When did we last have six pregnant women driving a film’s narrative? The answer is never. The credit of conceiving such an unusual premise for a multi-lingual movie goes to Anjali Menon, who has written and directed it. Connected by their pregnancy and the myriad emotions attached to it, these women underline the beauty and importance of sisterhood, especially during one of the most vulnerable periods of their life.
Though a crucial phase for women who choose to seek the joys of motherhood, there is no doubt that the period of pregnancy is also one filled with several unique challenges. That’s what brings these expectant mothers to Sumana, where Nandita (Moidu) runs classes about pre-natal care and well-being. Every morning, Nandita writes on Sumana’s board: “How are you feeling today?” The answer varies from “anxious”, “nervous” and “confused” to a rage-driven illegible scribble.
The film makes its overarching theme clear from the start with the dedication: “Sisterhood that upholds us”. The lead characters, Nora (Menen), Mini (Thiruvothu), Veni (Padmapriya), Jaya (Subhash), Saya (Philip) and Gracy (Padmini), come with their own back-stories and issues. Sumana is envisioned as a safe space for pregnant women where they find the much-needed sisterhood that comforts and guides them.
Their stories create an opportunity to look at some of the critical problems that women face. After three miscarriages, Jaya is pregnant via IUI and is scared of age-related complications. Mini is a single parent since she chose to carry on with her pregnancy at the cost of her marriage. Saya has an overenthusiastic partner to deal with while Nora’s husband is baffled by her obsession with the unborn child. Menon tells their stories with warmth and understanding. She, however, stays away from taking a more in-depth look at their life and mind.
Apart from bonding, which goes beyond connecting over a Whatsapp group called ‘Wonder Women’, these characters learn to share their problems, voice their thoughts, get a lesson in empathy and express their displeasure over patriarchal behaviour. It also touches upon a few thorny issues such as language chauvinism.
More importantly, the movie reminds us about the right of a pregnant woman under Lakshya guidelines to have a companion of her choice during childbirth. It reiterates, loudly and clearly, the basic principle that people should keep in mind while dealing with women’s issues – her body, her baby, her choice.
The movie has several tender moments as these women stick together and create a support system for each other. Vivacious Nora helps Mini, who is aloof and angry with her family, to reunite with her grandmother. Though several years have gone by, Nandita still grieves the loss of her child while giving birth. In a role reversal of sorts, she finds consolation and support in these women.
The film is a heartening tale of sisterhood and motherhood. Even though everyone is quick to glorify motherhood, in reality, it is riddled with anxiety, sleepless nights, and physical discomfort. One, however, wishes the movie had offered more insight into the role of a family and veered into more tricky situations that often arise during one’s pregnancy.