Ms Representation: Baby’s day out
This weekly column is a rumination on how women are portrayed in cinema and this week the author writes about Samantha-starrer Oh! Baby
BV Nandini Reddy is back in the game with Oh! Baby, a Telugu remake of the 2014 Korean film Miss Granny. As a fan of Nandini’s (I really liked the 2011 film Ala Modalaindi) and a lover of Korean romances, this movie outing really felt like a pilgrimage. And the film did not disappoint. Nandini assembles a motley crew of talented women for Oh! Baby, from Lakshmi to Samantha, Urvashi to Aishwarya… It was delightful to watch women take up screen space, and to see the camera so faithfully trained on the women, their trajectories, life, dreams and hopes. *Spoiler alert* The older Baby (Lakshmi) turns the clock back by several decades and is transformed into her younger self (Samantha) so she can fulfil all of her desires, including becoming a singer.
Lakshmi’s Baby is a complex woman, not easy to box. She is a nag of a mother-in-law and seems to favour her son and grandson over her granddaughter and daughter-in-law, but that’s not all there is to her. The movie does a fantastic job of showing us that Baby needs to work on herself, without marking her out as the vamp. She is trying to fill a void with this son and grandson. Her friendship with Chanti (a really fun Rajendra Prasad) too is sweet and so very believable. Lakshmi breezes through this difficult balancing act.
Samantha’s Baby is a dream role for any actor and she delivers with charm and grace. She looks ethereal, other-wordly, because there is that element of magic realism in this story, and her laugh really lights up the screen. Samantha actually convinces us that she’s from the past, reminding us that youth does not last long and that we must really just live in the now. There is that touch of philosophy, especially in the songs in the film that drive home the message that we are mortal and perhaps don’t have forever to live. She is funny and thoughtful, gritty and unafraid. She has done it all alone once before, with a child in tow. This time around, she’s alone, just her; and gives herself permission to have some fun and it’s lovely to watch.
Urvashi is her charming, hilarious self as Sulochana, and the meta cameo from actor Lakshmi’s daughter Aishwarya as Baby’s (Samantha) future mother-in-law is a well done additional layer, to the story. This isn’t to say Oh! Baby is flawless or a perfect film, some dated jokes, better lip sync for songs, uneven performances from others are all there. But these are minor quibbles. Oh! Baby is a warm film that I intend to show my mother because it reminded me so much of her mother, my grandmother. That dream to be someone and the regret at not even having been given a chance to become someone, that reminder of a time when women compared their looks to that of heroines (‘They said I looked like Bhanumathi when I was young’, Lakshmi says in this film, something my grandmother used to say), those proverbs, the muttering under the breath, that disdain for people in general… Between Lakshmi and Samantha, Baby comes alive, so much that you forget they are different people. That’s a winner, in my opinion.