The first time I watched Juice was sometime in 2017 when my mother walked into my room and showed me a video that her female friends from school were circulating on WhatsApp groups. I don’t think the word ‘woke’ had embedded itself into public discourse as it has now but Juice was one of those short films that really wakes you up. It resonated deeply with my mother - a homemaker - and her friends. Cut to 2021, the star of Juice, Shefali Shah, has come out with another slice of magic called Happy Birthday Mummy Ji (HBMJ). As of writing this article, this Shefali Shah directorial has more than 16 lakh views and over 18,000 likes on YouTube. Some say that true art is supposed to disturb you and some say that art is that which gives you hope. HBMJ does both.
A varied number of comments were left under the video on YouTube. “I am an Agarwal married into a Jain family. I am (non) vegetarian but not allowed to eat onion or garlic. Just like Shefali in this story, my day will come too,” wrote a viewer. “Almost every female in India can relate to this,” wrote another.
In her previous interviews, Shefali Shah has spoken about how she was typecast into mom roles very early on in her career. But even within that limited space, the actress managed to stand out - she was a mother in Dil Dhadakne Do, Delhi Crime, Juice, Once Again, Ankahi and in HBMJ. Each character of hers is different and addresses different aspects of being a woman who also happens to be a mother.
HBMJ says so much in just 14 odd minutes. Every time you watch it, you catch something new. It’s like a game that Shah is playing with the viewer. At the start of the film, her character Suchi looks so dull that she may as well be another piece of crockery in the pantry. Once she starts embracing her freedom thanks to the COVID-19 lockdown, there’s a gush of red and green that rushes through the screen. She has flowers in her hair, is climbing trees, frying fish and playing marbles. The ending of the movie is awash with the colour of peace - beige and white. It’s when Suchi has come to terms with herself and her new avatar.
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