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Siraj Syed


Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. He is also an acting and dialogue coach. 

 

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Prime Video’s first original film, Maja Ma, Trailer launch: Mad about Madhuri

Prime Video’s first original film, Maja Ma, Trailer launch: Mad about Madhuri

One afternoon in 1984, I was invited to the Natraj Hotel, Marine Drive, Bombay, to the release get-together of Rajshri Productions’ Abodh. My benefactor, writer-director Gobind Moonis, who had wanted to cast me as the blind boy in Dosti, had now discovered a girl with a very pretty face who had learnt kathak too. But the star of the day was Gyan Shivpuri, an actor who came with a reputation. When I tried to talk to the girl, she was shy and reluctant. I guess she must have just completed junior college. Her mother-tongue was Marathi and her name was Madhuri Dixit.

A few days ago, it was the J.W. Marriott Hotel, Juhu, Mumbai, and she was making another debut, 38 years later. Madhuri is playing the matriarch of the Patel family, in Amazon Prime Video’s first ever movie production, Maja Ma. Since the Patels are a Gujarati family, and the title of the film is Maja Ma (‘I’m Having Fun’, a common Gujarati response when greeted with ‘Kem Chho’—How Are You?) it is likely that she will have to speak a few lines in Gujarati, which she is yet to master. Hindi, meanwhile, has posed no problems at all, in all these 38 years, during which she clocked over 70 films. Marriage led to a sabbatical in the USA, but she returned a few years later to resume her career, playing mature roles.

Almost all those who were present were rooting for Madhuri, waiting for her to emerge from backstage. And emerge she did, to thunderous applause. Not only did she speak with the compère, Sachin Kumbhar, to the audience’s delight, but she danced too, with a troupe, to a song from the film, sending the crowd into raptures. It was a garba, and would you believe it? she has never had to do a garba dance on screen before this. The closest she came to it was when she performed dandiya raas. And to double the delight, she came on stage again, to dance with volunteers from the floor.

Featuring Madhuri Dixit, Gajraj Rao and Ritwik Bhowmik in the lead, this family entertainer has an ensemble cast, including Barkha Singh, Srishti Shrivastava, Rajit Kapur, Simone Singh, Sheeba Chaddha, Malhar Thakar and Ninad Kamat, in pivotal roles 

Produced by Leo Media Collective and Amritpal Singh Bindra, directed by Anand Tiwari and written by Sumit Batheja, MajaMa will stream in India and across 240 countries and territories, starting 6th October. Its trailer was unveiled on the occasion, showing Madhuri Dixit in a complex and fearless avatar. A Bollywood-style entertainer, Maja Ma is set against the celebratory backdrop of a traditional festival and a lively, colourful wedding, with a story that will tug at your heartstrings.  

The trailer gives us a glimpse into the life of Pallavi (essayed by Madhuri Dixit) – a delightful woman who is the backbone of her middle-class family and the society she lives in, around whom the movie revolves. As a series of events unfold, a life that she has built with so much love starts to fall apart, putting her son’s upcoming engagement in jeopardy. The conflict tests existing relationships for resilience, understanding and beliefs. What has caused this unexpected situation? How will Pallavi and her family deal with the turmoil? Will this bring the families closer, or will the newly forming relationships crumble?

“I am thrilled to be a part of Prime Video’s first Indian Amazon Original Movie”, said Madhuri Dixit. “With Maja Ma, what I am most excited about is my character. It is a role with complex nuances that I have never played before. Pallavi Patel carries enormous responsibility around – as a mother, as a wife and as a contributing member of society, with such ease and grace, that it becomes easy to overlook her strength, conviction, and resilience. She goes through a multitude of emotions that could have strong repercussions on her life and the lives of people she loves.”

She further added, “I am so excited to share this film with my fans and audiences. Working with the cast and crew of the film has been a lovely experience. I am thrilled that Prime Video is taking Maja Ma to audiences worldwide. This piece of our heart, our hard work, will find love with audiences looking for heartfelt storytelling everywhere in the world.”  

“You will see me play a middle-class man, a father to young adults and husband to a loving wife, in Maja Ma,” said Gajraj Rao, talking about the movie and his character. “However, as you watch the movie, the character traverses through some interesting, sometimes challenging, not to mention unexpected situations, in his life. Working with the whole team – Madhuri Dixit, all cast members and the creators – was a great experience. I am quite sure the audiences will love the movie. This is the first time I have seen a genius at work. After seeing so many of her films, I have had the good fortune of working with her. This gave me a chance to see how she works. Very rarely have I seen her bring any paper with her. Invariably, she has her lines by heart. By contrast, I need to do my lines several times to memorise them, and I still forget them sometimes.”

“I play a mamma’s boy. And how can I not, when the mamma is the gorgeous and doting, Madhuri Dixit herself,” said Ritwik Bhowmik. “A confession…in reality too, I am a Mama’s boy. Tejas is a sincere yet aspirational young man. He is still finding himself, nurturing his ambitions and his intrinsic value system. This role is very special for me, as it is my debut movie and my third outing on Prime Video. Maja Ma is also my third time working with the director, Anand Tiwari. He brings out the best in us, in the most effortless manner. I am truly enthralled to have shared this space with so many talented actors of the industry. What will stay with me is the experience we had in bringing this movie to life – such a great time with one big happy family on the sets.” 

“I am so excited to be playing Esha (not pronounced Isha or Eesha, more like Aysha). My character has great balance –despite having been brought up by orthodox NRI parents, she has modern American traits while still having Indian sensibilities. She is her own woman, confident and free spirited,” said Barkha Singh. “There are such dynamic character arcs in the film, which every cast member has done complete justice to, guided by the clarity of Anand Sir’s vision. It was an amazing experience working with the whole team, especially Madhuri ma’am. It has been a privilege to share screen space with her.” 

Commenting upon the upcoming movie and her character, Srishti Shrivastava said, “It is every actor’s dream to dabble in various mediums of entertainment and to have their work reach out to audiences across a wide spectrum. I have worked in many movies and series across various mediums earlier, but doing Maja Ma was another level of excitement. My character, Tara, has been very well etched as a strong, feisty and progressive young woman. Working with Madhuri ji and Gajraj ji was an absolute honor and privilege, to the say the least.  Ritwik, Barkha and the rest of the Maja Ma Team made the experience even more enriching and memorable. I cannot wait – for the movie, the music, and the story to reach audiences.

One disappointment: The star cast, the producer and the director, the representatives of Amazon Prime Video,...did not field any questions from the media. But let’s look at the sunny side—lunch was served even before two-thirty pm. A Q &A would have meant another 45 minute delay at least. Hmmm…on second thought, not enough compensation.

Trailer: https://youtu.be/gJj90WOWQvg

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.


Bandra West, Mumbai

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