Mentalhood review: Karisma Kapoor, Tillotama Shome shine in ALT Balaji- Zee5 show that's curiously similar to Big Little Lies
Mentalhood seems like a comprehensive guide for mothers but the strong core could have been enriched by more technical competence.
For the longest time, Mentalhood was being touted as Karisma Kapoor's return to acting 10 years after Vikram Bhatt's 2010 supernatural thriller Dangerous Ishq. But having watched all the 10 episodes of the show, it's safe to say the narrative revolves around not only Kapoor but also five other characters.
Starkly similar to the fundamental plot of HBO show Big Little Lies, Mentalhood intertwines the lives of five mothers (SoBo Five here, instead of the Monterey Five) whose kids go to the same school. It tells stories of their sisterhood and shared pain. There are also similar issues that are dealt with, such as bullying, domestic abuse, infidelity, social ostracisation, and a mother's guilt.
In fact, the five characters are also remote versions of the Monterey Five in Big Little Lies. At the centre is Karisma's Meira, an Indian counterpart to Shailene Woodley's Jane. She is an outsider, from Kanpur, and is trying to fit into a new life in South Bombay, with her three children and Sanjay Suri playing the husband.
Then, there is Tillotama Shome's Preity, similar to Nicole Kidman's Celeste, with a husband who borderline abuses her, and this influences their children to do the same in school. Though this plot point is similar, Preity is not even half calm as Celeste. She is also not a lawyer, but a Punjabi homemaker.
Thirdly, there is Sandhya Mridul's Anuja, who shares her temperament with Reese Witherspoon's Madeline. Unlike Madeline, who dabbles in a couple of small-scale professions, Anuja is a stay-at-home mom. She is mocked for being bitter about giving up on a prospective career for the sake of marriage and motherhood. She, like Madeline, is the de-facto leader of the motherhood pack, and is initially at loggerheads with Shilpa Shukla's Namrata, an ambitious and successful career woman, who has a daughter and an alcoholic, unsuccessful husband — a straight copy of Laura Dern's Renata.
And finally, there's Shruti Seth, who plays a is a physical trainer, just like Zoe Kravitz's Bonnie. She doesn't have stories of a troubled childhood but has issues of her own to deal with, like quarrels with an estranged husband over the custody of their son.
This brings us to Dino Morea's Aakash, a single parent to two children. Though he is not a part of the SoBo Five, he makes his presence felt throughout the show as he is a hands-on parent nonetheless. A deeper exploration of his character and the challenges of being a single father in India could have been an interesting take for Mentalhood.
The Mentalhood narrative unveils on an episodic basis where every edition deals with a societal taboo and how the five mothers rise above it. Unlike most shows on ALTBalaji that are explicit in their content, Mentalhood could emerge as a rare exception that checks the box for 'family viewing,' with a progressive outlook. Director Karishma Kohli's sensitive treatment and feminine gaze ensures that the show makes for a light watch yet addresses grave issues like bullying, adultery, homosexuality, and sexual abuse.
One gradually warms up to Karisma in Mentalhood. Not at any point does she attempt to steal the spotlight, and blends well into the stellar ensemble the show offers. Every episode ends with her voiceover, one that sumps up 'what we learnt today' but the preachy tone is justified by a unifying plot point of her discovering her creative voice through a blog on motherhood.
Among the supporting cast, Tilottama shines with a role that is starkly different from what we have seen her in so far. She doesn't feel like a misfit, and that only speaks volumes of her versatility. Sandhya and Shilpa are decent, and have their moments to shine. In comparison, Shruti gets the shorter end of the stick in terms of character arc, but she does okay with what she has got.
Moving on to the men of Mentalhood, Morea was last seen in a prominent role in Jugal Hansraj's romantic comedy Pyaar Impossible, that released 10 years ago, just like Karisma's previous acting stint. He has an easy charm to him, which he often taps into, but could have perhaps done more with a well-etched-out character. Sanjay Suri lends a good helping hand to shape Karisma's character, and is as always generous enough not to sabotage his co-star's moments.
The most glaring chink in the armour of Mentalhood is its technical incompetence. None of the technical departments complements the central narrative of the show. They are merely serviceable. Having said that, Mentalhood is certainly one of the better shows to come out of ALTBalaji. It may not have the depth of a Big Little Lies — even though it liberally borrows the premise — or the shock value of Four More Shots Please! but it is an easier watch than some of the others shows on the platform.
Mentalhood is now streaming on ALTBalaji.
All images from Twitter.
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