Mammo (1994) ★★★★★

Mammo is an old widow comes to live with her sister and grandson. The movie portrays how she looks up to the future despite a grim tragic past.

Generally, we start the review with a summary of the central plot. But doing that would be an injustice to the movie Mammo. After all, if we put in plain words, it is nothing but few excerpts from the central character’s stay in Mumbai. You know the drill – eating, watching movies with family, facing small problems with red tape, familial issues – nothing that is out of the world, too emotional or too innovative.

At the same time, the whole movie carries a feeling so deep that the audience feel connected to the whole narrative, as if living it. Indeed, director Shyam Benegel executed his masterpiece Mammo flawlessly.


The movie revolves around the story of Mehmooda Begum Anwar Ali, known by the name “Mammo”. To be precise, it tells the events of her life when she comes to stay with her sister Fayyazi. After Fayyazi lost her daughter and son-in-law to an accident, she lives in a small Mumbai flat with her grandson, Riyaz.

The movie is almost entirely played in flashback. It takes us down the memory lanes of Riyaz and Fayazzi as they fondly remember days spent with Mammo. In the start of her (rather unwelcomed) stay, Riyaz felt uncomfortable and irritated with an unwanted guest in house. Mammo is also a story of the bond which grows with time between Riyaz and her ‘unwanted guest’. The bond that is not of two relatives but of a mother and her son.

Mammo is life. At times, it also feels as a story of a hero, when Mammo fights for what she believes is right. However, in just the next scene, we are brought to reality as the same Mammo agrees to bribe to save herself from extradition. Also, there is a tragic past and sadness and hurt. And birthday parties! As we mentioned earlier, this is not a story, this movie is built on small moments and emotions – not a climax!

What works

First, it is the acting and performances which win over the audience. Farida Jalal, Surekha Sikri, Himani Shivpuri, Vallabh Vyas – are all known faces and they have done a fabulous job here. The most mediocre of the events and scenes become memorable thanks to their performances. Especially, Amit Phalke who played the role of young Riyaz needs special mention who leaves a mark amid so many acting heavy-weights.

Second, it is the environment of the movie which comes from triad – screenplay, cinematography and sets. The movie captures Mumbai in its true spirits. Small conversations with taxi drivers, slum, school, bus and local police office – everything is captured with ample detail to attention. The movement of actors and supporting casts is apt.

Third, it is the dialogues. Now, you may be thinking that dialogues are very cleverly written. Far from that, the dialogues are plain unimaginative – just like our conversations in daily life. As an illustration, when Riyaz storms off from a hotel room, he does not deliver an emotional heavy monologue. This is a welcome change from the regular Bollywood which uses such moments for delivering long monologues.

Finally, it is the story itself, which we have not credited so far. Saadat Hasan Manto, after all, also wrote only plain simple events of life. Khalid Mohamed of Fiza-fame has written the story. Actually, I wonder if it was his first work for a feature? Not sure, though.

What could have been better

Without a doubt, privatizations quality! Not only that the scenes are not always well-lit, it is also a problem that camera quality that is used is sub-par. For instance, the scene in the police office look too dull. In particular, the bad combination reflects when the ‘broker’ introduces himself to Mammo and Riyaz.

Granted that the budgets are affected in such movies which pursued quality movie-making rather than star-presence. Also agreed that the financial earning of such movies are repeatedly very low. We know rights of few fabulous movies being sold to OTT platform at mere 500 thousands. Still, it makes us at sad to see so much of effort and time went into making a masterpiece which cannot be fully enjoyed today.

In contrast, many movies of 1930s of Hollywood which are in black and white still look fabulous with HD prints because the camera and technology was good.


We consider it a must watch movie. Despite it being a 26+ years old movie, much of it holds relevance today as well. Further, it has a family-friendly story, which helps.

At the same time, we warn the audience for a sub-par viewing experience, especially as we are now accustomed to high definition. Yet another downside is lack of lovely songs or romantic background stories. Beyond these minor inconveniences, it is, and will remain, a masterpiece!

AglaPlay Verdict: Must watch!
AglaPlay Rating: 5.0/5
Language: Hindi
Duration: ~130 minutes
Writer: Khalid Mohamed, Shama Zaidi
Director: Shyam Benegel
Cast: Farida Jalal, Surekha Sikri, Amit Phalke
IMDb: 7.7
Rotten Tomatoes: -
Available On: Epic On

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