‘J Baby’ movie review: A fantastic Urvasi shoulders this meandering tale on kinship

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Urvasi in a still from ‘J Baby’

Urvasi in a still from ‘J Baby’
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

“Unga amma Chennai la enna pannitu irrundhanga?” (What did your mother do in Chennai?) pops up on the subtitles, translating a character asking two Tamil men in Bengali about their mom. This clever play on the legendary line from Baasha does not feel forced or out of place in Suresh Mari’s directorial debut J Baby, in which Urvasi plays the titular role… and there’s way more to our Baby than meets the eye.

J Baby introduces us to Shankar (Dinesh) and Senthil (Maaran), two of Baby’s five children who have their own reasons to not talk to each other. Like the first act of every buddy cop film, this unlikely duo are put on a mission together; they get summoned to their local police station to be informed that their missing mother is now in West Bengal, thousands of kilometres away from their home and it’s up to them to put their differences aside to bring her back. But what is the reason behind their resentment? Why and how did Baby land in West Bengal? And what was she doing earlier in Chennai? As the brothers embark on their journey, a series of flashbacks unravel the knots which the director laces together skilfully.

Filmmaker Suresh’s nifty touches in the form of callbacks to his previous scenes make for some of the most entertaining bits. There’s a hilarious scene where the Tamil-speaking squabbling brothers confuse aloo biriyani with ‘aaluku oru biriyani’ (one biriyani each), which is a callback to an earlier scene where they assumed anda (egg) biriyani to be something that’s cooked on a large cauldron. Until Urvasi comes in and steals our attention completely in the second half, it’s the unintentional banter between the brothers that takes up a good chunk of the first half; it’s wonderful to see Lollu Sabha Maaran get a meaty role which he pulls off brilliantly.

J Baby (Tamil)

Director: Suresh Mari 

Cast: Urvasi, Dinesh, Maaran

Storyline: A pair of sparring siblings have to travel together afar to find their missing mother

Runtime: 150 minutes

It’s when we get to know the reason behind why Baby left her home — and who she was in her hometown — that the film shifts to top gear. Urvasi carries the film single-handedly through its best phase. Be it her prowess over the character’s slang, her transformations thanks to the mood swings, and how they change when her motherly instincts kick in, the veteran actor aces her role as Baby, who, after years of taking in agony and pressure, turns into a volatile individual that her five children have a hard time managing. But that’s where the flair of Suresh’s writing kicks in, making a character considered “abnormal” to be someone people should aspire to be. There’s a wonderful scene where, in the heat of the moment, Shankar reacts adversely towards Baby only for her to come back to him for food. Not only does the scene tug at the heartstrings, but also showcases what a fantastic actor Urvasi is.

A still from ‘J Baby’

A still from ‘J Baby’
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

But thanks to such segments, the sequences that don’t work fall harder than usual and there are quite a handful of them. To push the point home, director Suresh over-dramatises the mother sentiment at times, and we get shots like a dog feeding her pups and a slew of pregnant women appearing throughout the film; this pulls us out of the relatability that J Baby tries to maintain considering it is based on true events. Similarly, the siblings’ visit to West Bengal coincides with Durga Puja, a festival that commemorates Durga’s visit to her natal home with her children, but such details loom over the film as sheer ideas and don’t add value to the final picture.

J Baby, initially, also reminds one of 60 Vayadu Maaniramwhich also deals with an elderly person with mental health conditions who disappears from his house, but this film develops into something unique; the closest title we could compare it with is Baby’s Day Out which the film itself carries as the tagline.

Had there been more consistency with how the intriguing story unfolds, and the tonal shifts less jarring, it would have been a well-rounded product. Nevertheless, J Baby is still a heart-warming tale with astounding performances that could leave you in tears — or splits — in equal measure.

J Baby is currently running in theatres

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