For me, hers was the best defined character and the best performance. Her portrayal of the frustration of seeing her children turn into their father, and the best dialogues, was absolutely fabulous.

The background music was a bit too loud and got in the way of following the dialogues. Avoid watching the show with young children - abuses are liberally thrown around.

The most trending (non-health related) question on most WhatsApp groups this week has been, "What's a good new show to binge watch?" The answer - Watch Mentalhood for a good dose of drama, jokes, and a tiny mirror being held up to all moms' lives.

(The writer is a lawyer by training, who would rather be a full-time globetrotter, and mom to 12-year-old twin boys who share her love for all things filmy.)

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