Reluctant motherhood

Any film with Kalki Koechlin is worth a watch and a chance scrolling tossed up Ribbon with Kalki & Sumit Vyas.

The film centres around a relatable, common issue affecting so many young couples in contemprary India, especially in the bigger cities – Career vs family vs relationships.
Sahana & Karan are a young couple in Mumbai, Sahana works in the fast moving high pressure IT sector and Karan manages building projects. They are a typical nuclear couple, friends, after work drinks and the supportive husband.Ribbon_-_Poster

Their planned life is thrown out of whack when Sahana discovers she is pregnant. Her first instinct is to terminate, she cites their discussions about their future- the house, career and responsibility for their parents. Karan, however is reluctant, initially pressuring her not to make the choice.

Sahana decides to have the baby, they have a girl and name her Aashi.  In the lead up to her maternity leave, Sahana senses that her boss is not happy with her taking 3 months off. The baby arrives and Sahana is does not take to parenting naturally-.
Sahana goes back to work to find that her junior has now been promoted to her place and her prick of  boss asks her to take it or leave it. Predictably, things go badly at work and Sahana is increasingly frustrated, she starts looking for other opportunities and is knocked back. At the home front, the nanny they have turns out to be a fraud and Sahana fires her. Asking for a few days leave, she gets fired from her job.

The couple’s finances are finely balanced and Karan is forced to take an outstation job, leaving Sahana with the bulk of baby care. Sahana eventually finds a good job and with Aashi in childcare she is back at work the usual long hours, while the weekly communte for Karan is getting pretty gruelling. While she is a affectionate mom, she is neither hands on or too involved with her daughter- the interactions limited to getting the child to eat her food quickly so she wont miss the bus, or get ready for bed. Cut to a few years later, the daughter is in school and quite by chance, the parents discover the daughter is being sexually molested by a male from the school.

The school while initially sympathetic and keen to help, backtracks when they find out it’s a school employee and blame Sahana for being an inattentive parent. Sahana and Karan as well, blame each other and feel guilty for their preoccupation with their careers and their relationship begins to unravel.

The film highlights a number of issues that are problematic in modern India – lack of reliable childcare, the hesitation of many young couples to seek grandparent support in child rearing- the tradeoff to maintain independance, minimal support for women with RTW, how much of modern life is finely balanced financially and it takes very little for it to go south,  how institutions close ranks when faced with reputational risks, fragility of relationships and how work/life balance in corporate world in India is a myth. So many of these resonate with what friends and family in India have shared. The molestation is remnicent of recent incidents in reputed schools.

However the film does not take any of these issues deeply, or offer any solutions. To start with, while both leads are good- the zero chemistry derails the film. The issues are real, but come off as too forced. The molestation of the daughter is traumatic, but the portrayal is disjointed, with no clear linking of their reaction and action that they take.

The film ends abruptly, without any of the threads coming together- we don’t know what they do, how they address the issues and most importantly, how they tell their daughter that what happened to her was wrong. You get the sense that the director had decided to include a number of themes and wasn’t sure how to finish any one of them.

Kalki as the distracted career mom is relatable, many of us have been there and been torm between work and home- however her saying that she had never wanted the child when all this happens is a bit false.
Vyas is good in parts, but is one note most of the time. None of the other characters are memorable.
If you overlook some of the choppiness, the movie gives plenty of food for thought, so many conversations with people came to mind as I watched this one!

Rating: 2.5/5