Amma Kanakku is a gentle slap on the wrist for parents who inadvertently force their children into taking up careers they never wanted. In today’s world, when it feels like everyone gets an engineering degree only to jump into a totally different field, this film is a good lesson of sorts.

Amala Paul’s Shanthi juggles many jobs. She works as a domestic help, works the fish market, all with one goal in mind – to make her daughter a collector. She wants her daughter to move up the food chain, and her constant lament is “Enna maari nee aagida koodadhu” (You shouldn’t become like me). It’s reasonable enough. Except, Abi wants to work in domestic employment with film stars. The crux of the issue is that, like most parents, Shanthi ignores Abi’s career choices in favour of her own. This is the dilemma that powers Ashwini Iyer Tiwary’s Amma Kanakku. 

*****

The film’s Hindi version Nil Battey Sannata was released earlier this year and featured the terrific Swara Bhaskar as the fierce mother hen. Amala Paul, with her movie star polish, is a less than apt choice for the role. She looks ill at ease in the squalid setting her character works in. She does give the role her best. Only, even her best makes it difficult for us to relate to her.

Despite the presence of a formidable cast (there’s Revathi, and Samuthirakani in solid roles), Amma Kanakku has the distinct feel of a dubbed version. The main culprit is, of course, director Ashwini’s tone-deaf dialogues. Everyday conversations feel forced, especially the ones between Shanthi and her daughter; a serious misstep for a film that works so hard to remain true to its setting.

*****

Apart from the casting of Amala Paul, there’s nothing pretentious about this film. The humour is organic – Shanthi and Abi squabble like siblings, and it is highly entertaining. Gavemic U Ary’s cinematography is a treat to watch. He paints their world in earthen tones; no bright blues and pinks here to distract from what’s unfolding on screen.

Much has been said about its attention-grabbing plot device, namely, Shanthi joining her daughter’s class in a bid to egg her on to study better. But that’s not the best thing about this film. What is most laudable is the way Ashwini doesn’t force a romantic angle into the film – Shanthi is a widow, and seems content with trying to spearhead her daughter’s career. The director seems to be saying: There’s no room in her life for men, and that’s just fine.

*****

Perhaps the only other jarring moment in this otherwise pitch-perfect film is the loud aesthetics of Wunderbar’s title track. For the most part, the film ambles along (like Ilaiyaraaja’s score for the film) – that rare project which is at peace with itself, and doesn’t need to resort to cheap theatrics.

*****

The Amma Kanakku review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.